Wilson Pickett’s brother speaks about his family

Maxwell Pickett - Photo by Marc Parker
Maxwell Pickett - Photo by Marc Parker

Prattville – Born in Prattville, Alabama on March 18, 1941, Wilson Pickett became one of the most popular African-American singers of the 1960s. The youngest of 11 children, Pickett’s passionate style was nurtured in the Baptist choirs around Prattville.

Pickett’s hits include “In the Midnight Hour,” “Mustang Sally,” “Funky Broadway,” “Land of a 1,000 Dances,” “634-5789,” and “She’s So Good to Me.” The impact of his songwriting and recording led to his 1991 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The City of Prattville formed a committee to gather ideas on how to honor their hometown talent. Recently, Pickett’s brother Maxwell stopped by a City Council meeting and spoke about how excited his entire family was about that project. Our Prattville publisher had a few words with him also:

Where are you living now?

We are presently living in Atlanta… well, we live east of Atlanta in Decatur, Georgia. We moved down from New York in 1979.

Are your siblings spread out all over the country?

I have one other sister who lives there… the sister that is right after me. I have a brother who lives in Newark, New Jersey, and then the remainder of our family lives in Louisville, Kentucky.

Anyone else in the family musically inclined?

Well, I have a sister, Emily Jean Rochelle, and she has sung professionally. As a matter of fact, she still sings but she remained in gospel. You know, Wilson crossed over to R&B, but she remained a gospel singer so she still sings gospel music in churches.

Were your parents supportive of Wilson in his career?

They sure were. Early on, Wilson started singing at about eleven or twelve years old in the church and they found out early on that he had a tremendous talent for singing and so they were in support of him. But, they wanted him to remain in gospel. Of course, in those days, there wasn’t a lot of money to be made in gospel so he left and moved to Detroit to live with our father.

While there he was discovered by an R&B group named the Falcons. He signed with them and the rest is history as they say. His career just took off and he just took one step at a time… and he left this world not only nationally known, but as an internationally loved artist. He’s performed in Africa, in Japan, in China… you name it, he’s been there, and his music is still played all over the world.

Are any of his children in the music business?

He had four children. He has a daughter living in New Jersey; a daughter living in North Carolina; a son in Louisville, Kentucky; and a son in Detroit, Michigan. None of them are in the music business. His daughter, Vita Neal, sings gospel, but she sings with choirs in churches, not professionally. Wilson was the only one who made it big.

Yes, and such a great talent. Thank you for talking with me.

Thank you so much.

Publisher’s Note: The Falcons included future soul stars Eddie Floyd and Sir Mack Rice; their biggest hit, “I Found a Love,” eventually led to Pickett’s solo career and signing to Atlantic Records.

Article by Melissa Parker

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