When Bobby Brooks Wilson hits the stage at Suncoast Showroom on May 1 and 3, not only will he entertain a crowd, he’ll also carry on the legacy of his father, the late Jackie Wilson.
Bobby had no idea he was the son of a Motown great, until later in his life—long after he started performing on his own. As a child growing up in the South, family and friends praised his ability to mimic Michael Jackson’s singing and dancing, but childhood diseases slowed the would-be performer.
After 10 years in the Navy, Bobby ventured to Hawaii where he became a popular karaoke singer. There he met Peter Hernandez, lead singer of Peter and the Love Notes and father of Bruno Mars, who would later take Bobby under his wing as a backup singer.
The shows with Hernandez allowed Bobby to meet Paul Revere of Paul Revere & the Raiders, who noticed Bobby’s striking resemblance to Jackie Wilson. Bobby initially denied them. “People kept telling me we were similar, and I didn’t believe them,” he says. “They said that I act, sound, walk and talk just like him … I didn’t even know who he was!” Impressed by Bobby’s talent, Revere got him a job singing for the Legends in Concert tribute show for a Motown medley. As the comparisons piled up, Bobby confronted his birth mother and discovered his true parentage.
Two decades, countless performances and an album later, Bobby wants to carry the torch for the Wilson name. But he’s got his own chops, too. Think of his voice as a more raw approach to the traditional clean-cut Motown sound. It lies somewhere between the raspy tones of James Brown and the rich croons of his father.
Ask him about his vocals, however, and he’ll say otherwise. “I don’t think I sound like him at all,” he says. “I just do me!”
Despite Bobby’s claims, Jackie Wilson’s shadow will always linger over him onstage. “If they see him, I hope they enjoy him. If they see me, I hope they enjoy me.”