Jack Leroy "Jackie" Wilson, Jr. (June 9, 1934 – January 21, 1984) was an American singer and performer. Known as "Mr. Excitement", Wilson was important in the transition of rhythm and blues into soul. He was known as a master showman, and as one of the most dynamic singers and performers in R&B and rock history. Gaining fame in his early years as a member of the R&B vocal group Billy Ward and His Dominoes, he went solo in 1957 and recorded over 50 hit singles that spanned R&B, pop, soul, doo-wop and easy listening. During a 1975 benefit concert, he collapsed on-stage from a heart attack and subsequently fell into a coma that persisted for nearly nine years until his death in 1984. By this time, he had become one of the most influential artists of his generation.
A two-time Grammy Hall of Fame Inductee,Jackie Wilson was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Jackie Wilson #68 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
Jack Leroy Wilson, Jr. was born on June 9, 1934 in Detroit, Michigan, the only son of Jack, Sr. and Eliza Mae Wilson. Eliza Mae was born on The Billups-Whitfield Place in Columbus, Mississippi. Her parents were Tom and Virginia Ransom. Jackie often visited his family in Columbus and was greatly influenced by the choir at Billups Chapel. Growing up in the rough Detroit area of North End, Wilson joined a gang called the Shakers (the name taken from the Shaker Heights section of Detroit) and often found himself in trouble. Wilson's father was frequently absent, as he was an alcoholic and usually out of work. Young Jackie was introduced to alcohol by his father at the age of nine. Wilson began singing at an early age, accompanying his mother, once a choir singer, to church. In his early teens Jackie formed a quartet, the Ever Ready Gospel Singers, which became a popular feature of churches in the area. Jackie wasn't very religious, he just loved to sing and the cash he and his group earned came in handy for the cheap wine which he drank since the age of nine. Jack Sr. and Eliza separated shortly after this. Wilson dropped out of high school at age 15, having already been sentenced to detention in the Lansing Corrections system for juveniles twice. During his second stint in detention, he learned boxing and started performing in the amateur circuit in the Detroit area at the age of 16. His record in the Golden Gloves was 2 and 8. After his mother pleaded with him to quit, Wilson got married to Freda Hood and became a father at 17. He gave up boxing for music, first working at Lee's Sensation club as a solo singer, then forming a group called the Falcons that included cousin Levi Stubbs, who later went on to lead the Four Tops (two more of Wilson's cousins, Hubert Johnson and Levi's brother Joe, later became members of The Contours). The other members joined Hank Ballard as part of The Midnighters.