Charles Wilson was raised in Chicago, began performing at age seven and started singing as a teenager in Chicago area nightclubs. Blessed with a unique Soul voice, Wilson has become a fixture on the Southern Soul circuit. Blues king Little Milton is his uncle, but his break came when he got the opportunity to go on the road with Bobby Rush. Wilson waxed his first single in 1964, but "Trying To Make A Wrong Thing Right," didn't do much; his next effort "You Cut Off My Love Supply" wasn't a smash either but it established Wilson as a blues player of note. He drifted into Southern soul when he cut his first album "Blues In The Key Of C" on Ichiban Records in 1991. After one disc for James Bennett's Traction Records he found his most success recording with Ecko Records. His first, "It's Sweet On The Backstreet" (1995), was one of the first few releases for the fledgling label. It sold respectably and songs like "In The Room Next To The Room" impacted Southern Soul radio but it was the followup, "Love Seat" (1996), that gave Wilson his first major hit with the salacious title cut. Wilson and label tried to follow that up with more sex-themed songs on both "It Ain't The Size" (1997) and "Mr Freak" (1998) but to lesser success. In the midst of his tenure with Ecko he also recorded an album for James Bennett's Traction Records (1997's "Why").
Following a split with Ecko Wilson started his own label, Wilson Records, which scored a regional hit on one of his artists, The Mystery Man ("Bedroom Workout"). Encouraged by the initial success Wilson Records released CDs by Maurice Davis, Lee Shot Williams, Mystery Man and Wilson himself in 2002 featuring the usual keyboard programmed music common to the genre. His career then hit another upswing when he recorded a bona fide Blues album for Delmark Records, "If Heartaches Were Nickels", which featured Little Milton and Carl Weathersby on guitar. The album earned Wilson a W.C. Handy nomination for "Best Soul/Blues Album" of 2004.
Since that time he's returned to modern Southern Soul mould by releasing a couple more middling albums for his own label but it was an obscure singer named Will T that scored a moderate hit for the label with "Mississippi Boy", a track that appeared on a compilation CD called "Soul Blues Vol. 2" and then again on Wilson's own "If It Ain't Broke Don't Fix It" LP. Trying to capitalize on the songs' success Wilson added his own version on his next album, "Sexual Healing" but it was Denise LaSalle who got a big hit out of hit (re-named "Mississippi Woman") for Wilson's former label Ecko. Overtime though the song has become mostly identified with Wilson.
Wilson next signed with CDS Records, recording three albums for the California-based label ("The After Party Deluxe" (2007), "Pay Myself First" (2009) & "That Girl Belongs To Me" (2010)). During that time Severn Records also released a more "retro"-Soul-Blues album on Wilson called "Troubled Child".
"Blues In The Key Of C" (Ichiban 1991)
1. Who's It Going to Be
"It's Sweet On The Backstreet" (Ecko 1995)
1. In the Room Next to the Room
***1/2 Wilson begins his successful tenure on John Ward's Ecko Records. The title track was a hit in the South, as was "In The Room Next To The Room" (later recorded by Bill Coday). Most of this disc is upbeat programmed southern soul dance music, but Wilson also adds some straight blues with "Over At Annie Mae's" and covers a Tyrone Davis classic in "Home Wreckers". His best overall disc in terms of quality for the label.
"Why?" (Traction 1997)
1. Part Time Lover, Full Time Fool
"Love Seat" (Ecko 1998)
1. Cheater's Nightmare
**1/2 The title track was a huge hit on a disc that is somewhat hampered by too many redundant cheating songs and mediocre covers. Wilson is a standout singer that doesn't need to resort to gimmicky daytime talk show material.
"It Ain't The Size" (Ecko 1999)
1. If You've Got a Love Problem
*** More sexual innuendo and songs about cheating from this southern soul blues man. The hit title track gives hope to all those, um, size-challenged men. "Give The Woman Want She Wants" offers words of wisdom to men over an upbeat head-bobbin' groove and on "You Can't Out Cheat The Cheater" he reminds women what playing around on a player will do.
"Mr. Freak" (Ecko 2000)
1. Mr. Freak
*** Fun party disc by Wilson consisting of dancers like "Let's Stomp", "Hoochie Booty" & and the somewhat goofy "Mr. Freak". One of his best slow soul songs is found in "You Can't Lose What You Never Had" and he scores with a couple upbeat southern soul chuggers ("Why Can't We Get Together" & "I'll Be Your Lover"). The ubiquitous cheating theme is a little disproportionate at times but Wilson sings with zeal.
"Goin' Jookin" (Ecko 2001)
1. It's Sweet on the Backstreet
**1/2 8 song budget collection contains some of Wilson's best Ecko material ("Over At Annie Mae's", "It's Sweet On The Backstreet") and one strong new juke joint blueser, "Goin' Jukin". Also included is a remix of the hit "Love Seat" (in addition to the original). But a proper "best of" this is not.
"Songs From The Vault" (Wilson 2001)
1 I Love My Wife
*** Compilation released on Wilson's own label includes songs from his Traction disc "Why?" and some previously unreleased material. Most noteworthy is "All Because Of Your Love" & "So Called Friends". The latter was a hit for Roscoe Robinson recently. He also does one of Uncle Milton's (Campbell) songs, "If Walls Could Talk".
"You Got To Pay To Play" (Wilson 2002)
1. Show Me What You Working
***1/2 Infectious soul dance disc featuring 10 songs written and co-produced by hitmaker Floyd Hamberlin. Although 100% programmed music I find this music pure ear sugar. The best jams musically are the lewd "Monkey Talk", "Smack It Up" & "Shadows On The Wall". Soul and blues purists (snobs) may whine about programmed soul music but if you have an appreciation for it - you'll find this disc a cut above most of the cds you see in the rack! I just wish the subject matter was more creative.
"If Heartaches Were Nickels" (Delmark 2004)
1. Cut You A-Loose
**** Charles Wilson's last disc (the very fine independently-released "You Got To Pay To Play" ) was catchy programmed party soul that is popular on the "chitlin circuit". But this Delmark debut is 100% organic- meaning it's actual humans playing on it- and it rips! Everything about this CD works- the band is tight and Carl Weathersby is a tour-de-force on guitar as he plays on 13 of the tracks! Charles' vocals are the best example so far of his talents- the way he soulfully owns the title track, Robert Ward's "My Love Is Real", Lee Shot Williams' "I Like Your Style", Little Milton's "Hattie Mae" and Travis Haddix' "Doctor Doctor". 15 tracks- not a dud in the bunch. He even does justice to the overdone "Cut You-A-Loose". He has a unique voice, one that even straddles gender lines. He sings from the gut with a heavy vibrato. Hopefully this will not be a one time event because this is a strong record. The only thing that keeps this from being a stone classic is too many covers. More original material would be the right move next chapter.
"If It Ain't Broke Don't Fix It" (Delta Ent. 2005)
1. Just Enough Love
"Sexual Healing" (Hitmakers USA 2006 )
1 Sexual Healing
*** Last year he dropped the inexplicably ignored CD "If It Ain't Broke Don't Fix It". It was a solid set of programmed soul/dance. On the new "Sexual Healing" he grabs the 5 tracks from "If It Ain't Broke" and adds four new ones including the rolling, midtempo title cut. Although a completely different song Wilson needs the same treatment as did Marvin Gaye on his own "Sexual Healing". Nevertheless it takes second place to "Mississippi Boy" (a new version sung by Wilson). It's a swinging programmed tapper produced by Floyd Hamberlin that may finally get maximum airplay this time out. Essentially it's the same backing track as Will T's version albeit with new (and better) vocals. The other new tracks are a fine duet with Shara Scott ("I Love You Too Much") and another slowie titled "Check Yourself". To fill out the CD the great "If It Ain't Broke (Don't Fix It)" gets a second chance as does "Just Enough Love" & "If You Can Do It". Irritatingly, "Back And Forth" & "All Caught Up" now make their third appearance on a Charles Wilson CD in five years! Not remixes- not alternates- the same tracks! Still this is serviceable programmed Soul Blues but at a $16.98 list price it's hard to forgive the repeats if you already paid for them once (or twice). If you don't have the "If It Ain't Broke Don't Fix It" you don't need it and this new one becomes an essential Southern Soul purchase.
"The Best Of Charles Wilson" (Ecko 2006)
1. Love Seat
"The After Party (Deluxe)" (CDS 2007)
1. Something Different About You
(on "Deluxe" version only)
***1/2 Wilson's best Southern Soul album since his days with Ecko. 10 brand new southern soul songs produced by Simeo (plus the "hidden" bonus track "Mississippi Boy"). Includes some of his best known songs from "Plumber Man" to "That Boom!" to the aforementioned "Mississippi Boy". The album was reissued in 2008 as "The After Party Deluxe" featuring a duet with Mel Waiters, "Something Different About You" and a remix of "That Boom!".
"Pay Myself First" (CDS 2009)
1. I'm Not Afraid
"Troubled Child" (Severn 2009)
1. Where My Baby Went
"That Girl Belongs To Me" (CDS 2010)
1. I Donít Need To Be a What-You-Want Somebody
"Think About What You Got" (CDS 2012)
1 Pay Myself First
"2 On 1: Pay Myself First & That Girl Belongs To Me" (CDS 2014)
1. I'm Not Afraid Of Love
"Best Side Of Me" (Wilson/Music Access Inc 2015)
1.Mississippi Boy Pt. 2 (feat. J Wonn)
"Sweet & Sour Blues" (Blues Critic 2015)
1 Clean Out of Love
"Southern Soul Jook Joint" (Music Access Inc 2016)
1 Jook Joint