It’s a testament to how important Bill Wisener was to Dallas that three years after his death, the city is still finding ways to celebrate the legacy of the man with the famously unkempt record store. There is now a permanent art installation at South Side on Lamar lofts, across from where Bill’s Records and Tapes was located for many years, and a music festival this weekend.
Wisener died in January 2020 at the age of 75. At the time of his death, he was mourned locally and remembered by famous musicians who came to know him as a music icon.
Zac Crain’s 2009 feature on Bill illustrates why. Former employees “credit him with broadening their tastes.” Friends like Stanley Marcus gave him their music collections. Artists like Ben Harper often found themselves at Bill’s store after shows, hanging out. Before playing the Music Hall at Fair Park, Radiohead “took a cab to the store and spent four hours there, giddily combing through the racks, before eventually catching a ride to the gig with one of Wisener’s employees.”
Last month, Matthews Southwest and South Side on Lamar unveiled a permanent art installation in honor of Wisener. The mixed-media installation was created by artist Jennifer Morgan and is centered on a portrait of Wisener. It includes memorabilia from his store, including concert posters, photos, personal notes, and records.
Morgan said in a press release that before his death, she had a “perfect timing moment” with Wisener while she was working on a different mural in South Side’s basement.
“He shuffled by in the wee hours and passed as I was stepping back to evaluate if I was finished or should add more, a difficult crossroads for an artist… making the call to walk away,” she said. “Unprompted, he said, ‘I like this and all the negative space that you left in the composition,’ as if to vocalize the answer to the question in my head.”
Morgan said she felt that same feeling while she worked on the mural honoring Wisener. People strolled through the Cedars-based artist’s quarters and stopped to chat and share their own memories of her subject.
Nearly around the corner from the installation honoring Wisener, Poor David’s Pub will host a music festival in his honor Sunday.
Beginning at noon, BillFest 2023 will feature The Dollar Store Generals, C.C. Cross, Floramay Holliday, Carlos & the Enablers, Tin & Coach, and Alex Lease.
Poor David’s is located at 1313 Botham Jean Blvd. Find tickets here.