Jackie Wilson – “Mr. Excitement”

They didn’t call him “Mr. Excitement” for nothing, Jackie Wilson was a chart-topping success of the 1950s and 1960s.  

Jack Leroy Wilson Jr. Was born on June 9th, 1934 in Detroit, Michigan and he grew up singing gospel.  

In 1953 at the age of 19, He replaced Clyde McPhatter as the lead singer in Billy Ward & the Dominoes. 

This kickstarted his music career and helped put the group back on the charts. 

At the age of 22, he broke his contract with Billy Ward & The Dominoes and was ready to start a solo career. 

Nat Tarnopol, who worked for Decca Records, met with Jackie Wilson and wanted to sign him! However, Al Green, the manager, was hesitant to sign him at first.  

In a strange turn of events, Al Green died of a heart attack the night before Jackie Wilson went to sign his record deal, thus making Nat Tarnopol his new manager.  

Jackie Wilson recorded his first single as a solo artist, “Reet Petite” in New York. 

Decca did not want to release an R&B record under their label, so they released his single under Brunswick, their lesser-known label.  

Jackie Wilson became a huge success with 16 Top Ten R&B hits, 6 #1 hits, and 14 Top 20 Pop hits under his belt. His success also helped to revive Brunswick and make them more known. 

In 1960, Decca decided to make Brunswick its own record company and gave Nat Tarnopol and Jackie Wilson ownership. The two of them moved from Detroit to Manhattan.  

In the following years, his personal life began to spiral out of control. He was shot, acquired a drug and alcohol problem, and was struggling to create chart-topping hits like he once could. 

Eventually Brunswick joined Record Row in the previous building of Vee Jay Records and signed successful talents such as The Chi-Lites and Tyrone Davis.  

On September 29th, 1975, Jackie Wilson suffered a heart attack while performing at a New Jersey nightclub. After being in a coma for 8 years, he died on January 21, 1984, at the age of 49.

Jackie Wilson left a lasting legacy on music today. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, and has influenced many artists such as Elvis Presley, James Brown, Usher, and even Michael Jackson, who paid tribute to Wilson during his Grammy speech for “Thriller” winning Album of the Year.  

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