When it comes to bobbleheads, it’s usually athletes we see enshrined with the shaky-headed caricatures.
This time it’s the guy who gets the games started, the singer of the national anthem who is getting the honor.
When Retired United States Navy Petty Officer First Class Generald Wilson steps onto GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium before the Kansas City Chiefs’ Monday night game on November 20, to sing the national anthem, he will have already been enshrined with a bobblehead in his likeness.
Wilson, 54, of St. Louis, Missouri, is being honored this Veterans Day with his own bobblehead which is being unveiled Saturday by The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As a singer, Wilson is known for his compelling rendition of the national anthem and is highly sought after to sing at large sporting events.
The bobblehead shows Wilson wearing U.S. Navy blues and a white Dixie Cup sailor’s hat with a microphone in hand. With a tap of a button, the bobblehead will play a clip of Wilson singing the Star Spangled Banner.
“I’m super excited and I really am speechless,” said Wilson, who served 20 years in the U.S. Navy. “It’s been 25 years since I’ve been traveling and singing across the nation,” he added. Wilson said it really hit him after seeing the final rendering of the bobblehead and having the news go public on Friday.
“You get a little teary eyed and emotional when you look back over the journey it took to get where you are right now and for someone to recognize it, that’s the big thing,” he said.
Wilson says he grew up poor in Kinloch, Missouri, where he began singing as a young child with his mother’s large family. He recalled a time after an uncle had passed away, that 11 family members were in the living room singing songs acapella.
“I was the grand kid, the nephew, that would come inside instead of playing outside, just sit and listen with them,” said Wilson. “And then at the age of five is when I started singing in churches and leading adult choirs and songs,” he added.
Wilson, who has been married for 31 years, has two adult daughters and one granddaughter, said in addition to the videos of him singing, he will now have this bobblehead, a tangible item, for his grand kids and their kids to remember him by. “To have a bobblehead to remember me, even after I am long gone, to remember, you know, what I stand for,” said Wilson. “I am just honored.”
In 1997, Wilson sang during an awards banquet at the Missouri Athletic Club in St. Louis, where Georgia Frontiere, owner of the St. Louis Rams, was in attendance. After singing, Wilson returned to his table and Frontiere sent her assistant to his table to get him. “I came over to her table, which was an honor to be able to see her and speak with her and introduce myself and she said, ‘How would you like to sing the national anthem for the Rams?’ And I said, Are you sure? And she looked at her assistant and said “book him for Sunday.”
The following year, he said he stepped in at the last minute for Toni Braxton to sing the national anthem at the Rams game in the Trans World Dome. “We didn’t even do a sound check it was so late,” said Wilson. “After I sang, my phone just blew up,” said Wilson, who did not realize the game was nationally televised on Monday Night Football.
For more than two decades, he has traveled the country and performed the national anthem in stadiums and arenas across the nation. Wilson has sung for many of the nation’s premier sporting events like the World Series, NFL playoff games, Major League Baseball, the NHL Stanley Cup finals, and the Indianapolis 500 among other events.
When the Kansas City Royals were in Postseason play, Wilson sang for the 2014 World Series and again in 2015 for game 5 of the American League Division series at Kauffman Stadium.
In January, before the Kansas City Chiefs took on the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium, Wilson sang the national anthem in Kansas City. He returns to Arrowhead Stadium and Monday Night Football on November 20, when the Chiefs will face the Philadelphia Eagles in a highly-anticipated game.
Wilson said any venue where fans are singing along with him is his favorite. “When I go to the different stadiums and arenas, there’s no better feeling than singing the anthem or ‘God Bless America’ and you hear the audience singing with you,” Wilson said.
Phil Sklar, Co-Founder and CEO of the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum, wrote in an email that Wilson has sung the national anthem and “God Bless America” at nearly 1,000 events.
The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum will produce and number 2023 bobbleheads, which are available only at their online store. The bobbleheads are expected to ship in January.
“I’m just honored,” said Wilson. “I just thank God for the opportunity to be in this position. I really do. And I’m not done yet,” he added. “We still have some things to do, and I don’t think I’ll be retiring anytime soon from singing our national anthem. I love our country.”