Born Charles Jackson, 22 July 1937, Latta, South Carolina
One of the pioneers of soul music, Chuck Jackson was a regular visitor to the R&B and pop charts in the first half of the 1960s. He was one of the first artists to record material by Burt Bacharach and Hal David successfully.
Jackson split his formative years between the Carolinas and Pittsburgh. After singing in the doowop group The 5 Mellows (1955) and the Ray Raspberry Gospel Singers (1955- 1956), he joined the Dell-Vikings in May 1957. The group was red hot at the time, with two Top 10 singles, “Come Go With Me” and “Whispering Bells” (both recorded before Jackson’s arrival). For some time there were two groups operating as the Del(l)-Vikings. Chuck was part of the group led by Kripp Johnson that kept recording for FeeBee ; the other Del-Vikings (with one l) were led by Clarence Quick and recorded for Mercury. Jackson sang lead on one title during his tenure with the group, “Willette” (FeeBee 221 / Dot 15673). The Dell-Vikings toured with Jackie Wilson, who told Jackson that he was not a group singer, that he had the talent to be a solo artist. With Wilson’s help, Chuck started his solo career in 1959 and was signed by Clock Records in NYC, for which he recorded three singles in 1959-60, credited to Charles Jackson. Releases on Beltone and Atco in 1961 were probably overdubbed demos from the FeeBee period. Meanwhile Jackson sang with the Jackie Wilson Revue at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem.
His solo career really took off when he signed with the Wand label in 1961. Wand was a subsidiary of Scepter Records, formed in 1959 by Florence Greenberg. In the early 1960s several R&B architects tried to find mass market appeal for black artists by drawing upon the young, predominantly white songwriters and producers then based in New York City. Scepter/Wand played a key role in this new development and scored a # 1 hit with “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” by the Shirelles, written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin.
Chuck’s first single for Wand, “I Don’t Want To Cry” (# 5 R&B, # 36 pop) was written by himself and Luther Dixon (Scepter’s A&R man). But for the next seven years Jackson was provided with a great deal of first-class material from now-legendary writers in the Brill Building in Manhattan, like Burt Bacharach and Hal David (“I Wake Up Crying”, “The Breaking Point”), Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller (“I Keep Forgettin’”), Carole King and Gerry Goffin (“I Need You”, “Make the Night A Little Longer”) and Pam Sawyer and Mark Barkan (“If I Didn’t Love You”). Jackson’s biggest hit was the majestic “Any Day Now” (# 2 R&B, # 23 pop, 1962), from the pens of Burt Bacharach and Bob Hilliard. Many of these Wand singles have become soul classics and several of Jackson’s songs later became hits for other artists, like Ronnie Milsap, whose 1982 version of “Any Day Now” reached # 1 on the country and # 14 on the pop charts, and ex-Doobie Brother Michael McDonald who covered “I Keep Forgettin’” (# 4 pop, # 7 R&B), also in 1982. Elvis Presley recorded “Any Day Now” in 1969, on the B-side of his big hit “In the Ghetto”.
During his Wand period (1961-67), Chuck scored 21 entries into the Hot 100 and 17 on the R&B charts, including five duets with Maxine Brown. These Wand hits epitomized the New York uptown soul style, characterized by sophisticated arrangements (often crafted by Burt Bacharach) and Chuck’s strong baritone vocals.
Towards the end of 1967 Jackson left Wand to join the Motown label, a decision he later described as “one of the worst mistakes I made in my life”. Though he scored a few minor R&B hits on Motown (most notably “Are You Lonely For Me”, # 27, 1969), the majority of his Motown recordings found him pitched against unsympathetic backings in a vain attempt to force him into the label’s formula. In 1971 Chuck left Motown for ABC, for which he scored two minor R&B hits in 1973, followed by another label switch, to All- Platinum in 1975 (only chart entry “I’m Needing You, Wanting You”, # 30 R&B).
By 1980 he was recording for EMI America, where his most prominent role was as guest vocalist on two hit albums by Gary U.S. Bonds. In the late 1980s, Jackson was one of many ex-Motown artists signed to Ian Levine’s UK-based Motor City label. During the 1990s he recorded duet albums with Cissy Houston (“I’ll Take Care Of You”, 1992) and long-time friend Dionne Warwick (“If I Let Myself Go”, 1998, nominated for a Grammy). Chuck Jackson is still very active at this time of writing. He has received many awards, including the 1992 Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award.
More info :
Discography : http://www.soulfulkindamusic.net/cjackson.htm
Acknowledgements : Cliff White (liner notes for the DJM compilation LP “Any Day Now”) and the two websites mentioned above.
CD recommendation : The Best Of Chuck Jackson (Collectables, 2008). 25 Wand recordings, 1961-67.
Dik, May 2015
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