Jackie Wilson’s chart heyday may have been behind him by 1968. But the peerless R&B entertainer and vocal stylist still had some new tricks up his sleeve. On April 27 that year, he hit the Billboard Hot 100 with a single from a fascinating and unexpected new pairing. A version of Sam Cooke’s “Chain Gang” came from a soon-to-be-unveiled full album with Count Basie and his Orchestra.
The LP pairing with the great jazz figurehead was titled Manufacturers Of Soul. Released a few weeks later, it combined Wilson’s soulful delivery with jazz arrangements on a collection of mainly R&B covers. “Chain Gang” had been preceded by a new take on “For Your Precious Love,” the Jerry Butler and the Impressions original. That reached No.26 R&B and No.49 pop.
Basie’s brilliant band
The album was made over two days in Los Angeles on January 3 and 4, with charts by Basie’s longtime arranger Benny Carter. The Basie line-up included four trumpeters, four trombonists and five saxophonists, including Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis.
The album included a brilliant treatment of Aretha Franklin’s hit of the year before, “Respect,” and versions of Stevie Wonder’s “I Was Made To Love Her” and “Uptight (Everything‘s Alright),” Wilson Pickett’s “In The Midnight Hour,” the Temptations’ Smokey Robinson-penned favorite “My Girl,” and many more.
More soul than pop
Sam Cooke had reached No.2 on the Hot 100 with his original of “Chain Gang” in 1960. Wilson would only manage a No.84 peak with his interpretation, although it did climb to No.37 on the soul side. Manufacturers Of Soul entered the R&B album chart in mid-May of 1968 and reached No.18.
On the pop LP listing it lasted just three weeks with a No.195 peak, in what turned out to be Wilson’s last showing on that countdown. But he did continue his solo career apace with two more 1968 albums, I Get The Sweetest Feeling and Do Your Thing.
Listen to the Greatest Soul 45s playlist.