R&B, soul tribute begins summer residency at Harrah’s
Bobby Brooks Wilson wasn’t aware his father was the iconic soul singer Jackie Wilson when he began performing as him a number of years ago. Wilson didn’t even know acting was in his blood — he just knew he loved it.
Wilson grew up as Bobby Brooks Hamilton in a foster home in South Carolina with a variety of health problems, and was in and out of hospitals until he was a teenager. He watched The Jackson 5 perform “I Want You Back” on TV and “flipped” — he officially “had the bug,” he said, adding that he formed his own version of The Jackson 5 “with chairs and brooms” and made the neighborhood kids watch his productions.
It took a few years for Wilson to officially enter the entertainment industry: He spent approximately a decade in the Navy prior to joining the Hawaii-based doo-wop group The Love Notes (which also included Little Bruno, now known as Bruno Mars).
“I realized upon the first paycheck that it was a job,” Wilson said.
As his career as an entertainer progressed, Wilson took the stage at countless venues. The Four Tops caught one of his shows and left asking, “Who’s that guy who walks and talks like our cousin?” according to Wilson. It was singer-songwriter Roquel “Billy” Davis who helped him discover that his father was Jackie Wilson, the singer of hits “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher & Higher” and “Baby Workout.”
“I was [performing] as my dad because I sounded and looked like him. I thought I was acting, but I wasn’t,” said Wilson.
It was after this discovery that Bobby Brooks Hamilton began performing under the name Bobby Brooks Wilson.
“I was Bobby Brooks in the state of South Carolina. Upon request I added Wilson to my stage name, but I stuck with Hamilton for a while,” he noted.
Now he stars in Solid Gold Soul, a tribute to America’s greatest soul music that holds a summer-long residency at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe through Monday, Sept. 3.
“It’s nonstop energy, great dancing in the aisles, there’s amazing singers and dancers. The acts are superb and second to none — the best look- and sound-alikes in the business,” said Nannette Barbera, Solid Gold Soul producer and choreographer.
Twelve performers in all bring the show to life, recreating the sounds of artists including Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Sam Cooke and more.
“There’s laughter, fun, good music, dancing, and authentic sound,” said Wilson, adding that Solid Gold Soul isn’t like standard tributes, which typically don’t sound anything like the original artists. “It’s exactly like the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s sound — just like the records.”
“Every show, every number, every act they’re doing is my favorite,” added Barbera. “That’s why it’s completely nonstop entertaining. I can never pick out a favorite part of the show.”
While the focus is on dancing and singing, there’s also an informational component thanks to Wilson, who spends most of his weekends performing with “oldie groups” like The Temptations and hearing firsthand stories from the era in which these songs originated — he then shares these with Solid Gold Soul audiences.
One such story involves Martha Reeves, who was a secretary that was asked to stand-in for an artist who was absent at a rehearsal. According to Wilson, no one knew she could sing until that moment, and she ended up as the lead of Martha Reeves and the Vandellas.
“Stories like that, people love,” Wilson noted.
Solid Gold Soul is for anyone — young or old, soul music fanatics or those new to the sound. The show, which opened on Thursday, is performed in the Harrah’s Lake Tahoe South Shore Room 8 p.m. Thursdays through Mondays (except July 13-14 and July 29-30).
Tickets, available through Ticketmaster, cost $41.95 for adults and $26.05 for children ages 5-12. Prices do not include Ticketmaster fees. Children under 5 years of age are not permitted.
Visit http://www.harrahslaketahoe.com for additional details.