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For Doctor Daryl Wilson, Punk Rock Is the Best Rx

Lead singer of the Bollweevils, respected doctor at Edward Hospital, and father of three: Daryl Wilson is a busy man.

Photos: Courtesy of Daryl Wilson

Joanne Whiteside realized she wasn’t dating an ordinary guy when, while waiting in line for a movie 22 years ago, a stranger approached them and insisted that Daryl Wilson take his tickets.

Whiteside, who worked as a nurse at Loyola University Medical Center, had been courted by Wilson, then a medical student. She knew Wilson was in a band, but—not being much of a music person—she didn’t know he was and is the lead singer of the Bollweevils, one of the Chicago’s longest-tenured and most respected punk rock bands, which at the time was at its peak of popularity.

Twenty-two years later, they are married with three young daughters in Naperville, and while Whiteside has grown accustomed to her husband’s fame, he remains unique among Chicago’s punk rock scene for a couple reasons. The first, and most obvious, is that he’s one of the few African American punk rock musicians in the city, let alone the country. The second is that by day, his surroundings are very different from the dark, dingy and loud bars where the Bollweevils play: He’s the director of emergency medical services at Edward Hospital in Naperville.

For Michigan native Wilson, now 46, education and music were always big parts of his life. Both parents taught sociology at state universities; his mother sang backup for Motown artists, and he was exposed to all sorts of music while growing up. So why go into medicine?

“I remember when I was a kid, my pediatrician was the coolest person ever,” he says. “[When I was seven years old,] my grandfather had cancer and it was the first time I ever saw my dad cry… I remember going to see my grandfather in the hospital and it was the opposite of what I expected. It was dark, and [the doctors] were cold, and the vibe was completely off. It wasn’t the way you treat a human being.”

That’s when he decided he wanted to be a doctor—a good one, who treats patients with respect. “Then when I was in high school, my grandmother got breast cancer. I went to visit her and she told me that I was going to be a very great doctor,” he recounts. “Those were the last words she ever said to me. I keep that in mind when I get frustrated, like anybody does. I do care and try to educate people about what’s going on with their health.”

When Wilson first moved to Naperville, he was a senior at Naperville Central High School, and he was familiar with many punk bands already. He started frequenting shows in Chicago to see bands like Naked Raygun.

“When you went to shows back in the day, you knew who was going to be there. We’d see each other all the time. I became friends with [Bollweevils bandmates] Bob Skwerski and Ken Fitzner, strictly from going to shows. They said they formed a band and that they liked my look and invited me to be part of it,” he says.

Wilson, at 6-foot-5 and sporting long dreadlocks, definitely has a stage presence. He is well known for jumping around on stage, doing leg kicks, and of course, the punk rock signature move—jumping into the crowd. He did it when they started in 1989 to when they went on hiatus in 1996, after Wilson first became a doctor. The group re-formed in 2006 after what they thought would be a one-off reunion show. Since then, they have played tours across the country and overseas, with no signs of slowing down. And, yes, Wilson still jumps around the stage and into the crowd.

At times, Wilson’s medical background has come in handy—most recently in August, while touring in England. According to Bollweevils bassist Peter Mitler, Wilson saw a woman passed out and made an instant switch from “Band Daryl” to “Doctor Daryl.”

“We were at Rebellion Fest in Blackpool, England,” Mittler recalls. “We were hanging out backstage and went to go watch another band. We saw some girl was passed out on the concrete floor of the arena. There’s people standing around and Daryl walks up and loudly says, ‘I’m a doctor.’ Of course, they didn’t believe him at first but he assured them that he was really an MD.”

Wilson revived the woman and asked her what drugs she had taken, Mittler says. When she tried to deny it, Wilson reprimanded her. “He got stern and said, ‘Don’t lie to me. I know you’re on drugs. I could see it in your eyes … Stop doing drugs, you are going to die,’” Mittler says. “He switched from party mode to ‘I have to save a life’ mode. It was pretty cool.”

Wilson with his family

Music is Wilson’s outlet for the stress of his life-and-death day job. And though he saves lives almost every day at work, and once in a while with the band, he also becomes a person in need of care after some shows, according to Whiteside.

“[At a show] he can jump around and kick … and then the next day he can barely move again, and I’m like, ‘Oh, for God’s sake,’” she says, jokingly. “I get the crotchety old man at home, and he performs as the young, exuberant punk rock star.”

“She understands,” Wilson says of Whiteside. “I’m never going to stop. It’s part of my persona, it’s me.

Among all his accomplishments with the band and as a respected doctor, Wilson says having his young daughters see him play was definitely a career highlight.

Whiteside adds, “The girls enjoy his music, they get excited. They saw the band perform once last year during a daytime show but most of the shows take place well past their bed time. We might do that again.”

See the Bollweevils play 11/22 at 8 p.m., $15, Chop Shop, chopshopchi.com

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