Five to One

Suitably enough, our story begins in the heartland of America. Papa Joe Jackson was a steel-mill worker who also moonlighted as a member of a strip-joint R&B; band. By all accounts Papa Joe was a strict disciplinarian, keeping a tight rein on his kids, not allowing them to hang with their classmates or participate in after-school activities. Hence, music was probably one of the few pursuits available to the Jackson lads all cooped up at home in Gary, Indiana with their Jehovah's Witness mom.

Legend has it that it was one of young Michael Jackson's eight older siblings, Tito, who inadvertently got the ball rolling when he discovered his dad's guitar in a closet. Tito learnt how to play the guitar well enough to accompany the other Jackson boys but when one day a string broke, it gave the game away to Papa Joe. After being severely punished for his secret strumfests, Tito was then asked to show Pops what he could do with the guitar. Amazingly enough, Joe was impressed and this began a new regime of rigourously rehearsing the boys after school, long into the night.

Michael, Marlon, Tito, Jermaine and Jackie began performing professionally as The Jackson 5 in 1966. From the outset they were a hot item, not only around their hometown but also winning first place (as well as the approval of the Harlem audience) at the legendary New York Apollo Theatre talent show. When he was all of nine years old, Michael was even outstepping James Brown's slick moves, impressing the likes of Diana Ross and the boss of the Motown record label.

The Jackson 5 promptly landed a contract with Motown in 1969, scoring an instant smash with their debut "I Want You Back." Their brand of bubblegum soul soon proved to have a multi-racial and international appeal, as they became a fixture in the charts with hits like "ABC," "I'll Be There," "Never Can Say Goodbye" and "Dancing Machine." On the concert circuit they broke attandance records and Jacksonmania was big enough to even merit a Saturday morning cartoon series based on them.

 

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