Jackie Wilson was shot in the stomach today (February 15, 1961), inside of his swanky New York City apartment.
The singer, 26, was riding high on the charts as a solo artist, with his hit song “A Woman, A Lover, A Friend,” when the shooting occurred.
Jackie Wilson was married to Freda Hood, who bore four children with the Detroit-bred singer.
In 1961, Jackie Wilson was in full swing and one of the hottest stars in the music industry.
Wilson was in the company of Harlean Harris, whom he had met in New York in 1953 when he was a member of Billy Ward’s group The Dominoes
Harlean Harris was a cover girl for Ebony magazine and had been in love with Jackie Wilson since she was 16-years-old.
But Jackie Wilson was also seeing another woman named Juanita Jones, 28, from Harlem.
According to “Jackie Wilson: Lonely Teardrops,” by Tony Douglas, Juanita Jones was a veteran of the US Army and had weapons training.
When Jackie and Harlean were coming from a late show to the Sire Arms Apartments, Juanita Jones was waiting with a pistol in her slacks.
Jones confronted Jackie Wilson as he entered his apartment and shot him twice: once in the abdomen and once near his buttocks area.
Jackie Wilson wrestled the gun away from the enraged Jones and managed to escape the apartment building.
“He was running down the street – he had the gun and had it in his hand,” his first wife Freda said. “Pretty soon police saw him. He was in critical condition. He was lying down there in the emergency room for a long time – they didn’t understand it was Jackie Wilson the Rock ‘n Roll singer.”
Once Jackie Wilson was at the Roosevelt Hospital, the doctors took to long to wait on him, causing an argument with his management.
“They [Wilson’s management] didn’t know until Harlean finally got in touch with Nat [Tarnapol, head of Brunswick Records],” Freda Hood recalled. “Nat got the Mafia on the case and they were the ones who said ‘get your best doctors, for he’s a great star– he’s Jackie Wilson. Do whatever it takes to save his life. They did.”
Jackie Wilson underwent surgery to remove two bullets and he also lost a kidney in the incident.
One of the bullets was so close to his spine that doctors could not remove it and left it where it was.
The bullet remained lodged next Wilson’s spine for the rest of his life.
Incredibly, Jackie Wilson did not press charges against Juanita Jones, and in a radio interview, he claimed that she was trying to commit suicide.
“The young lady, she wasn’t shooting at me, she was shooting at herself. That’s why we didn’t prosecute her.”
Freda Hood eventually divorced Jackie in 1965, due to his womanizing ways.