#1: I’m A Midnight Mover by Wilson Pickett
City: Belleville, Ontario
Radio Station: CJBQ
Peak Month: August 1968
Peak Position in Belleville ~ #1
Peak position in Vancouver ~ #27
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ #24
YouTube.com: “I’m A Midnight Mover”
Lyrics: “I’m A Midnight Mover”
Wilson Pickett was born in Prattville, Alabama, in 1941. He was the fourth of 11 children. He referred to his mother as “the baddest woman in my book.” Pickett told historian Gerri Hirshey, “I get scared of her now. She used to hit me with anything, skillets, stove wood … [one time I ran away and] cried for a week. Stayed in the woods, me and my little dog.” His grandfather also beat him when Wilson was found with a copy of Louis Jordan’s “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens”. Pickett eventually left Prattville at the age of 14 to live with his father in Detroit in 1955. He joined a gospel group called the Violinaires. But his interest in music shifted to R&B.
In 1959, Pickett became a member of the Falcons, along with future Memphis soul notables Joe Stubbs (brother of Levi Stubbs of the Four Tops), Sir Mack Rice and Eddie Floyd. The Falcons’ hit “I Found a Love” helped land Pickett a deal with Atlantic Records. There he hooked up with renowned producer Jerry Wexler.
In 1963, Wilson Pickett scored his first Top Ten R&B hit in the USA with “It’s Too Late”. That year he also had two Top 30 R&B hits in the USA. But his next three single released failed to crack the R&B charts or the Billboard Hot 100. But in 1965 he released “In The Midnight Hour” which became his first number-one R&B hit. It also climbed to number #11 in Vancouver, #12 in the UK and #21 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song received a Grammy Award nomination for Best R&B Performance. His re-recording of the single in 1987 also won him another Grammy Award nomination for Best R&B Male Vocal Performance. Wilson Pickett ended the year #4 R&B hit titled “Don’t Fight It”.
In 1966, Wilson Pickett returned to the number-one spot on the R&B charts in the USA with “634-5789 (Soulsville, U.S.A.)”. The single also cracked the Top 20 on the Hot 100, peaking at #13, where it also peaked in Vancouver. Later that year, Wilson Pickett was back at number-one on the R&B charts in the USA with “Land Of A Thousand Dances”. The single climbed to #6 on the Hot 100 and #8 in Vancouver. While in early 1967, “Mustang Sally” climbed #14 in Vancouver, #6 on the R&B charts and #23 on the Billboard Hot 100.
In 1967, Wilson Pickett was in the R&B Top Ten with “I Found A Love – Part 1”, “Soul Dance Number Three” and “I’m In Love”. But it was “Funky Broadway” which cracked the Top Ten on the Billboard Hot 100 and became his fourth number-one hit on the Billboard Hot Rhythm & Blues Singles chart. It made the Top 20 in Vancouver in September 1967. The single also earned Picket another Grammy Award nomination for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance.
In 1967, Wilson Pickett made his only concert appearance in Vancouver at the PNE Garden Auditorium on June 9th.
In 1968, Wilson Pickett’s most successful single on the Billboard Hot 100 was “She’s Lookin’ Good”, a cover of a Roger Collins song that was a Top 5 hit in Vancouver in 1967. Pickett’s cover landed at #7 on the Billboard Hot Rhythm & Blues Singles chart. But it was his next single release that was most successful on the R&B charts. That song was “I’m A Midnight Mover”.
In “I’m A Midnight Mover”, Wilson Pickett brags that “all through the night” he’s a midnight mover, groover, lover, teaser, pleaser, hugger, creeper, walker…” If you’re “down and out,” he will please your soul, and make things right. If you know what I mean.
The song was co-written by Wilson Pickett and Bobby Womack. Robert Dwayne Womack was born in Cleveland in 1944. He was one of five brothers, who grew up with their mother and father in the Cleveland slums. Womack recalls they were so poor that the family would fish pig snouts out of the local supermarket’s trash. He had to share a bed with his brothers. His mother told him he could “sing his way out of the ghetto.” Bobby Womack began to play guitar at the age of eight. At the age of ten, Bobby Womack was part of the Womack Brothers, on a midwest gospel circuit. The brothers went on tour with the Staple Singers in the 1950s. In the early ’60s, Sam Cooke signed the quintet to a record label and they were named the Valentinos. Their single “Lookin’ For A Love” climbed to #8 on the Billboard R&B chart in 1962, and to #72 on the Billboard Hot 100. The group toured with James Brown as an opening act. In 1964, Womack co-wrote “It’s All Over Now” which was recorded by the Rolling Stones. It became a number-one hit in the UK and the Netherlands, a Top Ten his in Australia, Belgium, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden, and Top 30 hit for the ‘Stones in the USA and Canada.
Sam Cooke was murdered in December 1964, and at the age of twenty Bobby Womack married Cooke’s widow Barbara, in late February 1965. Bobby Womack wore one of Sam Cooke’s suits at the wedding 77 days after Cooke was shot to death. This outrages many of Sam Cooke’s family members, friends and fans. Bobby Womack left the Valentinos to pursue a solo career. But radio stations wouldn’t play his records since he was known as “the kid who married Sam Cooke’s widow.” Womack worked the following years as a session musician.
In 1968, Womack recorded covers of “Fly Me To The Moon”, “California Dreamin'” and “I Left My Heart In San Francisco”. The first of these two single releases cracked the Top 20 on the Billboard Hot Rhythm & Blues Singles chart. They also became minor crossover hits on the Billboard Hot 100. In 1969, “How I Miss You Baby” peaked at #14 on the R&B charts.
In 1970, Womack and Barbara separated after she discovered he was sexually abusing his 17-year-old stepdaughter Linda Cooke (daughter of Barbara and Sam Cooke). In the ensuing tussle, Barbara fired a gun at her husband and the bullet grazed his head.
In 1972, Womack’s single, “That’s The Way I Feel About ‘Cha” peaked #2 on the R&B charts, and #27 on the Hot 100. Later that year, “Woman’s Gotta Have It” topped the Billboard Best Selling Soul Singles. “Harry Hippie”, “Nobody Wants You When You’re Down And Out”, and “Daylight” were among eight Top Ten singles for Womack in the 1970s. This also included Bobby Womack’s second chart topper on the Best Selling Soul Singles chart, his re-make of “Lookin’ For A Love” in 1974. Bobby Womack returned to the Top Ten in 1982 with “If You Think You’re Lonely Now”, a song inspired by his struggles with cocaine addiction. Later in the 1980s, Bobby Womack beat his addiction after going to rehab. Womack’s last notable hit was in 1985 with “I Wish He Didn’t Trust Me So Much”. In 2014, Bobby Womack died at the age of 70 after being diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s. Over his career he released 23 studio albums and saw 17 singles reach the Top 20 on the R&B charts.
“I’m A Midnight Mover” peaked at #1 in Belleville (ON), #2 in Reading (PA), #3 in Canton (OH), #4 in Birmingham (AL), and Tucson (AZ), #5 in Memphis, #6 in Salisbury (MD), #8 in New York City, #9 in Hartford (CT), #10 in Quebec City and Honolulu.
In 1968, Wilson Pickett ended the year with a Top 20 R&B cover of the Beatles’ “Hey Jude”. From the late Sixties into the early Seventies, Pickett continued to release covers of other songs. This included “Stagger Lee” (a 1959 hit for Lloyd Price), “Born To Be Wild” (Steppenwolf hit from 1968), “You Keep Me Hanging On” (originally by the Supremes in 1966, and later Vanilla Fudge), and “Mama Told Me Not To Come” (Three Dog Night, 1970). His most successful cover was of the Archies “Sugar Sugar” which peaked at #4 on the Hot Rhythm & Blues Singles chart.
But his most successful charting singles on the R&B charts in 1970 and 1971 were “Engine No. (#3), “Don’t Let The Green Grass Fool You” (#2), “Fire And Water” (#2) and “Don’t Knock My Love – Part 1″(#1). Of these, “Engine No. 9” received another Grammy Award nomination for Best R&B Male Vocal Performance. Pickett had a few more Top 20 hits into 1974, the last of these on the R&B charts was “Soft Soul Boogie Woogie”. Over his career, Wilson Pickett released over sixty singles, and over 20 studio albums. In 1999, Pickett received his fifth Grammy Award nomination. This time it was for his album It’s Harder Now, in the Best Traditional R&B Performance category.
Wilson Pickett struggled with alcoholism and an addiction to cocaine. He died at the age of 64 in 2006. At the time he was engaged to be married.
August 4, 2023
Geoff Boucher, “Wilson Pickett, 64; Soul Legend Sang Hits ‘In The Midnight Hour’ ‘Mustang Sally’” Los Angeles Times, January 20, 2006.
“Wilson Picket Concert Dates – Canada,” Setlist.fm.
Dan Hyman, “Bobby Womack, A Passionate, Reckless, Soul Man to the End,” Time, June 29, 2014
CJBQ 800 AM, Belleville, Ontario, August 24, 1968
“I’m A Midnight Mover” jumped from #9 to #3 on August 3, to #1 on August 10th,
and down to #2 on August 17, 1968.
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