Lost Media Archive

You Don't Know Jack The Jack Soo Story

Trailer to a 2009 documentary about Jack Soo titled You Don't Know Jack: The Jack Soo Story.

Jack Soo was an American singer and actor, best known for his role as Nick Yemana on the ABC sitcom Barney Miller.

According to some sources, Soo was among the first non-Black artists signed to Motown Records in 1965, where he was the first male singer to record the Ron Miller/Orlando Murden song "For Once in My Life", which became a hit for Stevie Wonder in 1968. He also recorded a song called "Duo" for Motown. It is unknown what other songs, if any, were recorded by Soo for Motown, but none have yet been released by Motown in any form, and no bootleg recordings are known to exist.

A 2009 documentary by Jeff Adachi, titled ''You Don't Know Jack: The Jack Soo Story'', apparently features audio of "For Once in My Life", though the DVD is out of print.

Soo was born Goro Suzuki on 28 October 1917 to Japanese-American parents and raised in Oakland, California. During World War II he was interned with other Japanese-Americans at the Topaz War Relocation Center in Millard County, Utah, where he entertained fellow internees as a singer. He subsequently changed his name to Jack Soo, choosing a Chinese-sounding surname to avoid Japanese-targeted harassment, and pursued a career as a crooner. While living in Ohio, he moonlighted as an emcee, singer, and stand-up comic in nightclubs, and in 1949 he performed with Joey Bishop as his straight man. He moved to San Francisco, where he was a regular performer at Andy Wong's Skyroom and Charlie Low's Forbidden City. In 1958, supposedly upon being "discovered" by Gene Kelly, he landed a role in the Broadway cast of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Flower Drum Song. An original cast recording of this musical featuring Soo was released, and those recordings are readily available on music streaming services. He also appeared in a different role in the 1961 film adaptation of the musical, and a soundtrack album featuring Soo was also released.

Following the success of Flower Drum Song, Soo appeared in several films and TV series, including recurring roles in the 1964-65 ABC sitcom Valentine's Day and in Barney Miller from 1975 until his death from cancer on 11 January 1979. He was only 61 when he died, and a tribute episode of Barney Miller titled "Jack Soo: A Retrospective" aired on 17 May 1979.