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Jackson 5 collection for sale

April 30, 2009

After playing a pivotal role in launching the Jackson 5, Gordon Keith feels it's time to sell his stash of early J5 recordings.

He says he even has an agent to help him do it.

"I could use the money," said Keith, producer of the first Jackson 5 recordings, which were made in the 1960s, when the Gary brothers were on Steeltown Records, a hometown label.

"I got these guys off the ground," Keith, 69, said. "I didn't truly get real money for it."

Among his most interesting collectibles up for sale are a sizable number of mint-condition copies of "Big Boy," the first Jackson 5 record, released in early 1968.

As is the case with Keith's other valuable J5 holdings, a bank vault stores the pristine 45-rpm records, which were manufactured in 1967 and have "You've Changed" on the flip side.

In another vein, potential purchasers can ponder master and master-mix tapes that capture Michael Jackson and his brothers, before they began their ascent to international fame with the release of "I Want You Back" on Motown Records in late 1969.

Keith is also selling rehearsal tape of the Jacksons from their days in Gary, while demos or dubs from 1967 — in 45-rpm form — are likewise up for sale.

Such audio treasures reflect a pop-music super group in its formative stages, when 2300 Jackson St. in the Steel City was still home to the boys — including the eventual "King of Pop" — Michael.

"Motown had turned the Jacksons down two or three times before I recorded them," Keith said.

Elvy Woodard, who was in a band Keith once managed, said Keith — his uncle — has a chance to make a lot of money from his Jackson 5 collection.

"He's got the first time they went into the studio, when they first recorded — nobody else has that," said Woodard, a 1972 graduate of Gary's West Side High School. "He's got the beginning."

In regard to more touches from the J5's past, Keith is selling a large number of mint-condition 45s that feature the group's "We Don't Have to Be Over 21," backed with "Jam Session."

More than 100 copies are available.

The Steeltown record — which was pressed circa 1970 — has Jackson 5 music that was recorded in the '60s.

When it comes to paperwork, Keith's treasure trove of up-for-sale items includes the 1968 contract he signed with Atlantic Records, which distributed his J5 records.

To garner money, Keith is also considering parting ways with the 1967 contract between him and the Jackson family, signed by Joe Jackson, the boys' father. Keith said he would be willing to sell that historic document with "stipulations."

Prices are negotiable on the Jackson 5 materials, according to Keith, who billed himself as "original discoverer" of the band in an announcement of his sale intentions.

He believes there are hundreds of thousands of dollars to be made on what he is selling.

While it appears that Keith's collection has the potential to rake in life-changing money, it's certain that he possesses a juicy chunk of pop-music history.

"When I finally recorded them, I said, well, I know this group is gonna make it all the way, so I'm going to put away some of their recordings and other paraphernalia," the longtime Gary resident said. "So that's why I have these now. I knew that they were gonna be big."

Keith can be contacted at 949-6418.

Contact Bob Kostanczuk at 648-3144 or bkostanczuk@post-trib.com.