Jackie Wilson


By Gary

I am going to share the music and information about another member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1987).  This man displayed, very early in his career, dance moves (copied by Michael Jackson), a vocal range second to none and the ability to transcend the barrier of segregation. 

Unfortunately after a fantastic early career, he had a heart attack (while onstage at the Latin Casino in Cherry Hill New Jersey and remained in a coma until his death in January 21, 1984.

I present “Mr. Soul & Mr. Excitement”

Jackie Wilson

June 9, 1934 –  January 21,1984


That’s Why ( I Love You So) – 1962


Ed Sullivan, Good Video, Just listen to that voice /
Shindig Appearances: PT 1 /
PT 2 /


Higher and Higher /
That’s Why / Shindig /
Lonely Teardrops /
Baby Work Out / 1965 / Shindig
1973 / Live in Concert /
This is a person name Si Cranstoun with the best cover of Reet Petite I have ever heard /
Jackie Wilson Documentary with Barbara Walters, sad but great /

1.  Reet Petite/ Brunswick/ 1957/ #62 Billboard


2.  To be Loved/ Brunswick 55052/ 4/21/58 or late 57/ #22 Billboard


3.   Lonely Teardrops/ Brunswick 55105/ 12/8/58/ #7 Billboard


4.   That’s why I Love you So/ Brunswick 55121/ 4/13/59/ #13 Billboard


5.   I’ll be Satisfied/ Brunswick 55136/ 7/6/59/ #20 Billboard


6. You Better Know It/ Brunswick 55149/ 10/12/59/ #37 Billboard


7. Talk that Talk/ Brunswick 55165/ 1/4/60/ #34 Billboard


8A. Night/ Brunswick 55166/ 4/11/60/ #4 Billboard


8B.  Doggin’ Around/ B side/ 4/25/60/ #15 Billboard #1 R&B


9A.  All My Love/ Brunswick 55167/ 8/1/60/ #12 Billboard


9B.  A Woman, A lover, A Friend/ B side/ 8/1/60/ #15 Billboard


10. Alone At Last/ Brunswick 55171/ 10/24/60/ #8 Billboard


11. Am I The Man/ Brunswick 55201/ 11/28/60/ #32 Billboard


12. My Empty Arms/ Brunswick 55201/ 1/16/61/ #9 Billboard


13. Please Tell Me Why/ Brunswick 55208/ 3/27/61/ #20 Billboard


14. I’m Comin’ On Back To You/ Brunswick 55216/ 6/26/61/ #19 Billboard


15. Years From Now/ Brunswick 55219/ 9/11/61/ #37 Billboard


16. The Greatest Hurt/ Brunswick 55239/ 2/3/62/ #34 Billboard


17. Baby Workout/ Brunswick 55246/ 3/23/63/ # 5 Billboard #1 R&B (3 weeks)


18. Shake! Shake! Shake!/ Brunswick 55246/ 8/10/63/ #33 Billboard


19. Whispers (Gettin’ Louder)/ Brunswick 55300/ 11/19/66/ #11 Billboard


20. Higher and Higher/ Brunswick 55336/ 9/2/67/ #6 Billboard R&B # 1* (Gary’s Favourite)


* I will end Jackie’s music here.

(Your love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher
has an interesting recording session (Gary’s all time favourite Jackie Wilson song):  Keep in mind that Ron White (the Funk Brothers) wrote that little lick for a song called “My Girl“.

The backing track for “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher” was recorded on 6 July 1967 at Columbia’s studios in Chicago, produced by Carl Davis; the session – arranged by Sonny Sanders – featured bassist James Jamerson, drummer Richard “Pistol” Allen, guitarist Robert White, and keyboardist Johnny Griffith; these four musicians were all members of the Motown Records house band, The Funk Brothers, who often moonlighted on sessions for Davis to augment the meager wages paid by Motown.

According to Carl Davis the Funk Brothers “used to come over on the weekends from Detroit. They’d load up in the van and come over to Chicago, and I would pay ‘em double scale, and I’d pay ‘em in cash.”

Similarly two of Motown’s house session singers the Andantes: Jackie Hicks and Marlene Barrow along with Pat Lewis, performed on the session for “…Higher and Higher“. Davis brought the track to New York City for Wilson to add his vocal; Davis recalls Wilson originally sang the song “like a soul ballad. I said that’s totally wrong. You have to jump and go with the percussion…if he didn’t want to sing it that way, I would put my voice on the record and sell millions”. After hearing Davis’ strong advisement, Wilson cut the lead vocal for “…Higher and Higher” in a single take.

The original songwriting credit for “…Higher and Higher” was to Gary Jackson and Carl Smith who’d previously been house songwriters at Chess Records. When “…Higher and Higher” reached the Top Ten, Chess songwriters Billy Davis and Raynard Miner sued claiming the song as their composition which Jackson or Smith had appropriated from Miner’s briefcase while at Chess Records; Davis and Miner alleged Jackson and Smith had slightly amended the lyrics and then presented “…Higher and Higher” to Davis as their own work. Davis and Miner were awarded eighty percent of the songwriting royalties with Jackson and Smith retaining twenty percent.

Released in August 1967, “…Higher and Higher” reached #1 R&B and in November peaked on the Pop charts at #6.

In the UK Wilson’s “…Higher and Higher” would be a hit in both 1969 (#11) and 1987 (#3). and in 1987 (#15).

The single’s sales have been estimated as high as four million.
Brunswick released a Higher and Higher album in November 1967: its chart peak was #163 (#28 R&B).

The track was ranked #246 on Rolling Stone’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.

Jack Leroy “Jackie” Wilson (June 9, 1934 – January 21, 1984) was an American soul and R&B singer born in Detroit, Michigan, where he became active in the music business. He joined Billy Ward & the Dominoes in 1953, replacing Clyde McPhatter. After losing McPhatter, the group’s only recording success with Wilson came in June of 1956 with the single “St. Therese of The Roses” that reached #13 on the Pop charts.

Wilson’s solo career begin with 1957’s “Reet Petite”, written by the then unknown Berry Gordy, Jr. and recorded on the Brunswick Records label with whom Wilson would remain throughout his career.

Reet Petite


He had his first top 40 hit in 1958 with “To Be Loved”.

To Be Loved


At the end of that year he had his first big success with “Lonely Teardrops” that went to #7 on the charts. The song, also written by Berry Gordy, Jr. became his signature tune.

Lonely Teardrops


That same year saw Wilson release his first LP titled He’s So Fine.

Wilson’s brand of pop-soul and R&B helped him cross over to the mainstream, having several pop hits. His dynamic stage performances earned him the nickname “Mr. Excitement”. His performance of “Lonely Teardrops” on the Ed Sullivan Show is considered one of its classics.

In the 1960s, Wilson continued to record singles, many of them operatic, such as “Danny Boy” or “Night”, others were up-tempo and exciting, such as “Baby Workout” in 1963.

Baby Work Out


Although married to Frida Hood since 1951, Wilson was a notorious womanizer and was shot and wounded by one of his alleged lovers, Juanita Jones, on February 15 1961 in a jealous rage as he returned to his apartment with another woman, fashion model Harlean Harris, an ex-girlfriend of singer Sam Cooke.

As a married man conducting extra-marital affairs, his management decided, as a way not to damage his career, to concoct a story that Jones was an obsessed fan who threatened to shoot herself, and that Wilson’s intervention concluded in him being shot. Astonishingly, the story was accepted, and no charges were brought against Juanita Jones. He was divorced from Frida in 1965, and married Harlean Harris from 1967 until his death in 1984.

His career began to suffer in the mid-60s.

Russ’s experience with Jackie:
When I was playing sax with The Majestics, I think it was 1969, we got a couple of gigs with him as he did a mini tour of Ontario one weekend.” Majestic’s trumpet player, Brian Lucrow, recalls some of the details:  “ The first night was Ottawa, which turned into a non-event; we drove to Ottawa on a Friday afternoon to be there for 8:00pm, and were to back him up when he went on. Unfortunately, he was so high on something, that the Concert was canceled, and we drove home to Toronto the same night without playing. On the Saturday, we arrived at Toronto’s Royal York Hotel and Jackie finally arrived, all apologetic about the night before, and we rehearsed a few of his tunes with his Musical Director. One of those tunes was Chain Gang But they decided that there wasn’t enough time to rehearse everything properly so we did a few numbers and he did the rest of the Show with just his small backing Group.

Russ recalls a more exciting experience: “ I remember how BIG Jackie was, in terms of ENERGY… Quite impressive… massively impressive.  I’ve never been next to anyone else on stage who put so much of themselves into their performance. He was singing and dancing all over the place. It was absolutely amazing and inspiring.

Jackie did  make a brief come-back when he  collaborated with Carl Davis, a legendary Chicago producer. This resulted in two hits, “Whispers” and “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher”. The revival was short-lived, though, and Wilson rarely charted in the 1970s.


(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher


Wilson suffered a massive heart attack while playing a Dick Clark show at the Latin Casino in New Jersey on September 29, 1975, falling head-first to the stage; he was singing “Lonely Teardrops”.

A comatose Wilson lived in a hospital until his death in 1984 at age 49. His medical costs were paid for by Dick Clark.

In 1985, successful soul/funk band The Commodores, recorded “Nightshift” which was a song in memory of Wilson, as well as soul singer Marvin Gaye, who died in the same year as Wilson.

Wilson scored a posthumous hit when “Reet Petite” reached number one in the United Kingdom in 1986. The following year,he also hit the UK charts again with “I Get The Sweetest Feeling”(No.3), and “Higher and Higher”(No.11).

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987; that same year, he was portrayed in the Richie Valens biopic La Bamba by Howard Huntsberry.

Wilson is interred in the West lawn Cemetery in Wayne, Michigan.



5 responses to “Jackie Wilson

  1. I’m almost 18 years old and I personally don’t much listen to “older” music, but these were enjoyable to listen to, especially Higher and Higher. My foot was tapping away to every single song. The only thing from the videos is I find his facial expressions slightly distracting, but the guy definitely has some serious rhythm. Also, his voice is clearly masculine, unlike Michael Jacksons’ in some of his songs if we are comparing, but he is able to hit high notes that some of todays female vocalists struggle with. I wish there was more originality like this today, music could really use some REAL rock and roll back!

  2. According to your date of 1969 I must have been about 26 although it is so long ago I thought I was younger, but anyway, I was there at the Imperial Room in the Royal York Hotel and at 69 I remember well the scene… There he was … bigger than life, at the far end of the huge ballroom with what seemed like a few thousand fans…. I seem to recall Jackie continue singing a song he had begun but he had put aside the microphone … do you recall that? and his powerful magnificent voice carried throughout the entire hall …DID THAT REALLY HAPPEN? If I had been alive to hear Al Jolson I think I would rate Jackie up there with him… and I saw Satchamo at the Steele Pier in AC and Marvin Gaye also. Please answer my questions if you wish

  3. Hi Stephen
    During the 1969 performance at the Royal York, the Majestics did not back up Jackie for all of his show. Our trumpet player, Brian, thinks that when we were in the dressing room that would be when Jackie did the thing with no mic. He was such a consummate showman with a powerful voice; he loved to GET DOWN – have moments of intimacy with his audience. Like I said before, being on the stage near him was awesome.


    In my area some people believe that ELVIS PRESLEY paid for Jackie WILSONS medical bills. When Jackie Wilson sang in Pittsburgh at the SYRIA MOSQUE a women rushed the stage with a knife. His song “ALWAYS” is a special song on PITTSBURGH OLDIES STATIONS in remembrance of our friends who died. GOD BLESS JACKIE and his opera voice.



    My mind is like a Jukebox the song we play for our friends who die is JACKIE WILSIN “ASK” not “ALWAYS”. My apologies to all.

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