Walter Jackson was born in Pensacola, Florida, and raised in Detroit. As a child he became ill with polio, as a result of which he used crutches for the rest of his life. He first recorded as a member of a vocal group, the Velvetones, on the Deb label in 1959, and then turned solo, singing in Detroit nightclubs.After failing an audition for Motown, he was discovered there by Columbia Records' A&R man Carl Davis, who was impressed with his powerful voice, persuaded him to move to Chicago in 1962, and signed him to the label. His first solo record, "I Don't Want To Suffer", was not a hit, and after a few more releases he transferred to the subsidiary label OKeh. There, he had his first hit with "It's All Over", written by Curtis Mayfield and produced by Mayfield and Davis, which made no. 67 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1964.
Davis continued to provide songs for Jackson from such writers as Mayfield and Van McCoy, and he had a string of hits on the R&B chart in the mid-1960s, although none rose above the lower reaches of the pop charts. Among the most successful were "Suddenly I'm All Alone" (no. 13 R&B, no. 96 pop, 1965), "Welcome Home" (no. 15 R&B, no. 95 pop, 1965), "It's An Uphill Climb To The Bottom" (no. 11 R&B, no. 88 pop, 1966), and "Speak Her Name" (no. 22 R&B, no. 89 pop, 1967). Davis also promoted Jackson as an albumartist, releasing three LPs by him on OKeh - It’s All Over, Welcome Home (1965), and Speak Her Name (1967), together with a greatest hits collection. He moved to Cotillion Records in the late 1960s, and then on to the Brunswick label, with diminishing commercial success. However, in the mid-1970s he moved to Davis' new Chi Sound label and had one of his biggest hits with a version of Morris Albert's 1975 pop hit "Feelings". Jackson's version reached no. 9 on the R&B chart and no. 93 on the pop chart in 1976. The following year, his version of Peter Frampton's "Baby, I Love Your Way" reached no. 19 on the R&B chart, but later releases were less successful.
Jackson died of a cerebral haemorrhage in 1983 at the age of 45.