In 1951 Jackie made the first R&B recording for Dizzy Gillespie's Dee Gee Label in Detroit. The label released two singles from Jackie's session under the name Sonny Wilson. One, being the standard "Danny Boy". Jackie, years later, recorded this song twice. It became a top requested number among club audiences. Also in 1951, Jackie became a member of a street corner group, "The Thrillers" which would go on to form the "Royals", later to metamorphose into the "Midnighters". In December 1951, Johnny Otis came to Detroit scouting talent for King Records. He found and recommend, Little Willie John, The Royals, and Jackie Wilson. Otis decided that he only wanted The Royals.
In 1953, Jackie's friend told him that Clyde McPhatter was leaving the Dominos and they were holding auditions to find a replacement. Jackie shows up to the audition with a girl on each arm and calls himself "Shit Wilson".
It almost cost him his audition. But when Jackie began to sing, band leader Billy Ward was so impressed he hired Jackie immediately, taking him on the road and teaching him the ropes of being a showman.
Jackie sang lead and tenor in the Dominos for more than 3 years.
Having hit's such as, "You Can't Keep A Good Man Down", "Rags To Riches", "Until The Real Thing Comes Along". The biggest hit Jackie had with the Dominos was "St Therese Of The Roses", reaching number 13 on the charts in 1956.
Elvis Presley was one of those who was mightily impressed by Jackie's cover of "Don't Be Cruel" in late 1956.
Billy Davis, Jackie's cousin, realized Jackie was destined for bigger things. Billy took Jackie to an old friend Al Green, the owner of the Flame Show Bar, a co-manager of Johnny Ray, and manager of La Vern Baker. He had connections in the local music business and was quite impressed with Jackie, forming a strong personal and professional bond. Probably the greatest introduction Al Green ever brought to Jackie was a young songwriter by the name of Berry Gordy.
A great collaboration was born! Jackie's first big R&B / Pop hit in late 1956 was the brassy "Reet Petite" which was co-written by Berry Gordy.
Green also had another young protégée by the name of Nat Tarnapol.
In 1957 Al Green suddenly died which devastated Jackie. Having the image of being Al's partner, Nat stepped in and assumed the management of Jackie.
A relationship that would affect every element of Jackie Wilson's life.
During Jackie's career he racked up over two dozen top 40 singles and six number one hits, such as "To Be Loved", "Lonely Tear Drops", "Baby Workout", "That's Why I Love You So", "Doggin' Around", "A Woman A Lover A Friend", "Whispers (Gettin’ Louder)", Higher and Higher", just to name a few.
On September 29th, 1975 while playing Dick Clark's oldies show at the Latin Casino in New Jersey, Jackie suffered an on stage heart attack while singing his signature song "Lonely Tear drops". He lapsed into a coma, suffering major brain damage and was hospitalized until his death on January 21st, 1984 at the age of 49. Jackie had an enormous impact on the artists of his time and the generation that followed including Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson. There has never been and perhaps never will again be a singer to match his effortless versatility and showmanship.
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 1987, Jackie Wilson lives on through his Family, his Music, and his beloved Fans!