Tito talks about Jacksons getting back in the groove

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Offline darkchild

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Tito talks about Jacksons getting back in the groove
Indiana natives playing shows for first time since '84

By Steve Knopper, Special to the Tribune
10:48 a.m. CDT, June 21, 2012

In July 2009, Tito Jackson was grieving. His little brother, Michael, had just died. The lawyers were battling over the King of Pop's estate. The media wanted interviews. So Jackson did the most therapeutic thing he could think of — he traveled to Jamaica, where he stayed at the soothing Strawberry Hill resort, tried parasailing and, most importantly, performed old Jackson 5 hits and Chicago blues at a local festival.

"It's a way to take my mind to a happy place — a place of fond memory," says Jackson, 58, a founding member of the Jackson 5 along with brothers Michael, Jackie, Marlon and Jermaine. "Certain music of my brother's really brings me up, and certain music makes me very sad, only because of the situation of his death. Just performing is where I'm happiest, and gets me rid of my troubles and worries. ... And playing blues is very emotional. You have to feel that music. You just can't play it sterilely."

Famously, Michael Jackson's epic career and mythically erratic behavior have overshadowed the musical talents of his brothers since the late '60s, when the Jackson 5 first took off as the world's biggest boy band. The back story is well-known to rock and soul fans — in the Jacksons' hometown of Gary, their father, Joe, had played a little guitar in a R&B band. While he was at work, operating a crane at a steel mill, his sons were never, ever to touch his guitar. But Tito (and, in some accounts, Jackie and Jermaine) snuck into the closet to play it.

"Broke a string," Tito recalls. "He took care of me for it."

But the next day, Joe acknowledged Tito's enthusiasm and talent and bought him a guitar of his own.

Soon, Tito was sitting in with Joe and his uncle at local gigs. The three eldest Jackson brothers, along with a couple of cousins, were soon in a band and, in a fateful move in 1963, they replaced the cousins with Marlon and 5-year-old Michael. (The story, of course, gets complicated — after he became famous, grown-up Michael gave interviews alleging that his father, Joe, abused him and robbed him of his childhood.)

By the early '70s, with Motown classics such as "ABC," "The Love You Save," "I Want You Back" and "I'll Be There," the members of the Jackson 5 were the biggest pop stars in the world. It was an exciting time — of adoring fans, big Afros, wide collars and, for Tito, the occasional spotlight.

"I was always a closet blues player," he recalls, by phone from his Calabasas, Calif., home. "You know the history of the Jackson 5 — it was not blues, it was R&B and pop music. The only chance I had to play blues music was when there was a problem on stage. They would request me to play a song. I would kill the time playing the blues."

Although Tito has been an occasional punch line — David Letterman regularly used to make fun of his name — he's an underrated guitarist.

"Yeah, he can play," says Gary Graff, veteran Detroit music journalist and author of "Rock 'n' Roll Myths: The True Stories Behind the Most Infamous Legends." "No one's going to mistake this guy for Buddy Guy orB.B. King. But is he competent? Sure." Adds Chris Cadman, co-author of 2009's "Michael Jackson For the Record — Revised & Expanded": "He didn't play on the (Motown) studio albums, but he was a fundamental part of all the live gigs. His role was to drive the brothers on stage with some funky guitar playing."

It is an understatement to say that Michael Jackson in his solo career overshadowed all of his brothers. They joined him at a few crucial points, most famously on the massive 1984 "Victory" tour, although their famous brother moonwalked off with all the glory.

Jermaine, Jackie and Marlon put out their own albums with varying degrees of commercial success, while Tito occasionally recorded material and kept it to himself. An unknown number of his early tracks are apparently in Motown's vaults. "I did one song for that album and things fell apart between Michael and the Jackson 5," he says. "I didn't get to do my album — Jackie did his, Michael did his, Jermaine did his and I was next."

After years of false starts on his own album, he put out a solo EP in 2003, "I Gotta Play." After several delays, a full one, "So Far So Good," is due this summer, with help from his adult kids, Taj, Taryll and TJ, who make up the hit '90s R&B band 3T. The first single, the lightly funky "We Made It," just came out. "I always put myself on the back burner," Jackson says, "and I felt, when I was young, I'd always have time."

In the meantime, Tito, Marlon, Jermaine and Jackie have started rehearsals for the Jacksons' "Unity" tour, their first since 1984. It hasn't exactly been a blockbuster — the band had to cancel its first few dates, due to scheduling conflicts while recording an album. (That may be true, but excellent seats remain available for several dates online.) Jackson attributes the cancellations to hasty routing, which "wasn't put together properly."

Ticket sales aside, he acknowledges the tour contains a conspicuous gap. "Losing Michael Jackson is a handicap. It's the Lakers trying to win a championship without Kobe Bryant," Tito Jackson says. "But it can be done. The brothers are talented in their own way, and we're going to show why we're the Jackson 5 and continue to do what we do."


Twitter @chitribent

When: 8 p.m. Friday

Where: Star Plaza Theatre, 8001 Delaware Place, Merrillville

Tickets: $55, $65 and $80; 800-745-3000 or starplazatheatre.com

Copyright © 2012, Chicago Tribune

You rocked my world, you know you did
And everything I own I give
The rarest love who\'d think I\'d find
Someone like you to call mine

"Let us dream of tomorrow where we can truly love from the soul, and know love as the ultimate truth at the heart of all creation."
------Michael Jackson

Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril. --Oscar Wilde

Offline sweetsunsetwithMJ

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  • Michael I am looking forward to your BAM!!
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They are fueling the "MJ' death" morbid.

Offline Australian MJ BeLIEver

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yes tito, the jackson brothers are talanted. and it can be done. well wishes to you, its your time to shine.

People laugh when I explain. And though they may laugh, that doesn't change the fact that it's still the truth.

Michael is Alive
The end of evil is nigh
Trust in God
The righteous will prevail


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