As many Jackie Wilson fans know, the song “Danny Boy” played a major role in Jackie’s repertoire. He began singing it in talent competitions as a teenager, and he continued to sing the song throughout much of his career.
Jackie Wilson made three studio recordings of “Danny Boy.” The first studio version was cut in Detroit for the Dee Gee label when a teenaged Jackie was still called “Sonny Wilson.” It is bluesy and amateurish, but a fun listen for a true fan.
The second studio cut appears on the Brunswick LP He’s So Fine. [Thanks to YouTube poster extinct327 for posting this for us.]
GoodGuitarSolos, our notewatching friend from Finland who offered insight about Jackie’s vocal range, refers to it as “the original,” so I assume he has not heard the Dee Gee version. [He is probably better off for not having heard it. Wink.] The timings used in his commentary are for the now-removed video, so they may vary slightly from timings you observe on your own recording. Here’s what GoodGuitarSolos has to say:
This is the original version of the song, his approach here is a bit different. His lower singing is lighter softer here, as opposed to the Elvis-like lower singing of the classic version. He gets a light B4 around 1:24, and quickly trills up to D5 too! Once again, he gets an easy falsetto A5 around 1:42 (quite similar to the later performance’s falsetto).
2:27 had a very good B4, once again very relaxed and easy!
2:36 was a falsetto B5 again, this time a bit more ‘piercing’. As impressive as always!
The acapella improvisation here (near the end) had no C5, but only great B4s and some wonderful melismas. The song ends with a well-controlled falsetto G5.
The third studio version, which appears on the Brunswick LP Soul Time, is the one most people think of when they refer to JW’s studio recording. Here are GoodGuitarSolos annotations for the best known studio version of the song, the one on the Soul Time LP. As he wrote his notes, he was watching the lip sync (playback) performance from the old Chivaree television show. (The YouTube video below has a bit of a bonus.)
The classic version of “Danny Boy” (this live performance here, which was also used as the classic studio track) has a very soft and impressive falsetto A5 soon after 2 minutes or so. Paul Stanley from KISS showcased a pretty similar soft falsetto on “I Was Made for Lovin’ You”.
He also gets a very clean and good falsetto B5 (below soprano high C) after 3:12 or so.
3:50 has a very comfortable, operatic B4, which trills up to a brief C5 (tenor high C) and back. Fabulous technique shown here!
There are also at least two live recordings of Jackie singing “Danny Boy,” one from the Jackie Wilson at the Copa LP and one from a Shindig! broadcast. The last version of “Danny Boy” that GoodGuitarSolos analyzed was the live Shindig! performance.
And finally, the live Shindig!-performance… Is that Wilson singing at the beginning? [It’s Darlene Love–ed.’s note] Sounds like him, a very wonderful sound, but he isn’t shown singing it to the microphone… Gets an easy B5 there nonetheless, Wilson or not.
1:14 was a nice dark D3, sounds much lower than it actually is. Wilson’s lower register was very dark and strong, he was able to make amazing baritone impressions. His voice in general was pretty dark for a low tenor, which gave him that ability to sing with the dark baritone-ish timbre very convincingly.
Falsetto B5 is there, just like in the other versions.
Once again, thanks go to GoodGuitarSolos for the notewatching commentary. Let’s hope we can convince him to contribute more information about Jackie Wilson’s singing as the blog progresses. I know he admires Jackie Wilson.