My version of the Jackson Five story. It answers most of your reasonable questions, really! Happy BMM!
The group formed in 1964 in the Jackson family living room. It consisted of Sigmond Esco “Jackie”, Toriano Adaryll “Tito”, Jermaine LaJuane, Marlon David, and Michael Joseph Jackson. In early 1967 during rehearsals precocious Michael was unable to contain mouth and body as he danced and sang like his idols James Brown and Jackie Wilson. So, The instrumental group known as The Jackson Bothers moved Michael from the congas to lead singer. And so it begins!
With a name change to the Jackson Five, the group hit the ‘circuit’ of showcases, bars, nightclubs, strip clubs, and won every talent show in Gary Indiana to Chicago. The youth and talent of the group were impressive and Michael’s embodiment of pure cutting edge raw soul helped set the boys apart from all up and comers! The Jackson Five wrecked shop (this is a good thing) on stage at the Apollo in New York. Of course they won! The Jackson Five garnered the attention, recognition, and support of Gladys Knight who told Berry Gordy about the group. Gordy did not want to take on another youth group, as he was already frustrated with child prodigy Stevie Wonder and the child work laws in the music industry. The group soon signed a deal with Gordon Keith of Steeltown Records, a local company in Gary Indiana. They recorded their first single “Big Boy”. It was a local hit!
The group signed a two-week deal to open for Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers (Tommy Chong of Cheech and Chong played guitar in this band) in Detroit. Again Gladys Knight and now Stevie Wonder appealed to Gordy to at least see the group. With Gordy having just moved to Los Angeles he sent Suzanne de Passe, who brought Diana Ross with her to see what Knight and Wonder were raving about. They were impressed to say the least and immediately invited the Jackson Five to film an audition to send to Gordy in L.A. With the bands musical ability and Michael losing himself in a performance of James Brown’s “I Got The Feeling”, as well as Ms. Ross whispering in Gordy’s ear, he signed them to Motown without hesitation.
The following year they released their first single “I Want You Back” which competed with the singles of the day such as James Brown’s “Mother Popcorn,” the Dells “Oh What a Night,” the Temptations “Can’t Get Next to You,” and Diana Ross and the Supremes “Some Day We’ll Be Together.”
During the seventies the Jackson Five were not only a musical success, but also commercial, cross cultural, and a social success as well. Images of the Jackson Five could be found everywhere from the cereal box to t-shirts to a television show. The Jackson Five forged new ground in a post civil rights era with a new soul aesthetic not unlike Sly and The Family Stone, which allowed them to gain a mass appeal.
The rest is history!
The audition tape: Would you sign them?: