Wilson’s voice broke just in time for ska’s transition to rocksteady in the late 1960s producing many hits including his version of the Tams’ ‘Dancing Mood’, “Jerk in Time” (with the Wailers), “Feel Good All Over”, “I’m Not a King”, “True Believer in Love”, “Rain From the Skies”, “Conquer Me” and “Riding For A Fall”. Dancing Mood became a massive hit, alerting music fans to a new soul singer to match the beloved Alton Ellis. His voice matured as he left his teens, around the time of “Won’t You Come Home”, a duet with Ken Boothe on a rhythm originally cut by The Conquerors for Sonia Pottinger which had become one of the most-versioned Jamaican tracks ever.
Throughout the rest of the decade, Wilson, still recording mainly for Studio One, increased his popularity with titles such as ‘Riding For A Fall’, another Tams cover version, ‘Once Upon A Time’, ‘Run Run’, ‘Won’t You Come Home’, ‘Never Conquer’, ‘True Believer’, ‘One One’, ‘I’m Not A King’, ‘Rain From The Skies’ and ‘Feel Good All Over’, as well as covering the Temptations’ ‘Get Ready’. Leaving Studio One in 1969, Wilson sojourned briefly at Lee, Bunny ‘s camp, which resulted in a popular reading of the Isley Brothers’ ‘This Old Heart Of Mine’ (1969), before moving to Sonia Pottinger ‘s Tip Top Records, where he cut the excellent ‘It Hurts’ and a version of the Elgins’ ‘Put Yourself In My Place’ (both 1969). After leaving Studio One he recorded for numerous other producers, with varying degrees of success, and set up his own short-lived W&C label along with Wilburn Cole, and Links label with Ken Boothe, The Gaylads and The Melodians. He enjoyed success with Bunny Lee in the late 1960s and early 1970s with tracks such as “This Old Heart of Mine”, “Footsteps of another Man”, and “Better Must Come”. His double A-side “It Hurts”/”Put Yourself in My Place” were a skinhead favorite that narrowly missed UK chart success. He recorded a version of “Run Run”, a song he had originally recorded for Dodd, for maverick producer Keith Hudson.
In 1976, he recorded a cover of The Wailers’ “I’m Still Waiting” for Lloyd Charmers, which was hugely popular, and enjoyed some cross-over success, and was followed by the album Sarge, which is considered one of his strongest. Also a Bob Andy produced song, “The Last Thing On My Mind” rose to number one in Jamaica. Wilson continued the run of success until the end of the decade, but his career floundered during the early 1980s, with releases less common. The 1980’s provided a revival of fortunes with ‘Don’t Put The Blame On Me’/’Stop Acting Strange’ for King Jammy in 1987, and ‘Ease Up’, a cut of the famous ‘Rumours’ rhythm for Bunny Lee, as well as albums such as Looking For Love for Phil Pratt and Which Way Is Up, produced by Errol ‘Flabba’ Holt for Blue Mountain, after which he went back into semi-retirement. Despite being one of the best singers Jamaica has ever produced, Wilson was rarely able to consolidate the success that came his way; nevertheless, he remained a much-loved and respected, but sorely under used and, outside of reggae circles, underrated performer.
Further recordings towards the end of the decade, including ‘All In This Thing Together’, ‘Halfway Up The Stairs’ and ‘Come In Heaven’ for Gussie Clarke, did well, but Wilson’s career floundered somewhat during the early part of the 80s, apart from a few sporadic sides, including the popular ‘Let’s Get Married’ for London’s Fashion Records. In 1994, Wilson’s enduring legacy to Jamaican music was recognized by a special plaque awarded him by the Jamaican government, and presented by the then Prime Minister, Patterson. Delroy Wilson died on 6 March 1995 at Kingston’s UWI hospital, of complications from cirrhosis of the liver. He was 46 years old.
Rain from the sky