Category Archives: “Danny Boy”

Jackie at the Apollo (Two)

jw stage profileThanks again to Doug Henderson Jr for giving me permission to share a second passage from his book, Endeavor to Persevere, with the readers of this blog. As I noted in Jackie at the Apollo, one of the first entries in this blog, Doug has been a lifelong admirer of Jackie Wilson. In this anecdote, as with the earlier one, Doug’s sister Effie has taken him to the Apollo to see Jackie. At the time, Doug was a few months shy of his tenth birthday.

In November of 1967, I went to see Jackie at the Apollo with Effie. I was in the cadets (a young person’s version of the military) and proudly wore my Marine uniform that day. In the middle of his show, Jackie sat on a stool at the edge of the stage, talking to the audience between songs and signing autographs, while introducing “Danny Boy.” As he dedicated the song to the troops fighting in Vietnam, I asked my sister for a piece of paper so that I could get his autograph. After rummaging through her pocketbook, all she could find was the back of one of her blank checks. She promptly tore it off from her checkbook. I anxiously took it and made a beeline to the stage. As I approached, I caught Jackie’s eye. Staring straight at me, he proclaimed to the Apollo audience, “Here comes the soldier boy.” I handed him the piece of paper and, as he was about to sign it, he hesitated. Turning it over and seeing that it was a check, he laughed, and with his sweat dripping down on the back of the check, autographed it. It is now framed, and proudly hanging on my living room wall—sweat drops and all.

Doug’s thoughtful and thought-provoking book, which explores the question of how excellence is achieved, is available as an e-book from Amazon. The full title is Endeavor to Persevere: A Memoir on Jimmy Connors, Arthur Ashe, Tennis and Life.

“Danny Boy” (updated post)

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.