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Spanky Wilson with the Quantic Soul Orchestra, 2006
Philadelphia, United States
She was born in Philadelphia, and was raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, reputedly gaining the nickname "Spanky" as a result of the spankings she received from her father. She started singing as a child and after an early marriage, began performing in clubs aged 17 with Stanley Turrentine. She was soon recruited by Jimmy McGriff for a national tour, which ended in 1967 in Los Angeles, California. There, she sang in clubs and was introduced to H. B. Barnum, who invited her to record. She sang as a backing vocalist on records by Letta Mbulu, O. C. Smith, Lou Rawls and others, before releasing her first single, "The Last Day of Summer", produced by Barnum and released in early 1969. This was followed by the album Spankin' Brand New (1969), on which all the songs were written by composer and pianist Howlett Smith. Wilson released several further singles on Mothers Records, a label set up in Hollywood by Jay Ward, and two more albums, Doin' It (1969) and Let It Be (1970). She also appeared on nationally networked TV shows, and made her international debut in 1970 at the Rio Song Festival in Brazil.
She has shared the stage with soul and jazz legends such as Marvin Gaye, Sammy Davis Jr., organists Jimmy McGriff and Brother Jack McDuff, cornetist Nat Adderley, percussionist Willie Bobo, Lalo Schifrin and Jimmy Smith. In 1971 she moved to Detroit and sang in clubs before recording for Eastbound, a subsidiary of Westbound Records. The 1974 single "Home" was again co-written by Howlett Smith, and she released the album Specialty of the House the following year. She returned to live in Los Angeles, and performed in clubs there for several years, before moving to Paris, France, in 1985 and re-marrying. During the late 1980s and 1990s, she performed mainly in France, Germany and other parts of Europe. In 1999, she released the album Things Are Getting Better with the Philippe Milanta Trio. About the same time, several compilations of her earlier recordings were released in Britain.
In 2000, after she had returned to live in California, she was contacted by British DJ and record producer Will Holland of The Quantic Soul Orchestra, and they began working together. They recorded several singles, and released the album I'm Thankful in 2006. She is featured on the 2012 album from writer/producer Frank Fitzpatrick entitled Scenes In Jazz. Wilson also performed on the featured theme song of the film High Chicago, entitled "That Rainy Day."
- Spankin Brand New, Mothers Records & The Snarf Company (1969)
- Doin it, Mothers Records & The Snarf Company (1969)
- Let It Be, Mothers Records & The Snarf Company (1970)
- Specialty of the House, 20th Century / Westbound Records (1975)
- Singin and Swingin, Big Blue Records (1991)
- Things are Getting Better, Jazz Aux Remparts (1999)
- I'm Thankful with the Quantic Soul Orchestra, Tru Thoughts (2006)
- T.G.I.F "Thank God it's Funky" with Ruckus Roboticus, Dance or Die Records (2012)
- "Unknown Singer Turns Boos To Cheers", Jet, 26 November 1970, p.57
- Biography by Marisa Brown, Allmusic.com. Retrieved 4 October 2015
- "Spanky Wilson, She's Always Spankin' Brand New to Somebody", I Dig PGH, 3 October 2011. Retrieved 4 October 2015
- Spanky Wilson discography, Discogs.com. Retrieved 4 October 2015
- Mothers Records & The Snarf Company, Discogs.com. Retrieved 4 October 2015
- Henry Johnston, "Rio Fifth Pop Festival", Billboard, 7 November 1970, p.56
- Billboard - Volume 81 1969 "Superscope's initial product from H. B. Barnum will be the LP " Doin' It" by Spanky Wilson which originally came out on Barnum's Mothers label."