Soul Serenade - Frank WilsonFrank Wilson is not primarily known as a singer. In fact, he only released one single. He is far better known as a songwriter and producer for Motown Records. But that one single he released is a Northern Soul classic, and one of the most sought after records among collectors.

Wilson was born in Houston, but by the time he was a teenager he was living in Los Angeles. That move would come to be fortuitous because when Berry Gordy asked producers Hal Davis and Marc Gordon to set up a west coast office for Motown, the producers invited Wilson to join their team. The first single that was released by the west coast Motown office was Patrice Holloway’s “Stevie,” which came out at the end of 1965. Wilson was one of the credited writers on the single.

Gordy must have been impressed because he invited Wilson to move to the the main office in Detroit, and that’s where Wilson found real success. He worked as a producer and writer for nearly all of the best known names at Motown. Just a few of the records Wilson was associated with include sides by the Supremes (“Love Child,” Up the Ladder to the Roof,” “Stoned Love”), Marvin Gaye (“Chained”), the Temptations (“All I Need”), Stevie Wonder (“Castles in the Sand”), the Four Tops (“Still Water”), Eddie Kendricks (“Keep on Truckin’,” “Boogie Down”), and Holloway (“You’ve Made Me So Very Happy”).

But before his songwriting and production efforts became in demand among the artists on the Motown roster, Wilson tried his hand at being a recording artist himself. He recorded his one single, “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)” b/w “Sweeter as the Days Go By,” as a demo, and 250 copies were pressed. The record was scheduled for a December 23, 1965 release, but fate intervened. For one thing, Wilson really wanted to be a producer. For another, Gordy wasn’t so keen on Wilson’s vocal abilities, and he was even less interested in seeing his producers have success as recording artists.

As a result, the demos were destroyed. A few copies, perhaps as many as five, survived the destruction and that scarcity caused the record to become one of the singles most prized by avid crate diggers. The last time one was sold, in 2009, it fetched nearly $40,000. At Wigan Casino, the ground zero for England’s Northern Soul movement, the record was in constant rotation. That created so much demand that Motown (Tamla) finally released it in the UK in 1979.

On this side of the pond, “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)” can be found on the The Complete Motown Singles, Volume 5: 1965.

Wilson left Motown in the ’70s, but continued his production work with artists like former Tower of Power singer Lennie Williams, ex-Fifth Dimension vocalists Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr., and New Birth. He also started his own publishing companies that over a period of four years released approximately 40 records. By 1976, Wilson was done with the music business grind. He became an ordained minister, wrote a number of inspirational books, and kept his hand in music by producing gospel records. Frank Wilson passed away in 2012 after a long battle with cancer.

Wilson’s reputation as a singer is practically non-existent, except for that one Motown single. That record, however, places him in the company of legends like Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith when collectors discuss the rarest records of all time.

About the Author

Ken Shane

Ken Shane lives in Narragansett, R.I. He is a freelance writer and far and away the oldest Popdose writer. In fact, he may be the oldest writer, period. He wants you to know that he generally does not share his colleagues' love for the music of the '80s, and he does not forgive them for loving it. (Ken passed away in November 2022. R.I.P. —Ed.)

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