JACKIE WILSON Biography - Musicians


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Name: Jackie Wilson                                                                       
Birth name: Jack Leroy Wilson, Jr.                                                         
Also known as Mr. Excitement                                                               
Born: 9 June 1934 Detroit, Michigan                                                       
Died: 21 January 1984                                                                     
Jack Leroy "Jackie" Wilson, Jr. (June 9, 1934 - January 21, 1984) was an                   
American singer. Wilson was important in the development of rhythm and blues               
into soul. Gaining fame in his early years as a member of the R&B vocal group,             
The Dominoes, after going solo in 1957, he went on to record over fifty hit               
singles over a repertoire that included R&B, pop, soul, doo-wop and easy                   
listening before relapsing into a coma following a collapse on stage during a             
1975 benefit concert. By the time of his death in 1984, he had become one of the           
most influential soul artists of his generation.                                           
Jack Leroy Wilson, Jr. was born in Detroit, Michigan, the only son of Jack, Sr.           
and Eliza Mae Wilson. Growing up in the Highland Park area of North End, Jackie,           
who was also called "Sonny" by friends, grew up rough, joining a gang called the           
Shakers and often getting in trouble. He dropped out of high school at the age             
of 15, and by that time had been sentenced to juvenile detention twice. After             
his second trip to detention, he discovered boxing, and boxed around the Detroit           
area, eventually winning the Golden Gloves division in Detroit at the age of 16.           
After getting married and becoming a father at 17, Wilson gave up boxing for               
music, forming a group that included cousin Levi Stubbs, who later went on to             
lead the Four Tops. He was soon discovered by talent agent Johnny Otis, who               
assigned him to join a group called the Thrillers. That group would later be               
known as The Royals (who would later evolve into the legendary R&B group, The             
Midnighters), but Wilson wasn't part of the group when they changed their name             
and signed with King Records. After recording a few sides with Dizzy Gillespie's           
record label, he joined The Dominoes after a successful audition to replace               
Clyde McPhatter, who had left to join The Drifters. Wilson was the group's lead           
singer producing the pop hit, "St. Therese of the Roses" for over a year before           
he began a solo career in 1957.                                                           
In 1957, Wilson signed a solo contract with Brunswick Records, a subsidiary               
division of Decca, and released his first single, Reet Petite, which became a             
modest R&B success. The song was written by another former boxer named Berry               
Gordy, Jr., who co-wrote it with partner Roquel Davis. Soon the duo composed and           
produced a sizable collection of hit singles for Wilson, including "To Be Loved",         
"That's Why", "I'll Be Satisfied" and his late-1958 single, "Lonely Teardrops".           
The latter single became a Top 10 pop smash, and established him as an R&B                 
superstar with an extraordinary vocal range.                                               
Due to his fervor when performing, with both dance moves and singing, he was               
soon christened "Mr. Excitement", a title he would keep for the remainder of his           
career. His stagecraft in his live shows inspired Michael Jackson, among others.           
In 1958, Davis and Gordy left Wilson after royalty escalated between them his             
manager, Nat Tarnopol. Davis soon became a successful staff songwriter for Chess           
Records, while Gordy used the money earned from his work with Wilson to form               
Motown Records in his native Detroit. Meanwhile, convinced that Wilson could               
venture out of R&B and rock and roll, Tarnopol had the singer record operatic             
ballads and easy listening material. Wilson scored hits as he entered the                 
sixties with the Top 20 "Doggin' Around", the Top 10 ballad "Night", and "Baby             
Workout", another Top 10 hit,(which he composed with Midnighters member Alonzo             
Tucker). Top 10 hits continued with "Alone At Last" and "My Empty Arms" in 1960           
and 1961, respectively.                                                                   
After experiencing a lull in his career between 1964 and 1967, he scored two               
comeback singles with Chicago soul producer Carl Davis with "Whispers (Gettin'             
Louder)" and "Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher and Higher," a Top 10 Pop smash           
which became one of his final pop hits. This was followed by "I Get the Sweetest           
Feeling". Between then and 1975, Wilson continued to record singles that found             
success on the R&B chart. His final hit, "You Got Me Walkin'", was released in             
Wilson suffered a massive heart attack while playing a Dick Clark show at the             
Latin Casino in Cherry Hill, New Jersey on September 29, 1975, falling head-first         
to the stage while singing "Lonely Teardrops". The blow to the head Wilson                 
suffered left him comatose. For the next eight years and four months, he was in           
a vegetative state until his death at age 49. Al Green, the soul singer, was one           
of the few artists who regularly visited the bed-ridden Wilson.                           
According to the biography, Jackie Wilson: Lonely Teardrops, he received a                 
well-publicized funeral attended by approximately 1,500 relatives, friends and             
fans. He is interred in the Westlawn Cemetery in Wayne, Michigan.