It’s fair to say the music scene in Oshawa have seen some highs and lows since the days when bar bands like Rush and Triumph were opening acts.
But one constant on the scene has been the Wilson & Lee Ltd. music store which has earned itself a reputation as a quality establishment since opening its doors in 1922.
Original owners William Wilson and his sister in-law Mary Lee opened up the store in his house on Albert Street in Oshawa. Aside from being able to purchase music there, Wilson also taught piano lessons at the shop.
After William Wilson died in 1943, Lee and other immediate family members minded the store selling instruments and records.
So when Bill Wilson II returned from serving in the Second World War in 1946, he accepted the tradition of buying into the family business.
“After the war there was a shortage in almost everything so that certainly made it easier to find work [for those looking at the time],” Bill said.
It was also then that General Motors was at its peak employment for the city.
By 1953 the store had moved and re-opened in its current location on Simcoe Street, just north of Bond Street. It was then that current owner Bill Wilson III started work at the store when he was 14-years-old. He says he wasn’t even completely aware of how much he enjoyed the music business until he began working at the store.
“I just found that I loved this stuff. I found when I got in here I had an affinity for knowing what people liked and what they wanted.”
By 1967 Bill was joined my his younger brother David working at the store.
“I was sitting at a table when I was 14 years old and my father said, ‘Get your suit on, you’re going to work!’ I have never had a Saturday off after that,” Bill’s brother and co-owner David Wilson said. “I enjoyed being here, I enjoyed being social, I enjoyed looking after people.”
It wasn’t until 1989 that the two brothers bought into the family business and took over ownership.
It was then vinyl sales were at their peak from the local disc jockeys (DJ) buying up single records in attempt to keep their record collections contemporary and relevant.
“Thirty years ago there was a pretty good bar scene going, there was lots of places for young musicians to play – not so much anymore,” Bill Wilson said. “For us the DJ was a saviour in the 70’s and 80’s because we used to have up to 60 guys come in on a regular basis.”