Wilbur Wilde still has the clarinet his grandparents gave him when, aged ten and sick with bronchitis, his doctor suggested playing a wind instrument would improve his breathing.
At 13, he switched to the bigger, louder, shinier saxophone and the rest is history, including playing in Ol'55 with Frankie J Holden, five years with Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons and his well-known gig as a cast member in the long-running TV show Hey, Hey, It's Saturday, which he joined in the early 80s.
He insists fun, rather than fame, has been his primary motivation and credits several great music teachers who were also part of the Channel Nine house band, for their inspiration and guidance.
‘If we stayed up late enough, we could listen to them on the television. Wow!’ he says.
At 17, Wilbur started playing Saturday nights at the Rosebud Hotel.
‘Soon after, we got Fridays at the Pier Hotel in Frankston. We were doing two gigs a week, 20 bucks a pop, the guitarist/singer did a cool floor show and people were dancing and laughing.
‘Tight band, fine swinging music, sweet chicks, laughs and a couple of beers was my compelling introduction to showbiz — I was hooked.’
Whilst this is Wilbur’s first year performing with the Victorian Seniors Festival, he plays music and tells stories for his partner’s holistic, end-of-life care business.
Over the last decade, he has also entertained seniors in aged care facilities around Melbourne, alongside his long-time rock and roll buddy Pete Coughlan.
‘After our 60-minute concert I'll generally stick around for a cuppa, lemon slice and a nice chat with some of the residents,’ Wilbur says. ‘I love their cross-generational stories…growing old can still be fun.’
Watch Wilbur's 2020 Victorian Seniors Festival reimagined performance.