WHEN JOHN WILSON - the last surviving member of the popular soul music group the Silhouettes - became a minister, he still liked to sing.
"I never gave up singing," John said in an interview last February. "I still sing in church, and everyone wonders where I got my voice."
Where he got his voice was harmonizing with friends on the streets of Philadelphia.
Like a lot of doo-wop, hip-hop and soul groups of the '50s and '60s, the Silhouettes got their start as kids singing together for little more than pocket change.
Some of them went on to perform locally, make records and gain a national reputation.
That's what happened to the Silhouettes, whose most popular hit was probably "Get A Job." Although John Wilson had sung that song with the group, it was recorded without him and became a sensation in 1958.
John "Bootsie" Wilson, an African Methodist Episcopal Church minister for 30 years in South Carolina, died of cancer on Sept. 21. He was 69 and lived in Spartanburg, S.C.
Ironically, the Silhouettes began with "Get A Job" and ended with "Get A Job." The second version, recorded in 1968, featured Bootsie as the lead vocalist. Some critics thought it was better than the original.
"It has a classic Motown sound complete with horn section and is graced by another fine vocal from John Wilson and nicely-worked backing vocals," a critic wrote in an online profile.
By that time the group called itself the New Silhouettes.
"The new version was born from John Wilson's talent for improvisation," the critic wrote. "He had, after all, been singing the song for many years.
"A worthy successor to the original in every way, the 1968 version is another lost gem that shows what the New Silhouettes were capable of when given the chance."
The New Silhouettes was formed in 1961 and disbanded in 1968 after recording its version of "Get A Job."
In his early career, John also sang for a time with Philadelphian Frankie Beverly, who became a well-known singer, songwriter and producer.
John was born in Philadelphia to Pearl and Otis Wilson. He attended a number of public schools. He said he had uncles who played with Max Roach and Maynard Ferguson and he grew up listening to all kinds of music.
"I sang with the Philadelphia Glee Club when I was young and later did a lot of street singing," he said in the February interview. "It was something many of us did."
He sang with members of the original Silhouettes but it was in 1961 that he became the lead singer. The group performed in various venues in Philadelphia, on radio and in Atlantic City where it appeared on TV in a show on Steel Pier hosted by Philadelphia disc jockey Ed Hurst.
After the New Silhouettes disbanded, John moved to South Carolina and became a minister. His most recent church was Moore's AME in Edgefield, S.C.
In January, John made an appearance at the headquarters of Classic Urban Harmony LLC in New Jersey. He was with Elaine and Shana Lewis, wife and daughter of the late Rick Lewis, an original member of the Silhouettes.
"With Elaine Lewis playing guitar, John serenaded us with rendtions of 'Rent Man' and 'Move On Over,' " the group wrote. "We have to admit John's voice sounds as great as ever."
John is survived by his wife, Pauline Peake Wilson; five daughters, Renee A. Wilson, Michelle D. Wilson, Jonnika Wilson, Niketa S. Wilson and Linda S. Herring; two stepdaughters, Sandra D. McWhirter and Terese A. McWhirter; three stepsons, James A. and Morris McWhirter and Ronald Bronz; a sister, Paulette Wilson McDowell; a half-sister, Bernadine Hurston, and 13 grandchildren.
Services: Were Saturday in Spartanburg.