Born 1941, Montgomery, McDowell County

In 1959, John Ellison quit his job at the Carter Hotel in Welch, McDowell County, and bought a one-way ticket to Rochester, NY, to pursue his dream of becoming a singer and recording artist. With his belongings stuffed into a grocery bag, he arrived in Rochester with $3.25 to his name. Over the next eight years he played in several bands without much success. Then, he met like minded players and formed The Soul Brothers Six as the group’s lead singer and songrwriter.

The group’s first recording, “Some Kind of Wonderful,” was released in 1967 on Atlantic Records. After the group disbanded in 1969, Ellison played for a short period of time with former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier as his guitarist before forming another group of his own.

In 1975, Grand Funk Railroad released a version of “Some Kind of Wonderful” that reached the No. 3 spot in the nation. To date, the song has been recorded by more than 62 different artists and sold more than 42 million copies. As a result, John has received five Lifetime Achievement awards for writing one of the most played songs in the world.

The Soul Brothers Six were called a “major influence on modern music” in Peter Guralnick’s 1987 book Sweet Soul Music. He has collaborated, toured, performed, and recorded with artists such as Patti LaBelle, Diana Ross, James Brown, Smokey Robinson, and Little Richard. Ellison continues to record and tour nationally and internationally. His childhood home in Welch is being restored as a landmark.


John Ellison