[New!]Pre-Motown Recordings and other Early Rare Records

 

by Michael Jackson & the Jackson Five

 

 

With all the tributes to Michael Jackson, little attention is paid to the early history of the Jackson Five, especially their pre-Motown recordings.  We’ve searched the Classic Urban Harmony Archives to bring you a photographic record of some of the rarer collectable records from the Jackson Five.

The Jackson Five were from Gary, Indiana, a city steeped in vocal harmony history.  The older of the Jackson brothers (Tito and Jermaine) attended Roosevelt High School, the same school that launched the career of the 1950’s R&B group, the Spaniels.  [Michael left the city of Gary when he was eleven but was later given an honorary degree from Roosevelt.]  In fact, the Jackson’s home at 2300 Jackson Street was only a couple of blocks from where Spaniels’ lead James Pookie Hudson grew up in the Delaney housing projects.  There are some reports that the Jackson brothers’ father, Joe Jackson, occasionally harmonized with the Four Bees, forerunners of the Spaniels, but we’ve not been able to confirm this.  Joe Jackson in his earlier years did play guitar with his own group the Falcons.  We believe there is no connection with his group and the more famous Falcons who were from Detroit. 

The Jackson Five signed with Gordon Keith’s local Steeltown Records in November 1967.  Keith also had the Calumet and BoMoKeith labels.  The Jackson Five’s first record for Steeltown (# 681) was “Big Boy” b/w “You’ve Changed” which came out on an orange label without “Distributed by Atco” at the bottom.  STEELTOWN was in all capital letters.  The record first came out in January 1968 and very few copies were made.  It was probably only sold by the Jackson Five at their performance around Gary, IN.  We’ve never had a copy of this first press in our archives.

Within a couple months, “Big Boy” was picked up for distribution by Atco Records.  Subsequent copies had “Distributed by Atco Records, 1841 Broadway New York, NY” at the bottom of the label.  Promotional (dj) copies were white, stock copies were in red.  We’ve also seen a copy of the promo white label with only the “S” of Steeltown a capital, and the label name in script print.
 

 

Promo copy of Steeltown 681, second label variation.
(From the Classic Urban Harmony Archives)
 


Stock copy of Steeltown 681, second label variation.
(From the Classic Urban Harmony Archives)

 

The Jackson Five’s second record was “You Don’t Have To Be Over 21” b/w “Jam Session”.  This record was issued as STEEL-TOWN 682 on a blue label with no distribution.  We have another variation with no label number and “Distributed by V.W.M. Distributors, 1630 Broadway, Gary, Indiana” on the top of the label.  Presumably this came second.


Copy of Steeltown 682, first label variation.
(From the Classic Urban Harmony Archives)
 


Copy of Steeltown 682, second label variation.
(From the Classic Urban Harmony Archives)
 

 

One controversial Steeltown release is # 688, released late in 1968.  “Let Me Carry Your School Books” b/w “I Never had A Girl” by “The Ripples and Waves Plus Michael” sounds similar to the Jackson Five and was long suspected to be them.  Recent information, uncovered by www.indiana45s.com concludes that the Ripples and Waves are NOT the Jackson Five but a separate Gary, IN, group recording for Steeltown.  We've included a newspaper photo published on their website of the real Ripples & Waves (below).  Further, a reliable source has informed us that the “Plus Michael” is not Michael Jackson.


The Ripples & Waves Plus Michael.  The Ripples and Waves are NOT the Jackson Five.
(From the Classic Urban Harmony Archives)


Newspaper Photo of the Ripples & Waves, ca. 1968
(from www.indiana45s.com)

Above clipping reads:  "New Jackson Five?  Ripples And Waves - Making their bid for national recognition, just like the Jackson Five before them, are the Ripples and Waves (R&W) of Gary.  Managed by Gordon Keith, who developed the Jackson[s], R&W are students of Beckman, Emerson, West Side and Mann schools.  Their lead song is "Let Me Carry Your School Books."  The Ripples and Waves are, front row from left, bass guitarist Warren Rocker, drummer Phillip Mack and lead guitarist Elvy Woodward; rear, Gordon Keith, manager; bass singer Larry Holmes, lead singer Ronald Bills and second lead Lawrence Clark."

 

As the Jackson Five signed with Motown, Musicor purchased some Steeltown sides and released them on their Dynamo subsidiary.  A previously unreleased side, “Some Girls Want Me For their Lover” was paired with the previously released “You Don’t Have To Be Over 21” as Dynamo # 146.
 

Dynamo # 146 label variation 1.
(From the Classic Urban Harmony Archives)
 


Dynamo # 146 label variation 2.
(From the Classic Urban Harmony Archives)
 

 

As the Jackson Five began recording for Motown, at least two of their singles were pressed in yellow vinyl.


Promo of "ABC" pressed in yellow vinyl.
(From the Classic Urban Harmony Archives)
 

 

"I'll Be There" pressed in yellow vinyl.
(From the Classic Urban Harmony Archives)
 

Finally, at the height of the Jackson Five’s popularity, at leased 12 of their records were pressed in cardboard on the backs of cereal boxes.  The same labels were used a series of choices and the purchaser could see which song was on the box by the number stamped in a circle.


"ABC" from the back of a cereal box.
(From the Classic Urban Harmony Archives)
 


"I Want You Back" from the back of a cereal box.
(From the Classic Urban Harmony Archives)
 


"Sugar Daddy" from the back of a cereal box.
(From the Classic Urban Harmony Archives)
 


"Never Can Say Goodbye" from the back of a cereal box.
(From the Classic Urban Harmony Archives)

 

We've recently become aware of this interview 45 by the Jackson Five from around 1970.  It features a short interview with all the members of the Jackson Five.


Jackson Five interview 45
(Scan courtesy of Everette Dewaine Longus)

 

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