Saturday, November 15, 2008

Wilson Pickett (Singer, Songwriter) Prattville, Al

Pickett was born March 18, 1941 in Prattville, Alabama, and grew up singing in Baptist church choirs. Pickett's forceful, passionate style of singing was developed in the church and on the streets of Detroit, under the influence of recording stars such as Little Richard, whom he later referred to as "the architect of rock and roll.
After singing for four years in locally popular gospel-harmony groups, Pickett, lured by the success of other gospel singers of the day, including Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, and others who left gospel music in the late 1950s for the more lucrative secular music market, joined the Falcons in 1959.
The Falcons were one of the first vocal groups to bring gospel into a popular context, thus paving the way for soul music. The Falcons also featured some notable members who went on to become major solo artists; when Pickett joined the group, Eddie Floyd and Sir Mack Rice were also members of the group. Pickett's biggest success with The Falcons came in 1962, when "I Found a Love," (co-authored by Pickett and featuring his lead vocals), peaked at #6 on the R&B charts, and at #75 on the pop charts.
Soon after recording "I Found a Love," Pickett cut his first solo recordings, including "I'm Gonna Cry," his first collaboration with Don Covay, an important figure in Southern soul music. Around this time, Pickett also recorded a demo for a song he co-wrote, called "If You Need Me." A slow-burning soul ballad featuring a spoken sermon, Pickett sent the demo to Jerry Wexler, a producer at Atlantic Records. Wexler heard the demo and liked it so much, he gave it to one of the label's own recording artists, Solomon Burke. Burke's recording of "If You Need Me" became one of his biggest hits (#2 R&B, #37 pop) and is now considered a soul standard, but Pickett was crushed when he discovered that Atlantic had given away his song. "First time I ever cried in my life," Pickett would later recall. Pickett's version of the song was released on Double L Records, and was a moderate hit, peaking at #30 R&B, #64 pop.
Pickett's first big success as a solo artist came with "It's Too Late," an original composition (not to be confused with the Chuck Willis standard of the same name). Entering the charts on July 27, 1963, it eventually peaked at #7 on the R&B charts, and at #49 pop. This record's success convinced Wexler and Atlantic to buy his contract from Double L Records in 1964.

Pickett's Atlantic career began with a self-produced single, "I'm Gonna Cry", which stalled at a lowly #124 on the national charts. Looking to boost Pickett's chart chances, Atlantic next paired him with famed producer Bert Berns and established songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. With this team, Pickett recorded "Come Home Baby," a pop duet with New Orleans singer Tammi Lynn, but this single failed to chart completely.
Pickett's breakthrough came at Stax Records' recording studio in Memphis, Tennessee, where he recorded his third Atlantic single, "In the Midnight Hour" (1965), perhaps his best-remembered hit, peaking at #1 R&B, #21 pop {US}, and #12 hit {UK}.
The genesis of "In the Midnight Hour" was a recording session on May 12, 1965, in which producer Jerry Wexler worked out a powerful rhythm track with studio musicians Steve Cropper and Al Jackson of the Stax Records house band, which also included bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn. (Stax keyboard player Booker T. Jones, who usually played with Dunn, Cropper and Jackson as Booker T. & the MG's, did not play on any of the Pickett studio sessions.) Wexler said to Cropper and Jackson, "Why don't you pick up on this thing here?" He performed a dance step. Cropper later explained in an interview that Wexler told them that "this was the way the kids were dancing; they were putting the accent on two. Basically, we'd been one-beat-accenters with an afterbeat; it was like 'boom dah,' but here this was a thing that went 'um-chaw,' just the reverse as far as the accent goes." The song that resulted from this encounter established Pickett as a star, and also gave Atlantic Records a bona fide hit.

Stax/Fame years (1965-67)
Pickett recorded three sessions at Stax in May and October 1965, and was joined by keyboardist Isaac Hayes for the October sessions. In addition to "In the Midnight Hour," Pickett's 1965 recordings included the singles "Don't Fight It," (#4 R&B, #53 pop) "634-5789 (Soulsville, U.S.A,)" (#1 R&B, #13 pop) and "Ninety-Nine and A Half (Won't Do)" (#13 R&B, #53 pop). All but "634-5789" were original compositions Pickett co-wrote with Eddie Floyd and/or Steve Cropper; "634-5789" was credited to Cropper and Floyd alone. All of these recordings are considered soul classics, and show a range of different styles, from the hard-driving "Midnight Hour" and "Don't Fight It," to the more overtly gospel-influenced "Ninety-Nine and A Half" (which borrowed its title from a gospel standard recorded by The Ward Singers) and the pop-soul of "634-5789".
For his next sessions, Pickett would not return to Stax; the label's owner, Jim Stewart, banned all outside productions in December, 1965. As a result, Wexler took Pickett to Fame studios, another recording studio with an even closer association to Atlantic Records. Located in a converted tobacco warehouse in nearby Muscle Shoals, Alabama, Fame was very influential in shaping soul music, and Pickett recorded some of his biggest hits there. This included the highest-charting version ever of the kinetic "Land of 1,000 Dances", which became Pickett's third R&B #1, and his biggest ever pop hit, peaking at #6.
Other big hits from this era in Pickett's career included two other covers: Mack Rice's "Mustang Sally," (#6 R&B, #23 pop), and Dyke & the Blazers' "Funky Broadway," (another R&B #1 for Pickett, as well as #8 pop). The band heard on almost all of Pickett's Fame recordings included keyboardist Spooner Oldham and drummer Roger Hawkins.

Pickett later teamed up with established Philadelphia-based hitmakers Gamble and Huff for the 1970 album Wilson Pickett In Philadelphia, which featured his next two hit singles, the funk-oriented "Get Me Back On Time, Engine Number 9" (#3 R&B, #14 Pop) and the pop number "Don't Let The Green Grass Fool You" (#2 R&B, #17 Pop).
Following these two big hits, Pickett returned to Muscle Shoals and the Muscle Shoals band, featuring Hood, Hawkins and Tippy Armstrong. This line-up recorded Pickett's fifth and last R&B #1 hit, "Don't Knock My Love, Pt. 1", which also peaked at #13 on the pop charts in 1971. Two further hits followed in '71: "Call My Name, I'll Be There" (#10 R&B, #52 Pop) and "Fire and Water" (#2 R&B, #24 Pop), a cover of a song by Free.
Pickett recorded several tracks in 1972 for a planned new album on Atlantic, but after the single "Funk Factory" reached #11 R&B and #58 pop in June of 1972, he left Atlantic for RCA Records. His final Atlantic single, a cover of Randy Newman's "Mama Told Me Not To Come," was actually culled from Pickett's 1971 album Don't Knock My Love.

As the decade continued, the advent of disco put Pickett's soul-based musical style out of step with the then-current trends in R&B, and in pop music in general. In 1975, with Pickett's once-prominent chart career on the wane, RCA dropped Pickett from the label.
Pickett continued to record sporadically with several labels over the following decades, occasionally making the lower to mid-range of the R&B charts. However, after 1974, he never had another pop hit. His last record was issued in 1999, although he remained fairly active on the touring front until he became ill in 2004.

Pickett was also a popular songwriter, as songs he wrote were recorded by artists like Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, the Grateful Dead, Booker T. & the MGs, Genesis, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Hootie & the Blowfish, Bruce Springsteen, Los Lobos, & Ani DiFranco, among others.

Wilson Pickett - Get Me Back on Tme, Engine No.9


Blogger BlueBayBlues said...

That was great to listen to!


November 15, 2008 at 2:59 PM  

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