Image of Jackie Wilson

Jackie Wilson

Jackie "Sonny" Wilson was born in Detroit, Michigan, and grew up in Highland Park, the only son of Jack and Eliza Mae Wilson from Columbus, Mississippi. His father was an alcoholic and constantly unemployed, and his mother, who had lost two earlier children, doted on Jackie and became a powerful influence in his life. He began to sing at an early age, and even formed a quartet, The Ever Ready Gospel Singers Group, which earned a small measure of fame among the local churches.Wilson was a habitual truant, getting in trouble on a regular basis. He began drinking at age nine, and in 1950 at age 16 dropped out of high school. He married Freda Hood, his childhood sweetheart, and a daughter arrived in March, 1951. At this time he was singing in local clubs with Levi Stubbs(later of The Four Tops fame). In 1953 he successfully auditioned for Billy Ward's Dominoes, replacing Clyde McPhatter when the latter left the group to form The Drifters. Their first release was "You Can't Keep A Good Man Down", followed by "Rags to Riches." In 1956 they had their first pop hit, "St. Therese Of The Roses."In 1957 Wilson embarked on a solo career. His manager was Al Green, a music publisher and manager who was already managing Della Reese, Johnnie Ray and La Vern Baker. Green was able to secure Wilson a recording contract with Brunswick Records. However, Green suddenly died the day before the deal was officially signed. He was replaced by Nat Turnpool. Collaborating with Berry Gordy and Roquel "Billy" Davis, Wilson soon had a string of hits to his name, among them "To Be Loved," "Reet Petite" and "That Is Why," as well as his biggest hit, "Lonely Teardrops."This partnership ended after disagreements between Tarnpool and the team of Davis/Gordy over inadequate payments. After parting ways, Gordy used his royalties to create Hitsville USA Studios, later to become Motown Records. The rest is music history. Davis joined Chess Records as A&R manager and would achieve success in his own right as a songwriter and producer. Tarnpool, confident that he could do without the Davis/Gordy team, had band leader Dick Jacobs produce most of Wilson's recordings from 1957 through 1966, resulting in frequent crossovers between R&B and pop. Wilson had moderate hits during this period, with songs such as "Night" and "Alone at Last". In 1961 he formed a songwriting partnership with Alonzo Tucker that yielded the hit "Baby Workout."Although married to Freda Hood since 1951, Wilson was notorious for his numerous affairs with other women. Things came to a head in 1961 when Juanita Jones, an aspiring model, shot Wilson twice in the stomach after hearing about his affair with Harlean Harris, ex-girlfriend of singer Sam Cooke. Wilson was rushed to the hospital where quick surgery saved his life, although he lost a kidney. Since one of the bullets was too close to his spine, doctors ruled out surgery to remove it as far too dangerous. Wilson would have to carry it around for the rest of his life.Besides women, Wilson had another dangerous weakness: he was incredibly naive and easily trusting, something that Tarnpool took advantage of. Wilson had signed over power-of-attorney to him despite strong rumors of Tarnpool's mob connections and his reputation as an unscrupulous businessman. In 1962 the IRS seized Wilson's family home due to his failure to pay back taxes (due mainly to the fact that Tarnpool had been pocketing all of Wilson's earnings). Wilson realized that, despite the success of his career, he was broke and homeless. Eventually he made arrangements with the IRS to make restitution on the unpaid taxes and was able to re-purchase his own house at an auction.During this time the "British Invasion" took place, sending his career into freefall. His last hit was "Your Love (Keeps Lifting Me Higher And Higher)" in 1968. Two years later his 16-year-old son Jackie Jr. was shot and killed during a confrontation with a neighbor. Jackie's wife Frida had long since filed for divorce, having their marriage officially annulled in 1965. Despite these circumstances, Jackie treated her as though she was still his wife.On September 29, 1975 Wilson suffered a major heart attack while on stage at Dick Clark's "Traveling Oldies Revue". As he fell he hit his head on some stage equipment, resulting in serious brain damage. He stayed in a coma until his death at 49 on January 21, 1984.

Read bio at Wikipedia
Jun 9, 1934 In Detroit, Michigan, USA
Movie/TV Credits:
First Appeared:
In the series Crime Story 1986-09-18
Latest Project:
Series Vera 2015-01-11
Known For
Poster of Jane the Virgin
Poster of The Following
Poster of New Girl
Poster of The X Factor UK
Vera Unknown 2015-01-11
Jane the Virgin Unknown 2014-10-13
The Following Unknown 2013-01-21
Serangoon Road Unknown 2013-09-01
Call the Midwife Unknown 2012-01-15
New Girl Unknown 2011-09-20
So You Think You Can Dance Canada Unknown 2008-09-11
Britain's Got Talent Unknown 2007-06-09
Britain's Got More Talent Unknown 2007-06-09
Dancing on Ice Unknown 2006-01-08
Dancing with the Stars Unknown 2005-06-01
So You Think You Can Dance Unknown 2005
The X Factor UK Unknown 2004-09-04
Top of the Pops Unknown 2002-01-12
Rock & Roll Himself 1995-09-24
Takin' Over the Asylum Unknown 1994-09-27
The Wonder Years Unknown 1988-01-31
Murphy Brown Unknown 1988-11-14
Crime Story Unknown 1986-09-18