Walter Jackson

 

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Walter Jackson comes from the uptown side of Chicago soul. He was influenced more by pop crooners such as Billy Eckstine, Arthur Prysock, Al Hibbler, Joe Williams, and Nat "King" Cole than by gospel-style...

by Bill Pollak

Originally published in MusicHound R&B: The Essential Album Guide, Gary Graff, Josh Freedom du Lac, and Jim McFarlin (eds.); Visible Ink Press (Detroit, MI):
Born March 19, 1938, Pensacola, Florida; Died June 20, 1983.

Walter Jackson comes from the uptown side of Chicago soul. He was influenced more by pop crooners such as Billy Eckstine, Arthur Prysock, Al Hibbler, Joe Williams, and Nat "King" Cole than by gospel-style singers, and he frequently expressed disapproval of attempts to place him in rock 'n roll and R&B musical settings. His technical proficiency as a singer made a strong impression on everyone who ever heard or worked with him, and no less an authority than Luther Vandross has stated that Jackson was his favorite singer. Yet Jackson never quite achieved the success warranted by his prodigious vocal skills.
Jackson was permanently disabled by childhood polio and performed on crutches. A fearsomely strong-willed man, however, Jackson never treated himself nor allowed himself to be treated as a handicapped person. His career began as a member of the Velvetones vocal group. In 1962, Okeh Records A&R Director Carl Davis brought Jackson to the label after hearing him sing in a Detroit piano bar. Davis and Curtis Mayfield, two of the primary forces in Chicago R&B in the 1960s, co-produced Jackson's earliest recordings for Okeh, a combination of standards such as "Moonlight in Vermont" and R&B songs aimed at contemporary R&B radio, including several Mayfield compositions ("That's What Mama Said," 1963, and "It's All Over", 1964). This recording pattern continued through later productions for Okeh by Ted Cooper; Jackson straddled the fence between pop R&B and supper-club crooning. When the combination clicked, the results were magnificent: "Funny (Not Much)" (1964), "Speak Her Name" (1967), "It's an Uphill Climb to the Bottom" (1967), and especially "Welcome Home" (1965).
The hits stopped coming after "My Ship Is Comin' In" in 1967, and Jackson recorded unsuccessfully for several labels (the lone exception was "Anyway You Want Me" for Cotillion in 1969) before Carl Davis resurrected his career at his new Chi-Sound label in 1976. Jackson's Chi-Sound material was more pop- and mainstream-oriented than his Okeh recordings had been, and he succeeded with lushly produced covers of pop songs such as Morris Albert's "Feelings" (1976) and Peter Frampton's "Baby I Love Your Way" (1977). His last hit, two years before his 1983 death, was "Tell Me Where it Hurts" (Columbia, 1981).
Buy first: [The Best of Walter Jackson: Welcome Home - The Okeh Years] (Sony, 1996, prod. Various) (4 bones) contains most of Jackson's hit records during his most productive period.
Buy next:
  • [Feelings] (Collectables, 1994, prod. Various) (2 1/2 bones) collects Jackson's Chi-Sound recordings. Jackson would sound good singing almost anything, but much of his Chi-Sound material puts this statement to a challenging test. The Chi-Sound remakes of Jackson's Okeh recordings are worth listening to, but most fans of hard-core R&B and soul will have a hard time with the schlockier material on this CD.
  • Those who wish to dip a toe in the water of the Chi-Sound material without the risk of drowning could try [A Celebration of Soul: The Chi-Sound Records Collection, Volume one] (Varese Sarabande, 1996, prod. Various) (3 bones) and [Volume two] (Varese Sarabande, 1996, prod. Various) (3 bones). In addition to some selections by Jackson, these discs include late 1970s and early 1980s recordings by the Chi-lites featuring Eugene Record, the Dells, Gene Chandler, the Impressions, Manchild, Windy City, and Paris.
  • [Curtis Mayfield's Chicago Soul] (Sony, 1995, prod. Various) (4 bones) documents Mayfield's work as a writer and producer with Chicago artists including Jackson, the Opals, Gene Chandler, Major Lance, the Artistics, and Billy Butler & the Enchanters.
Avoid:  [Send in the Clowns] (20th Century, 1979, prod. Carl Davis) (1 bone)
The rest:
  • [Feeling Good] (Chi-Sound, 1976, prod. Carl Davis) (2 bones)
  • [I Want to Come Back as a Song] (Chi-Sound, 1977, prod. Carl Davis) (2 bones)
  • [Good to See You] (United Artists, 1978, prod. Carl Davis) (2 bones)
  • [It's Cool] (Charly, year unknown, prod. Various) (4 bones)
  • [Walter Jackson's Greatest Hits] (Epic, 1987, prod. Various) (4 bones)
  • [Greatest Hits] (Sony, 1991, prod. Various) (4 bones)
Worth searching for: Jackson's three Okeh LPs comprise his output during the period of his greatest artistic and commercial success:
  • [It's All Over] (Okeh, 1964, prod. Carl Davis, Curtis Mayfield) (4 bones)
  • [Welcome Home] (Okeh, 1965, prod. Carl Davis, Curtis Mayfield) (4 bones)
  • [Speak Her Name] (Okeh, 1967, prod. Ted Cooper) (3 1/2 bones)

Influenced by: Jerry Butler, Curtis Mayfield, Arthur Prysock, Billy Eckstine, Al Hibbler, Joe Williams, Nat "King" Cole

Influenced: Luther Vandross
 
Walter Jackson Okeh 45's and LP's
 
Okeh 45's
 
7189 That's What Mama Said / What Would You Do - 1963
7204 It's All Over / Lee Cross - 1964
7215 Suddenly I'm All Alone / Special Love - 1965
7219 Welcome Home / Blowing In The Wind - 1965
7229 Where Have All The Flowers Gone / I'll KeepOn Trying - 1965
7236 Funny (Not Much) / One Heart Lonely - 1966
7247 It's An Uphill Climb To The Bottom / Tear For Tear - 1966 (some with picture sleeve)
7256 After You There Can Be Nothing / My Funny Valentine - 1966
7260 A Corner In The Sun / Not You - 1966
7272 Speak Her Name / They Don't Give Medals (To Yesterday's Heroes) - 1967 (some with picture sleeve)
7285 Deep In The Heart Of Harlem / My One Chance To Make It - 1967
7295 My Ship Is Comin' In / A Cold Cold Winter - 1967
7305 Everything Under The Sun / Road To Ruin - 1968
 
UK Columbia 45's
 
DB7620 Welcome Home / Blowing In The Wind - 1965
DB7949 It's An Uphill Climb To The Bottom / Tear For Tear - 1966
DB8054 Corner In The Sun / Not You - 1966
DB8154 Speak Her Name / They Don't Give Medals (To Yesterday's Heroes) - 1967
 
Okeh LP's
 
OKM12107 - It's All Over - 1964 Tracks: It's All Over / A Blossom Fell / That's What Mama Say / It Will Be The Last Time / Opportunity / I Don't Want To Suffer / There Goes That Song Again / What Would You Do / Lee Cross / Then Only Then / This World Of Mine / Funny (Not Much)
 
OKM12108 - Welcome Home: The Many Moods Of Walter Jackson - 1965 Tracks: My Funny Valentine / Moonlight In Vermont / Let It Be Me / Suddenly I'm All Alone / Imagination / Welcome Home / Moon River / Blowin' In The Wind / The Magic's Gone / Fly Me To The Moon (In Other Words) / Still At The Mercy Of Your Love / Where Have All The Flowers Gone.
 
OKM12120 - Speak Her Name - 1967 Tracks: They Don't Give Medals / Speak Her Name / Tear For Tear / She's A Woman / Not You / My One Chance To Make It / It's An Uphill Climb To The Bottom / I'll Keep On Trying / Corner In The Sun / After You There Can Be Nothing.
 
OKS12128 - Walter Jackson's Greatest Hits - 1968 Tracks: Speak Her Name / Lee Cross / Welcome Home / After You There Can Be Nothing / A Corner In The Sun / Funny It's All Over / Tear For Tear / It's An Uphill Climb To The Bottom / My Ship Is Comin' In / Suddenly I'm All Alone.
 
UK Columbia LP
 
SX6016 - Chartbusters USA - 1965 Tracks: Ain't It A Shame Major Lance / I'll Keep On Trying Walter Jackson / Finding Ot The Hard Way The Vibrations / I'm So Satisfied Ted Taylor / This Heart Of Mine The Artistics / Gotta Get Away Major Lance / Tommorow Is Another Day / Billy Butler And The Enchanters / (Love Is Like A) Rambling Rose Ted Taylor / Dark And Lonely Major Lance / Where Have All The Flowers Gone Walter Jackson / I Can't Work No Longer Billy Butler And The Encanters / I'll Come Running The Artistics / Too Hot Too Hold Major Lance / Misty The Vibrations