The DC-8 bound for West Africa carried a company of American soul, gospel, rock and jazz greats, including Wilson Pickett, Ike and Tina Turner, Santana, Roberta Flack, the Staple Singers, Eddie Harris and Les McCann. A Hammond B3 organ and a Leslie amplifier were packed into first-class because the luggage hold was at capacity. The passenger section was so thick with laughter and pot smoke that one passenger later quipped, “That plane could’ve flown itself.”
When Wilson Pickett arrived at the airport in Accra to headline the Soul to Soul festival, he was greeted by a sea of Ghanaians loudly chanting his name. As his fans flocked to him, the singer was offered a swig of the local corn-made gin, took a sip, then reeled backward and pretended to collapse amid raucous laughter. Several days before the concert, the man known as the “Wicked Pickett” for his combustible performances on and off stage was already putting on a show.