Wilco

  • Alternative rock band formed in 1994 from Chicago Illinois. The core members of the band are Jeff Tweedy (vocals, guitar), Nels Cline (lead guitar), Mikael Jorgensen (keyboards), Pat Sansone (keyboards, guitars, backing vocals), John Stirratt (bass guitar, backing vocals), and Glenn Kotche (drums).
  • The band formed immediately after the breakup of the alt country music group Uncle Tupelo, which performed between 1987 and 1994. When lead singer Jay Ferrar of Uncle Tupelo left the band, Jeff Tweedy encouraged all of the remaining members to stay together as a band. Rather than keep the old band name, they decided to rename the group Wilco – the military and commercial aviation abbreviation for “Will Comply.” Other members eventually left the band – only Tweedy and Stirratt have remained together since the beginning. The current line-up has remained constant since 2004.
  • Given their success as Uncle Tupelo, they signed a recording contract quickly in 1994, and their debut album, A.M., was recorded that summer and fall, and released in 1995. It had a country rock sound, similar to Uncle Tupelo. It did not sell well.
  • Their second album, Being There, was self produced by the band, and included several alternative rock songs in addition to the country sound of their first album. The album had 19 songs, and the band asked the record company to release it at a price comparable to a single album even though it was a double album. The record company agreed, but only if the band would give their royalties to the label. They agreed – costing the band an estimated $600,000. The album was well received by critics, and the single Outtasite (Outta Mind) received airplay on college rock radio stations, hitting #14 on the Adult Album Alternative chart.
  • In 1998, a collaboration between Wilco and British songwriter Billy Bragg was released. Titled Mermaid Avenue, it was a folk rock album containing lyrics written by folk legend Woody Guthrie late in Guthrie’s life, and named for the street that Guthrie lived on in Coney Island. Bragg and Wilco (mostly Tweedy) wrote the music to Guthrie’s lyrics. A second volume was released in 2000, and a third in 2012. The first record was nominated for a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album.
  • Their third studio album was titled Summerteeth. Their record label was deep in debt and was looking for hits, so they insisted that a radio-friendly song be part of the record. The band agreed to do this “once and once only,” and they released Can’t Stand It. Too bad for the label – the song made it to #4 on the Adult Album Alternative chart, but did not make it onto the pop charts.
  • After recording their fourth album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Wilco’s record label could not find a song worthy of release as a single, so they rejected the album and dropped Wilco from the label. Wilco then signed with another label, and the album was released in 2002. Of course, it’s a happy ending for Wilco – it became their best selling album, peaking at #13 on the Billboard 200 album chart. Rolling Stone ranks it #493 on their list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
  • Three more albums during the 00s were released, each breaking the top 10 on the Billboard 200 chart. A Ghost Is Born won a Grammy award for Best Alternative Music Album. Sky Blue Sky was nominated for a Grammy. Wilco (The Album) also was nominated for a Grammy – this time, for Best Americana album – and it contains their highest charting single – You Never Know made it to #1 on the Adult Alternative Album chart.
  • They continue to record and perform. During the 10s, they’ve released 3 albums, continuing their alternative/indie/folk sound. They obviously don’t care about record sales – their album Star Wars was released in 2015 as a free download. This album earned them another Grammy nomination.
  • Wilco is a unique band, with many diverse styles, and a dedication to an alternative, indie sound. They have no interest in making pop records. They are a popular live band – their 3 shows scheduled at the Palace Theater in St. Paul MN in November are all sold out. Here’s the band playing Muzzle of Bees. It is a folky, acoustic song, until the 4:00 minute mark. Watch to see what happens then….electric guitar lovers!

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