Tito Jackson: ‘Jackie, Jermaine and I knew it was the perfect time to show the public what we could do’

The Jackson brother remembers the Jackson 5’s big break on The Ed Sullivan Show, 1969

Ed Sullivan introduces the Jackson 5, from left: Jermaine, Tito, Jackie, Marlon and Michael Photo: Alpha Press

This photo was taken in December 1969, when all of us were really too young to understand the impact of what was about to happen. Jackie was 18, I was 16, Jermaine was 15, Marlon was 12 and Michael – who was just magical that day – was 11.

Ed Sullivan was the big variety host of his day, a TV hero, and all the big entertainers of the time went on his show. Every family in America tuned in on Sunday evenings right after dinner, desperate to see the next big musical sensation. Sonny and Cher had been on, the Temptations, the Rolling Stones… and the first time I saw the Beatles was on The Ed Sullivan Show.

At that point we were all fearless, we were just doing what we did, butJackie, Jermaine and I knew it was the perfect time to show the public what we could do. We knew it could be our big break and that we needed to do an A1 job. Before the show I remember us all going out and picking our outfits at a fashion store called First Equals, and by the day of the show we’d rehearsed and rehearsed and rehearsed so although we were nervous, once we hit that stage and loosened up we did our job.

Ed Sullivan came out, talked very briefly to us and then we performed three songs – I Want You Back, ABC and The Love You Save – and there were no glitches; at that time we were so polished that we just knew we had to capture the audience. That was our job and the audience loved it, and although we got a lot of promotion from the show we knew that was only the platform to build upon. We understood that there was a lot more work to be done.

There were many more shows to do, to constantly promote and market ourselves, things like American Bandstand and The Carol Burnett Show. We did all of those shows but none of them ever quite matched the excitement or impact of that night at the Ed Sullivan studio in New York. Our performance helped launch our first two singles and we didn’t look back from there.

It has been nearly six years since Michael’s death, and all of us brothers still see a lot of each other. We started touring again a few years back and right now we’re working on a new record and we’re all doing well. It feels great to still be making music 46 years after the picture was taken, and I’m loving sitting back a bit more and enjoying the fans, the travelling, the recording and the performing. It’s all great fun right now.

Interview by Nick McGrath for the Telegraph


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