Soul And / Or Related Artists
jackie wilson

Jackie Wilson

b. Jack Leroy Wilson Jr., 9th June 1934, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A.

d. 21st January 1984, Mount Holly, New Jersey, U.S.A.

These texts are reproduced by the very kind permission of Jackie's biographer Tony Douglas in Australia. Thanks Tony, not only for the texts but the amazing imagery. Very much appreciated. You can pick up Tony's book via the link at the end of the resume.

Jackie Wilson whose honey-rich falsetto-tenor voice had thrilled millions throughout the world died in January, 1984, aged just 49.

For the preceding eight years and four months he had been in a vegetable-like state.

He never uttered a word since suffering a heart attack while performing at the Latin Casino in Cherry Hill, New Jersey in September, 1975.

Yet another indignity awaited Jackie.

After a well-publicized funeral attended by around 1,500 relatives, friends and fans he was buried in an unmarked grave in his home city of Detroit.

Jackie Wilson

Effectively his burial was that of a pauper.

Jackie was born in June, 1934.

Using the name Jackie Wilson, he would reach the top of his chosen vocation - as a singer and performer.

From humble origins he would grow up to become known around the world for his soaring and impassioned singing style and unequalled stage routine.

His U.S.A. chart successes amounted to 55 Top 100 and 24 Top 40 hits.

Jackie with Elvis

He was admired and emulated by many entertainers including Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley.

Jackie's mother was a powerful influence on him.

As Jackie was her only son, she doted on him. School wasn't for Jackie, he was an habitual truant.

This was to land him in trouble and, twice, to detention in the Lansing Correctional Institute.

There he learned how to box and he was skilled proponent. He even considered becoming a professional boxer.

Jackie sang from the age of six and from his adolescent years he would sing both gospel and blues on the street.

Even then could sing in perfect key and enriched many a soul with his voice.

In his early teens Jackie formed a quartet, the Ever Ready Gospel Singers Group, which became a popular feature of churches in the district.

Jackie wasn't religious, he just loved to sing and the cash came in handy for purchasing cheap wine.

He also ran with a feared local gang called the Shakers.

However, Jackie was more of an icon for the gang and they ensured that he wasn't harmed during his regular amateur performances in 'unfriendly' neighborhoods.

Jackie became a sweetheart of Freda Hood when he was ten and she was 11.

He was good-looking, self confident to the point of being brash, and a favorite with the girls.

He expressed to Freda from the earliest age his ambition to be an entertainer.

He left school in the ninth grade, in 1950, aged 16. Freda was 17 and Jackie 16 when she became pregnant, so a marriage was hastily arranged in February, 1951.

A daughter was born the next month. Jackie had no regular job to support his new family, but from the age of 15 Jackie was a regular performer at a local black nightclub.

Being under-age, he had to perform using another's ID, the same ID he used to get married.

The appearances brought in some cash, but family life was generally a struggle.

At 17 Jackie obtained work at the Ford automobile foundry, close to where he lived with his mother (who had divorced Jack Snr) and her common-in-law husband, John Lee.

He lasted only two weeks at the Ford plant.

At the time he was practicing singing with a local group, which included Levi Stubbs (later lead singer of the Four Tops).

Known then as the Royals they didn't record any songs with Jackie, but evolved as Hank Ballard and the Midnighters.

Billy Ward and the Dominoes

jackie (right) with billy ward and the dominoes

A successful black group at the time was Billy Ward And The Dominoes, with Clyde McPhatter as lead singer.

News reached Jackie that Ward was in Detroit and looking to replace a member of the group who had been drafted into the army.

A contest was held to formerly choose a successor for the army draftee.

With Clyde & Everly's

clyde mcphatter and the everly brothers (right)

18-year-old Jackie won and became a member of the group, but within months Dominoes lead singer Clyde McPhatter left to form his own group (the Drifters) enabling Jackie to become the new lead.

The group worked for many years, especially in Las Vegas, before white audiences.

Despite some fabulous record releases featuring Jackie's tenor lead, his only recording success with the Dominoes was in June 1956 with 'St Therese of The Roses' which reached number 13 on the Pop charts.

In 1957 Jackie decided to try a solo career.

Al Green, who already managed singers Johnnie Ray, Della Reese and LaVern Baker, took over Jackie's management.

Green went to New York and arranged with record executive Bob Theile to sign Jackie to the Decca label.

The day before the deal was to be signed, Al Green died.

Green's protege was Nat Tarnopol.

Jackie and NatNat Tarnopol

jackie with nat tarnopol

Tarnopol convinced Jackie to let him become his manager, despite having no management experience.

And so it was he who signed Jackie to the Decca stable.

Jackie was, for years, the only singer on the subsidiary Brunswick label, so Tarnopol convinced the Decca bosses that he could successfully handle the label and attract more black talent and, as part of the agreement, he was given 50% ownership of the label.

Billy Ward & DominoesWith Count Basie

jackie with billy johnson (ex moonglow's), al abraham, jackie's friend j.j., berry gordy, jackie, a friend, little willie john (front) and with count basie on the right

Aspiring songwriters Berry Gordy and Roquel 'Billy' Davis met Jackie through the Flame Show Bar, a popular Detroit night spot, which Al Green had also managed.

They had written numerous tunes, what they needed was a voice to bring the songs to life.

In September, 1957, Jackie's first recording, 'Reet Petite', was released.

Jackie, Judy & CountReet Petitie

jackie with judy garland and count basie / reet petite b/w by the light of the silvery moon

It was a Gordy and Davis composition to which Jackie added his own distinctive style.

Although it achieved only number 62 on the US Pop charts, it did better in the United Kingdom, climbing to number 6.

Jackie was on his way.

He's So FineLonely TeardropsNightSo MuchSings The BluesA woman, A Lover, A Friend

he's so fine - 1958 / lonely teardrops - 1959 / doggin' around / night - 1959 / so much - 1960 / sings the blues - 1960 / a woman, a lover, a friend - 1961

In October 1958, Jackie, with another Davis / Gordy composition, 'Lonely Teardrops', reached number 7 on the Pop charts, his first million seller.

The three musicians were now on their way to world recognition.

One of Jackie's most important assets was his equal appeal to black and white audiences.

Jackie trusted Nat Tarnopol implicitly and foolishly signed over power-of-attorney to him.

Tarnopol was keen not to limit Jackie's career by concentrating on rock 'n' roll.

He chose veteran band leader and Decca arranger Dick Jacobs to arrange and produce most of Jackie's recordings from 1957 through 1966.

Jackie became a major star, often appearing on coast-to-coast television on national TV shows, New York's Copacabana and the Las Vegas nightclub circuit.

He toured the country tirelessly before sell-out audiences.

As a stage performer, he only had to walk on stage to bring the house down, causing hysteria amongst females.

Jackie WilsonJackie WilsonWith Roy Hamilton

jackie on stage, with an unknown backing singer, and with roy hamilton

He often courted danger by leaping into the audience where his clothes would be ripped to shreds.

In the southern states he played to segregated audiences which, naturally, irked him.

There were numerous racially based incidents which placed him in danger.

During a performance in New Orleans in 1960, Larry Williams was performing and the police had ordered that he not make his traditional leap into the audience.

Jackie urged Williams that he should do his normal performance, so things became extremely tense.

When a policeman laid hold of Williams, Jackie saw red and knocked him down.

Total pandemonium broke out and a riot ensued.

Jackie was arrested and was severely beaten by the police before being ordered out of town.

If there were still doubts about Jackie's vocal talents, his second million seller 'Night' would dispel them.

'Night' reached number 4 on the Pop charts.

Berry Gordy used his royalties on the nine hits he'd co-written for Jackie to establish his Motown recording label, while Davis joined Chess Records as A & R manager, song writer and producer.

You Ain't Heard Nuthin' YetBy Specail RequestBody & SoulAt The CopaSings The World's Greatest MelodiesBaby Workout

you ain't heard nothin' yet - 1961 / by special request - 1961 / body and soul - 1962 / jackie wilson at the copa - 1962 / sings the worlds greatest melodies - 1962 / baby workout - 1963

By 1961 Jackie was involved with Harlean Harris a glamorous Ebony magazine fashion model.

Jackie was a womaniser all his life and had also been having a relationship with a young woman, Juanita Jones.

Early in the morning of 15th February 1961, Jones waited for Jackie and when he returned with Harlean to his Manhattan apartment.

She ambushed him and shot him twice.

Despite his wounds, with one bullet lodged near his spine, Jackie made it downstairs to the street, with the revolver he'd snatched still in his hand.

Fortunately a policeman raced him to the nearby hospital.

Surgery and weeks of medical care saved him, although the bullet remained forever near his spine.

His musical direction then grew increasingly erratic.

Merry ChristmasShake A HandSomethin' ElseSoul TimeSpotlight OnSoul Galore

merry christmas from jackie wilson - 1963 / shake a hand - 1963 / somethin' else!! - 1964 / soul time - 1965 / spotlight on jackie wilson - 1965 / soul galore - 1966

There were highlights such as 'Baby Workout' (1963), 'Squeeze Her Please Her' (1964), 'No Pity (In The Naked City)' (1965).

Jackie's career was later rejuvenated in 1966.

Relocating to Chicago, he worked with producer Carl Davis.

WhispersHigher & HigherManufacturers Of SoulTwo MuchI Get The Sweetest FeelingDo Your Thing

whispers - 1967 / higher & higher - 1967 / manufacturers of soul - 1968 / two much - 1968 / i get the sweetest feeling - 1968 / do your thing - 1970

Here he recorded 'Whispers (Gettin' Louder)' (1966), '(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher' (1967) and the classic, 'I Get The Sweetest Feeling' (1968).

'This Love Is Real (I Can Feel Those Vibrations)' was released in 1970, and was his last Top 10 R & B entry.

This Love Is RealIt's All A Part Of LoveYou Got Me WalkingBeautiful DayNowstalgiaNobody But You

this love is real - 1970 / it's all a part of love - 1971 / you got me walking - 1971 / beautiful day - 1973 / nowstaglia - 1974 / nobody but you - 1976

In September 1975, while touring with the Dick Clark revue, Jackie suffered a near - fatal heart attack onstage at New Jersey's Latin Casino.

He struck his head on falling and the resulting brain damage left him comatose.

He remained hospitalized until his death on 21st January 1984.

When Jackie Wilson died, he was buried in a pauper's grave.

He suffered massive alcohol dependency and chronic addicton to amphetamines and cocaine.

Jackie's career remains a puzzle, he never did join Berry Gordy's Motown empire, despite their early collaboration and friendship.

Van Morrison sang 'Jackie Wilson Said', which was also a U.K. Top 5 hit for Dexys Midnight Runners in 1982.

Fate provided a final twist in 1987, when a video, using plasticine animation, propelled 'Reet Petite' to number 1 in the UK charts.

He was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame the same year.

Jackie WilsonJackie Wilson

Jackie's BiographyJackie's Biography can pick up Tony's excellent book here...

Real Player



He's So Fine (Brunswick Records 1958)

Lonely Teardrops (Brunswick Records 1959)

Doggin' Around (Brunswick Records 1959)

So Much (Brunswick Records 1960)

Night (Brunswick Records 1960)

Jackie Wilson Sings The Blues (Brunswick Records 1960)

A Woman, A Lover, A Friend (Brunswick Records 1961)

Try A Little Tenderness (Brunswick Records 1961)

You Ain't Heard Nothing Yet (Brunswick Records 1961)

By Special Request (Brunswick Records 1961)

Body And Soul (Brunswick Records 1962)

Jackie Wilson At The Copa (Brunswick Records 1962)

Jackie Wilson Sings The World's Greatest Melodies (Brunswick Records 1962)

Baby Workout (Brunswick Records 1963)

Merry Christmas (Brunswick Records 1963)

with Linda Hopkins:

Shake A Hand (Brunswick Records 1963)


Somethin' Else (Brunswick Records 1964)

Soul Time (Brunswick Records 1965)

Spotlight On Jackie Wilson (Brunswick Records 1965)

Soul Galore (Brunswick Records 1966)

Whispers (Brunswick Records 1967)

Higher And Higher (Brunswick Records 1967)

with Count Basie:

Manufacturers Of Soul (Brunswick Records 1968)

Too Much (Brunswick Records 1968)


I Get The Sweetest Feeling (Brunswick Records 1968)

Do Your Thing (Brunswick Records 1970)

This Love Is Real (Brunswick Records 1970)

It's All A Part Of Love (Brunswick Records 1971)

You Got Me Walking (Brunswick Records 1971)

Beautiful Day (Brunswick Records 1973)

Nowstalgia (Brunswick Records 1974)

Nobody But You (Brunswick Records 1976)

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