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Jimmy Soul

Born James Louis McCleese in Weldon, North Carolina, he became a preacher at the age of seven and performed gospel music as a teenager. He acquired his performing name, "Soul," from his congregation.

Soul took to the road and toured the southern United States as a member of various gospel groups. During this time he became popular around the Norfolk, Virginia area. It was here that Soul was scouted by Frank Guida and recruited to sing songs handpicked for one of Guida's other hit artists, Gary U.S. Bonds.

Soul only had two chart hit singles, both of which were Bonds's cast-offs. The first was "Twistin' Matilda" in 1962. The other was the Billboard Hot 100 number one hit "If You Wanna Be Happy" in 1963. The latter was based on the calypso, "Ugly Woman," by Roaring Lion.

"If You Wanna Be Happy" sold over one million gramophone records, earning gold disc status. It had two spells in the UK Singles Chart, peaking at #39 (1963) and #68 (1991) respectively.


Jimmy Soul (August 24, 1942 - June 25, 1988), born James McCleese in Weldon, North Carolina, was an American vocalist.

He performed gospel music as a teenager, later scouted by Frank Guida and recruited to sing songs handpicked for one of Guida's other hit artists, Gary U.S. Bonds. Soul only had two chart hit singles, both which were Bond's cast-offs, "Twistin' Matilda" in 1962 and the Billboard Hot 100 number one hit "If You Wanna Be Happy" (based on the calypso, "Ugly Woman", by Roaring Lion) in 1963. "If You Wanna Be Happy" sold over one million gramophone records, earning gold disc status.

After unsuccessfully trying to follow up the success of those songs with one more album, he gave up his career as a musician and joined the United States Army.

He died of a heart attack in 1988, at the age of 45.

50s, 60s Hits

If You Wanna Be Happy

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