The backing track was recorded on July 6, 1967 at Columbia’s studios in Chicago. Produced by Carl Davis, the session, arranged by Sonny Sanders, featured bassist James Jamerson, drummer Richard “Pistol” Allen, guitarist Robert White, and keyboardist Johnny Griffith; these four musicians were all members of the Motown Records house band The Funk Brothers who often moonlighted on sessions for Davis to augment the wages paid by Motown.
According to Carl Davis, the Funk Brothers “used to come over on the weekends from Detroit. They’d load up in the van and come over to Chicago, and I would pay ’em double scale, and I’d pay ’em in cash.” Similarly, two members of Motown’s house session singers The Andantes, Jackie Hicks and Marlene Barrow, along with Pat Lewis (who was filling in for Andantes member Louvain Demps), performed on the session for “Higher and Higher”.
Drummer Maurice White (better known as a singer for Earth, Wind & Fire) also played on the recording. Motown’s Mike Terry played the baritone saxophone.
The song was originally written by Chess Records’ in-house writers and producers Carl Smith and Raynard Miner, and initially recorded by The Dells for the label, but not released. Another writer, Gary Jackson, made some changes to the song and pitched it to Davis at Brunswick.
When the singer recorded his vocal track, Davis recalls, Wilson originally sang the song “like a soul ballad. I said that’s totally wrong. You have to jump and go with the percussion… If he didn’t want to sing it that way, I would put my voice on the record and sell millions.” After hearing Davis’s advice, Wilson cut the lead vocal for “Higher and Higher” in a single take.
A publishing deal for the song was reached with Brunswick after Chess producer/A&R head, Billy Davis intervened. Writing credits were agreed with Smith, Miner, Jackson and Billy Davis all named. Later, Davis removed his credit and BMI now lists the song as by the three other writers. The Dells’ version appeared on their album, “There Is” for Chess subsidiary, Cadet the same year. Wiki