In between sautéing chicken wings with his Some Kind of Wonderful spice, John Ellison took to the microphone to croon his megahit of the same title.
Ellison, a singer/songwriter-turned-seasoning maker, was the highlight of Will Poultry Co.’s annual food show Tuesday in Hearthstone Manor, Depew.
He was one of 70 vendors at the event for food service customers.
“It’s an opportunity for our customers to see what we’re offering,” said Nelson Schultz, director of purchasing for Will Poultry, the Buffalo-based wholesale food distribution company. “We have John Ellison, along with other food manufacturers. Customers are looking for something different, something unique.”
In addition to samples and demonstrations by the various vendors, Ellison added a concert feel to the food show, as customers and vendors swayed and clapped to his intermittent vocal/guitar performances.
His chicken was a hit, too.
“I thought it was out of this world,” said Renee Wilson from Sportsman Restaurant in Irving, who was shopping for new items to add to the restaurant’s menu. “We’re going to try his seasoning. I think people will love it.”
As a member of the Rochester-based Soul Brothers Six, Ellison, now 72, wrote and recorded the song in 1967. The tune has been recorded by more than 60 artists, including a top-selling version by Grand Funk Railroad in 1974. He said he still gets about eight royalty checks a year.
Along with a love of music, Ellison enjoys cooking. In 1999, he started his seasoning company, which he runs with his wife and children. He offers two blends, each with at least a dozen herbs and spices. Wegmans has been carrying his products since 2001. His seasonings are also sold in Canada and Europe, he said.
A traffic violation earlier this year on the Thruway in Rochester led to the distribution deal with Will Poultry. After ticketing Ellison for not wearing a seat belt, the state trooper, who is a friend of Schultz’s, struck up a conversation with Ellison. The pair emailed afterward, and the trooper introduced Ellison to Schultz. (He still had to pay the ticket.)
The distribution deal with Will Poultry, which serves most of the state along with parts of Ohio and Pennsylvania from its William Street facility, will further expand his market into the different restaurants and institutions that make up Will Poultry’s base.
The company, which employs 120 and sells about 8,000 items, has already begun selling Ellison’s seasoning, along with his preseasoned beef and turkey patties. They will also team up to create new products, like sausages.
To see a video clip of Ellison singing his hit song, go to BuffaloNews.com.