Between Takes: When You Know It’s a Hit

In Episode 008 of Between Takes, record producer and arranger McKinley Jackson to describes what it’s like working on a hit record.

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 008

McKinley Jackson got his start working at Motown when he was in high school, playing trombone on the song “Ooo Baby Baby” by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles. He continued to work as a session musician around Detroit, but because of his knowledge of music theory he soon began being hired to do horn and string arrangements as well.

He is also a music director for high profile tours, with artists like Marvin Gaye and The Temptations. As music director, he arranges music but also communicates with the musicians on what and how to perform the music. His well-rounded skill set allowed him to go on to be a very successful record producer who worked with most of the major record labels during the 1970s and 1980s.

Ken Knox
Ken Knox

When you are someone who works constantly on various music projects, like McKinley Jackson does, it is not always easy to tell what song will be a hit and what songs will flop. It is “just another day at the office” for professionals like him. 

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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.