John Ellison

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John Ellison
Portrait of a black male playing a guitar
Ellison at the 2010 Greenbelt Harvest Picnic
Background information
Birth nameWillie John Ellison
Born (1941-08-11) 11 August 1941 (age 82)
Montgomery, West Virginia, United States
OriginRochester, New York, United States
Occupation(s)Writer, composer, musician
Years active1960s-present

John Ellison (born 11 August 1941) is an American/Canadian musician, best known for writing the song "Some Kind of Wonderful." He was born in Montgomery, West Virginia, and was raised in Landgraff, West Virginia, a small, poverty-stricken coal mining village near Welch, West Virginia, and is a dual citizen of the United States and Canada, receiving his Canadian citizenship in 2006.


In the mid-1960s, Ellison traveled to Rochester, New York, where he met the original members of the Soul Brothers Five, becoming the sixth member and prompting the band to change its name to the Soul Brothers Six. The other members of the group included Charles Armstrong, Harry Armstrong, Vonnell Benjamin, Lester Pelemon, and Joe Johnson. The group signed a recording contract with Atlantic Records.[1]

Ellison was the lead guitarist, singer, and songwriter for the group; and while traveling to a recording session in Philadelphia in 1967, Ellison wrote "She's Some Kind of Wonderful." This original version reached number 91 on the US Billboard chart.[1] In 1987, the book Sweet Soul Music named the Soul Brothers Six as a major influence on the sound of modern music. Not only has the trademark bass line in "She's Some Kind of Wonderful" been utilized by countless other artists for a variety of different songs, but the song has also earned the Soul Brothers Six a spot in music history. More than 50 different artists have recorded "She's Some Kind of Wonderful," making it one of the most recorded songs in the history of music. In 1995, Ellison received a citation of achievement from Broadcast Music for writing the third-most played song in the world.[citation needed]

After the Soul Brothers Six broke up in the 1970s, Ellison continued to record and perform. In 1993 he released his first solo album, Welcome Back, followed by Missing You in 2000.[1] In 2007, he released his third solo album, Back. He is a regular performer at the Nice Jazz Festival in France, and also performs regularly throughout Europe, Asia and North America.

In November 2008, Ellison was nominated for Male Vocalist of the Year,[2] and for R&B/Soul Recording of the Year,[2] for Back at the Hamilton Music Awards in Hamilton, Ontario. He also performed at the awards ceremony. On 6 December 2009, he was honored with the Arcelor Mittal Dofasco Lifetime Achievement Award and performed at the Hamilton Music Awards.[citation needed]

Ellison released his autobiography, Some Kind of Wonderful: The John Ellison Story, in July 2012. This work explores the racism and violence Ellison encountered and examines the relationship between these experiences and his songwriting.[citation needed]

In July 2013, a site near his childhood home in Landgraff, West Virginia, was cleared by Boy Scouts and other volunteers, as part of a service project connected to the 2013 National Boy Scout Jamboree. Plans are pending to build a replica of his boyhood home to house a museum dedicated to Ellison's music and his early life in the local mine camp community of Landgraff.[3]

In October 2015, John was formally inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame.[4]

In 2020 John releases the awareness single “Wake-Up Call (Black Like Me)” with good reviews in e.g., Rolling Stone and Forbes Magazine. The song was nominated “Song of the Year 2021” by Pop Awards.[5]

On August 11, 2023 (his 82nd birthday) John releases a new version of his classic "Some Kind of Wonderful" that will be up for a Grammy nod in the American Roots Performance category and serves as the title track for an album featuring eleven new songs penned by Ellison and produced by Roger Heijster. The collection is scheduled to drop on November 10 from PopMi Music.[6]


  1. ^ a b c "Soul Brothers Six | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 30 September 2015.
  2. ^ a b [1] Archived 18 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Scouts show thanks to W.Va. through service - Bluefield Daily Telegraph". 18 July 2013. Retrieved 30 September 2015.
  4. ^ "Charleston Gazette-Mail | "Some Kind of Wonderful" earns John Ellison spot in WV Music Hall of Fame". 21 October 2015. Retrieved 29 July 2016.
  5. ^ "'Some Kind of Wonderful' Songwriter John Ellison Shares New BLM-Inspired Song 'Wake-Up Call'". 18 June 2020.
  6. ^ "John Ellison Album 'Some Kind of Wonderful' Out November 10". 15 August 2023.

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