September 3, 2003 by

Wild Bill Whelan


Categories: Musicians

William F. “Wild Bill” Whelan, a jazz singer and musician who performed in Washington D.C. for nearly 50 years, died on Aug. 21 of kidney failure and a stroke. He was 76.
Whelan first played the trumpet at Linton Hall military school and Western High School, which is now known as the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. He served as an Army geodesist and cartographer in Europe during World War II, then worked for the Army Map Service from 1948 to 1984.
His after-work hours, however, were dedicated to jazz. Although he claimed he couldn’t read music, Whelan and the Dixie Six played as the house band at the Bayou, a popular Washington jazz club, for almost 20 years. Whelan also fronted the Bicentennial Jazz Band and played cornet and string bass with many local groups, including Fat Cat’s Festival Jazzers, the Not-So-Modern Jazz Quartet and the Washington Monumental Jazz Band.

6 Responses to Wild Bill Whelan

  1. Robert William Whelan

    My grandpa. A beautiful guy who would go out of his way to make those around him smile and laugh, and to try to help them feel as special as he could. God bless him.

    • dave lilling

      robert, we are completing a documentary about the Bayou nightclub, your grandfather was interviewed before he passed, we are trying to rescan some photos he provided to us, and are also looking for some photos of him with his family
      please contact me at or 301-608-9077.

  2. Tom Coleman

    An incredible man who brought me deeply into the world of jazz. He could make me cry with his improvs on Basin St Blues, Makin’ Whoopee and many others. He played from the heart and soul. I am proud to have known him, called him a friend and mentor and gigged (on drums) with him.

  3. Jessica Moore

    My Grandfather was the most wonderfull grandfather in the world. he lead my intrest in music and helped me in my decision in joining marching band. he knew how to make people laugh and had a good time in doing so.

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