Upcoming on Sunday, April 29th, beginning at 11 am is the sale of the estate of soul-funk singing legend Wilson Pickett, to be held at the Four Seasons Auction Gallery in Atlanta, Ga.
Items to come up for bid include the “Wicked Mr. Pickett’s” 1974 Stutz Blackhawk vintage automobile; his Baldwin baby grand piano; hundreds of stage costumes and personal clothes; original abstract art commissioned by the singer in honor of his hit “Mustang Sally”; and a Fender 50th Anniversary Stratocaster electric guitar.
The “Wicked Mr. Pickett” was one of the most famous and recognizable soul singers of the 1960s and ’70s, with such hits as “Mustang Sally,” “In the Midnight Hour,” “Land of 1,000 Dances” and “Funky Broadway.” He died January 19th, in Reston, Va., following a heart attack. His connection to Atlanta comes by way of his brother, Maxwell, the executor and trustee of his estate, who lives there.
“I contacted numerous auction houses about selling Wilson’s estate,” Mr. Pickett said, “but Four Seasons struck me as being the most professional.” Items that won’t be included in this auction, he added, are gold records and awards. “My brother certainly left behind a slew of those,” he remarked, “but they have more to do with his enduring legacy as an artist. We’ll decide on them at a later date.”
The sale will still constitute a treasure trove of offerings, amassed over the entertainer’s long and rich life. It is sure to attract the attention of fans, collectors, music historians, rock-themed restaurants and possibly the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland. A preview will be held the evening before the sale, on April 28th, at 6 pm, in Four Seasons’ showroom, at 2075 Liddell Drive.
Items certain to pique the interest of the crowd include:
– A 1974 Stutz Blackhawk automobile. Only eight of these highly desirable, hand-made cars were imported into the U.S. from Italy that year. Pickett purchased one (for around $120,000). Others were sold to Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis. Jr., and Elvis Presley (who bought two). “They were the automobile of choice for the elite entertainers of the day,” Maxwell said. Pickett’s, re-painted a rich maroon color, has been partially restored and shows just 26,000 original miles on the odometer.
– A Baldwin baby grand piano. Pickett acquired the ivory-colored piano about the time he bought a home in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., around 1967-68 (Pickett lived most of his adult life in New York, New Jersey and Virginia). “Wilson would sit at that piano and work on various songs,” his brother offered. “The lyrics and melodies of some of the very songs he recorded were born in front of that keyboard. He loved it. Whenever he moved, that piano moved with him.” It’s in like-new condition.
– A Fender 50th Anniversary Edition Deluxe Stratocaster electric guitar. Pickett owned many guitars over the years, but this is the last one he acquired (in 2004) and, according to Maxwell, it might have been his favorite. “He played it right up to the time he was no longer able to perform,” he said. “Like the piano, he would depend on it for inspiration, strumming and creating new songs.” The gold and ivory instrument, issued to celebrate 50 years’ of Fender guitars, is in pristine condition.
– Stage costumes and personal clothing (about 150 lots of each). Wilson Pickett was a sharp dresser both on and off the stage. When he was performing, he’d wear form-fitting, rhinestone-studded outfits, about 150 of which will be sold. Also offered will be an impeccably tailored black suit, also studded with rhinestones and with a Mexican-style hat, that Pickett wore during the filming of the movie “Soul to Soul,” in Zaire, Africa. His personal clothes include suits, sport coats and tuxedos.
– An original abstract painting, commissioned in 1969. Three years after his 1966 smash hit “Mustang Sally” rode the top of the charts, Pickett got the idea to have an oil-on-canvas painting done that would symbolize not just the car he sang about, but love and pain as well. The result was a stunning and massive work – measuring 96″ x 48″ — that hung in the entrance foyer of two residences, in New Jersey and Virginia. The unknown artist’s initials, “HB”, appear on the work.
– Personal jewelry and household furnishings. Jewelry includes a 3.20-carat diamond solitaire ring, appraised at $21,500; and a custom-made gold puzzle bracelet, appraised at $4,500. Household furnishings include a custom-made dining set with a glass-top sculpted metal frame table and matching upholstered chairs; a kitchen set that complements the dining set; a wall-mounted dining room server; a wall-mounted bar unit; two red leather sofas; and a white fabric living room sofa.
Additional items to be sold include travel cases for instruments and a pair of deer rifles (Pickett was an avid hunter and fisherman). The rifles are a Weatherby 30.06 caliber and a Magnum 380 game rifle, believed to have been used by the singer when he was on safari in Africa. “That is something we can’t substantiate or prove, but that’s the story that goes with the rifle,” Maxwell said.
Wilson Pickett was born on March 18, 1941, in Prattville, Alabama, one of eleven children. As a young boy he sang in the local Baptist church choirs. At age 14, he went to live with his father in Detroit, and it is there he developed a forceful, passionate style of singing that would later become his signature. Pickett’s gruff, throaty delivery produced some of the most incendiary soul music of the ’60s.
His first foray into professional music came as a member of the Violinaires, a gospel music group formed in 1955. They performed mainly on church tours across the country. Eventually, he was lured by the success of other gospel singers of the day, like Sam Cooke and Aretha Franklin, who made the leap from church music to a more secular sound that formed the basis of Motown music of the ’60s.
Sadly, Wilson Pickett died a relatively lonely man, consumed by what his brother said was a sense of abandonment at the end of his life. At his funeral, only Little Richard and members of the singing group the Falcons (of which Pickett was a member in the 1950s) paid their respects and spoke. Not a word, though, from Aretha Franklin, Solomon Burke and Bobby Womack, all longtime friends.
The estate of Wilson Pickett will be part, but not all, of what will be sold April 29th by Four Seasons Auction Gallery. Also featured will be the contents of the Castle in the Clouds bed ‘n’ breakfast in Napa Valley, Calif. Items will include highly carved Italian bedroom suites; monumental paintings; fabulous bookcases; a clock collection; bronzes; jewelry; Oriental rugs; and chandeliers.
To learn more about the sale of the estate of Wilson Pickett, or for more information about Four Seasons Auction Gallery, you may visit the firm online, at www.fsagallery.com.