Between Takes: The High Schooler That Skipped School For Motown

In Episode 004 of Between Takes, McKinley Jackson is a high schooler in 1960’s Detroit when Motown comes calling.

Welcome to Between Takes; where artists and musicians tell stories about what happens behind the scenes.

WDET’s Sam Beaubien has been dedicated to making music in Detroit for 20 years, and this series connects you with the stories he has heard on gigs and at recording sessions.

Get a look into Stevie Wonders audition for Motown Records, sessions with funk master George Clinton, renowned hip-hop producer J Dilla’s first days with a drum machine, and many more stories about what shaped the legacy of this musical city.

Episode 004

“There was three trombones when I hear the record now it sounds like a slightly out of tune organ to me.” – McKinley Jackson

Conor Anderson
Conor Anderson

McKinley Jackson is a highly prolific musician, composer, arranger and record producer. He has worked with most of the record labels that existed from the 1970’s till today. He was also music director for Marvin Gaye and the Temptations. The number of albums he is credited on is huge, a name you will see regularly while record digging.

Jackson had his first recording sessions while in high school in Detroit.  His first session was with record producer, Mike Hanks and D-Town Records. Jackson recorded with the group, Lil’ Bit & The Dreamers and the song was called “Do The Slop!” but this record has not been found by record collectors or is available on the internet.

In 1965, he skipped school to perform trombone on his first session at Motown. This session was for the hit song “Ooo Baby Baby” by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles.

One of his first arrangements was in 1966 for D-Town Records, and was on the song “Go-Go Girl” by Lee Rogers, and Jackson’s first job as a producer was on the song “I Want to Thank You for Love and Devotion” by Danny Woods in 1968. He has become known as a “secret weapon” by many artists in the music industry. 

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  • Sam Beaubien
    Sam Beaubien is a musician, composer, producer, and educator in Detroit. He is also the founder and leader of the acclaimed ensemble, Will Sessions.