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Published on Jul 29, 2009
Wilson Pickett was born March 18, 1941 in Pratville, Alabama and grew up singing in Baptist church choirs. Pickett's forceful, passionate style of singing was developed in the church and on the streets of Detroit, under the influence of recording stars such as Little Richard, whom he later referred to as "the architect of rock and roll."
In 1955, Pickett became part of a gospel music group called the Violinaires or bernadette. The group accompanied The Soul Stirrers, The Swan Silvertones, and The Davis Sisters on church tours across the country. After singing for four years in the locally popular gospel-harmony group, Pickett, lured by the success of other gospel singers of the day, including Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, and others who left gospel music in the late 1950s for the more lucrative secular music market, joined the Falcons in 1959.
Pickett's Atlantic career began with a self-produced single, "I'm Gonna Cry." Pickett's breakthrough came at Stax Records' recording studio in Memphis, Tennessee, where he recorded his third Atlantic single, "In the Midnight Hour."
Pickett recorded three sessions at Stax in May and October 1965, and was joined by keyboardist Isaac Hayes for the October sessions. In addition to "In the Midnight Hour," Pickett's 1965 recordings included the singles "Don't Fight It," "634-5789 (Soulsville, U.S.A,)" (#1 R&B, #13 pop) and "Ninety-Nine and A Half (Won't Do)" (#13 R&B, #53 pop). All but "634-5789" were original compositions Pickett co-wrote with Eddie Floyd and/or Steve Cropper; "634-5789" was credited to Cropper and Floyd alone. All of these recordings are considered soul classics, and show a range of different styles, from the hard-driving "Midnight Hour" and "Don't Fight It," to the more overtly gospel-influenced "Ninety-Nine and A Half" (which borrowed its title from a gospel standard recorded by The Ward Singers) and the pop-soul of 634-5789.