In The Midnight Hour
Wilson Pickett – (1941- 2006)
Can’t help but deeply feel the loss of Wilson Pickett. I’ve been thinking a lot about Soul, particularly that era between 1965 & 1969. What an incredible amalgam of singles. James Brown introduced us to the brand new bag, Aretha just took over the whole world, the Supremes led the conscious bandwagon by bravely introducing "Love Child" on Sullivan, and my Temptations were transitioning from Smokey to Whitfield. and Wilson Pickett.
Dude was, as one of the tracks on his last album says, "All About Sex". No, no, his vocals WERE sex. As an adolescent caught up in believing in the possibilities sung to me via the Sound Of Young America, there was something OTHER about Wilson Pickett. I now see that he had a raw lasciviousness that warned guys that you better hold tight to your girls & daughters or he would easily devour them. Oh, yeah – he was the big, bad wolf.
He was a song-stealing sonofagun. But I dare anybody to raise the spectre of Pat Boone. He just bitch-slapped Roger Collins and claimed "She’s Looking Good". He did treat Dyke with some respect on "Funky Broadway", though. I double-dare any Beatles fan to try to compare the way he manned-up "Hey Jude" – the original is a lullaby.
There are three moments on record that make me wish I had the studio tape. I mean the artist just gets otherworldly, but the record ends:
1) Da do da da, Da de da da – the last 10 seconds of "The Big Payback" are the funkiest chunk on wax.
2) When Michael Jackson launches it an octave on the fade to "Who’s Loving You"
3) The fade to "I Found A Love" has Pickett in full, pleading professing mode. Actually, this is just an example of the Power of the Pickett. He just blows the frequency limits of the mic he’s singing into. I refuse to believe this record could have been recorded un-distorted. I always fantasized that they had to invent Hi-Fi just to be able to capture Pickett’s screams.
The Hall household will long cherish the flipside of "Midnight Mover", a ditty called "Deborah". Pickett is, as I see now, doing it for the Tony Sopranos of the world. He’s socking soul in Italian. Y’all ask your mobbed-up buddies did they get into this one.
–J. Michael Hall
Oh Lawdy!! Another one! Here we go! In the last couple of years, the black soul legends are leaving us! This ain’t fair at all! They were not finished yet! Barry White, Eugene record, Luther Vandross, Richard Pryor, Lou Rawls and now Wilson Pickett! The wicked Pickett! In our history of the music, Wilson was deeper than mustang sally and midnight hour! White folks took that, and made it their own! When it first came out, back in the middle 60’s, that jam was too black for them! They had their fantastic bands to save their musical mental soulful life. They had the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin and more. But with us, James Brown, Jackie Wilson, Temptations and more when a little deep!
Especially if you were fortunate to experience the Apollo theatre between 67-1974.AWSOME!! Something unique happened within that black experience.
A year after Dr.King died, the soul brother began to emerge. One of them was The wicked Pickett! After midnight hour, mustang sally, beechwood # and other cuts, he then came with engine #9!! One of the baddest b-boy grown folks tracks in rockin’ the body history!
Wilson did have his demons though! Too black, too strong, too sexy! The Nat turner of music was also not that nice. A evil negroe! Sisters in jersey have some horror stories! White women too! International soul brother playboy was what he was! Its also must be noted that, brother Wilson was not a 70’s act! Even with the afro and tight leather, he did not have hot tracks out there. And when disco came, forget about it! He survived on his live shows! His name would draw, he did not need a hit. Why? Cause he was the Wicked
Pickett,can ya dig it? Country cornbread soul brother he was! He never got the proper interview. Another brother gone, after all that, he did not sit on the couch and kick it with Johnny Carson. Man, to be black.
Folks have tried to whisper out our history, and because we sleep, we are walking within the illusion of thinking we are all that. True we are!
That’s a given. But we trip too high, and the higher we trip, it just floats away, and we land on no foundation. We must keep on patroling within the soul! Wilson never lied when he said; don’t let the green grass fool you!
I know that’s right! Wilson will be missed! Tonight Im going out in celebration of the wicked! And due to the fact that I’m 43, black, funky, soulful and true, I will be on the engine # 9 tonight!
Moving on down the line baby! All night long!………
–The Rexx Minister of the forbidden Soul Power
Damned! Here we go agin!
I remember I Found A Love. Whenever I think of Wilson Pickett I’m reminded of what ‘soul-stirring’ actually sounds like. The Philly International stuff was/is made special all because of Bro. Pickett’s guttural vocal. Don’t Let the Green Grass Fool Ya and Engine Number Nine are true departures from the typical Philly International sound yet they played a large part in further defining Philly soul. How about I’m In Love? Remember that? How beautiful was that one? How about I’m connecting the word ‘beautiful’ to anything done by Wilson Pickett? When I think about the screamers (not because THEY scream so much as how they made the women scream) I’d have to say Wilson Pickett was probably the best and most powerful straight up baritone singer. I don’t quite know how to explain what a ‘squall’ is. But suffice to say that only Joe Ligon, Solomon Burke and Wilson Pickett were/are really good at it. There are others that do it, of course…but I think they did it best. It requires a strong voice and the ability to hold and vibrate a phat note without going hoarse.
As Mr. Pickett says on Only The Strong Survive: ‘James (Brown) caint do this..it comes from here (points to his gut)…James just screams from here (points to his throat)’.. I think that is a fair assessment. I remember seeing Mr. Pickett once at the Apollo theatre. He was singing In the Midnight Hour. During the instrumental (horn) break he brought up a few young ladies from the audience. Willingly they came. He kissed and danced (in his way because the one thing Wilson Pickett did NOT do was dance) with each lady. As he neared the end of this sequence of the song, the last lady was not the most attractive of the bunch and without missing a beat (and in inimitable Wilson Pickett style) this lady wanted her kiss and he simply turned slightly away and said ‘Lawd Have Mercy!’ I died laughing. I guess that’s why they called him ‘wicked’. I heard Philly DJ Georgie Woods dubbed Jerry Butler ‘the Iceman’. Who dubbed Wilson Pickett’ Wicked”?
Finally, I think it’s best that we begin to REALLY focus on those who are left… That would be Chuck Jackson, Garnett Mimms, James Brown ,Chuck Berry, Little Richard Penniman, Solomon Burke, Bo Diddley and Jerry Butler. Encouragement and support is all that’s needed in these closing years for these brothers.
Hire A Band, Peace
Hiya Bob, Just heard the very sad news regarding Wilson Pickett.
This guy changed my musical views at 12 years old – I practiced the scream the growl the holler b4 deciding he was just too good. Here I am at 52 still raving over "The Wicked 1".
I know you’ll do him justice in your Soul Patrol but let me tell you England is sadder today for the passing of an icon.
Land of 100 Dances has gained an extra Midnight Mover on that Funky Broadway!!!
Regards and keep spreading the faith
–Ashley Saywell, Sheffield, UK
1963-64 was the year for dances, in the birth of the soul era. Kids everywhere during these years either, Monkey-ing, Swimming, Twine-ing, Uncle Willy-ing, and of course, Jerking. The Jerk was a hot new dance around 1964 and quite a few record released, would capitalize on the dance, like so many others.
Groups as The Miracles who had, " Come On And Do The Jerk b/w "Baby Don’t You Go", The Gypsies who had, "Jerk It" on the Old Town label and a group from the LA area called The Larks who also recorded a number one R&B hit called "The Jerk" in late 1964. The Jerk would also inspire a New York producer……….
Let’s fast forward to the spring of 1965. Jerry Wexler of Atlantic records was frantic
looking for new material for a new artist just signed on the label, named Wilson Pickett. Wilson was formerly on Lloyd Price’s Double L label and cut a few sides for the label. Signing with the Atlantic label in 1964, he would released a few singles that would all flop.
Something had to give.
Jerry Wexler had the brainstorm idea of taking Wilson to Memphis where Stax records was located. Jerry of course had dealings with the label (runned by Jim Stewart and Astelle Axton), when Atlantic started distribution Stax products, such as the late Rufus Thomas and Carla Thomas first hit, " Cause I Love You" in 1960 and so on……………..
Let’s get to the nitty gritty of this story. When Jerry and Wilson arrived in Memphis, Jim Stewart himself picked them up from the airport and went to the Lorraine Motel ( the hotel where Dr. King was assassinated in April 1968). Jim and
Jerry left to go to a meeting, where Wilson Pickett along with Booker T
Steve Cropper stayed. When returning back to the hotel, Wilson and Steve had written two songs that would become future classics, " In The Midnight Hour" and "Don’t Fight It", in a matter of two hours !!!!! In The Midnight Hour was inspired by Wilson’s always quoting in his personal appearances, " Wait until the midnight hour". Steve Cropper thought it would be a great idea for a song. Wilson said that it was just from his gospel roots as well, " I’m gonna meet sweet Jesus in the midnignt hour, you don’t when He’s gonna come, he could come at any given time".
In The Midnight Hour was cut in May of 1965. The session players on this smoking track was no other than 3 members of the Booket T. & the MG’s set, Donald " Duck" Dunn on bass, Steve Cropper on guitar, Al Jackson Jr. on the drums.
Also on hand were the Memphis Horns, Wayne Jackson on trumpet, Floyd Newman on baritone sax, Andrew Love and Packy Axton ( Estelle Axton’s son) on both tenor sax. Jerry Wexler was on hand as well during this session and some how the recording couldn’t come through. So Jerry suggested a rhythm pattern after a new dance that kids around the country at that time were doing called the Jerk.
He started to demonstrate the dance around the studio, and as the musicians chuckled, they got a feel for a new arrangement for the song. The sessions players developed a laid back rhythm which is called in music terms, 2/4. It means that the bottom bass drum is playing a rhythm pattern of………1 2 3 4 …while Al Jackson ( the drummer) is playing 1..2.. on the snare. He delaying the beat.
Because of this arrangement, a new style of playing was born for the Stax label.
If you listen closely to the early Stax recording, the rhythm patterns are totally different from the ones recorded after "The Midnight Hour" session.
In The Midnight Hour" hit No 1 for a week in August 1965 on the R&B singles charts and No 21 on the Pop singles charts in Sept 65. The song would make Wilson Pickett a international star overnight !!!!!!
Wilson would go on to have other masterpiece hits during his association with the Stax label. But things would began to turn ugly with a fall out between Jerry Wexler and Jim Stewart in 1966.
So Wilson would find a new home across the way at Fame studios located in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. As you know, the classic hits from Wilson’s golden voice just kept shilling out over and over…………..
In The Midnight Hour is not just some simple classic hit that people of nearly 4 generations can dance to, but it was a song that change the sound of a label named Stax, in my opinion, one of the greatest labels in music history !!!!
It was not only an eye opener for the Stax musicians, but it generated a new sound in the up coming soul era that you can get your groove on, not only in the midnight hour,
but in the morning………..in the afternoon………… in the
Check out the Wicked Pickett anytime !!!!!!!
He’s truly The Midnight Mover !!!!!!!!!!
(Chancellor of Soul)