BWW Interviews: Tito Jackson Chats Unity Tour and Jackson 5 Musical

BWW Interviews: Tito Jackson Chats Unity Tour and Jackson 5 Musical

The most legendary family in music history, The Jacksons, are returning to the stage this summer with their highly-anticipated Unity Tour 2012. A worldwide sensation since the 1970s, the Jackson brothers Jackie, Jermaine, Marlon and Tito will appear at concert venues throughout the country. This extraordinary reunion tour marks the first time the siblings have toured together since their groundbreaking Victory Tour in 1984.

Beloved by millions of fans across the globe for their soulful, sound, contagious stage presence, and unforgettable roster of hits, the Jacksons first achieved international superstardom with their late brother Michael - becoming the first group ever to have their first four singles hit #1 on the Billboard Charts. Throughout their four-decade long career, the group revolutionized music and pop culture, getting inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. The Unity Tour 2012 will be yet another milestone for the Jacksons, bringing the most famous family in music back together for a historic series of shows.

Tito Jackson took a moment from his busy schedule to chat with BWW about the group's current Unity Tour, as well as why he thinks a Broadway show based on the music of the Jackson 5 is a 'great idea.' 

The music that you and your brothers have made has influenced so many generations. I was wondering who some of your musical influences were. 

Oh, that's an easy one! There were quite a few. Of course, the whole Motown roster, from Stevie Wonder to Gladys Knight to The Temptations, The Four Tops, Sly and the Family Stones, The Bee Gees, The Beatles, Three Dog Knight. We just had a whole bunch of them. We even went as far as people like BB King, Joe Tex, The Mills Brothers, it goes way back. We loved that music and we tried to sing the things we heard on the radio.

Was it difficult to decide which songs you were going to include in this current tour?

It was difficult. There were so many songs to chose from. So we narrowed it down to the ones that the public in advance would want to hear. And of course we're doing a large variety of all our hit records. But we have a few songs that were popular songs that were never released as a single song, like Heartbreak Hotel. Old things like that, Man of War. So we do have a few songs in there that weren't singles, but that the public just absolutely loved.

Why did you decide to call it 'The Unity Tour'?

Well, to bring the world together. People think it's unity to bring the brothers together, but it's called the Unity Tour to bring the world together. We thought it would be something to help make the world a more peaceful place. That's what we're about, trying to improve our environment, our relationships with each other, and we sing about it all the time. And that's what Michael did and that's what the group always had done and what we're always going to continue to do.

That's wonderful. I understand that within the show there will be a special tribute to Michael?

Yes, we have a segment that is a tribute to Michael. As a matter of fact, the whole show is dedicated to Michael. We feel his spirit on stage with us. I can imagine him in my mind when I perform, taking control of the audience and doing what he did. He's missed very much but we all felt that he would want us to continue to entertain people, so he's with us and he supports us 100%.

I wanted to ask you about your upcoming performance at the Apollo Theater. That's really where it all began for the Jackson 5, so in a way, it's a homecoming. 

Yes. Yes. Apollo was a home for us. We haven't performed at the Apollo since I believe 1968 or '69. Prior to Motown. And we had done many shows at that theater in our early early career, prior to 'I Want You Back'. We would open up for James Brown, and Smokey and Gladys Knight and all these other professional artists, Jackie Wiilson. So to come back to the Apollo after all those years is such a pleasure. As we all know it's a landmark theater and every performer goes to the Apollo. Just to bring it back home will be a touching moment and an exciting moment.

It's going to be very special, I'm sure.

Yes it is!

I was lucky enough to see you perform on your Victory Tour - I saw the show in Philadelphia. 

Well, that was a major, major production, as you saw. It was a stadium tour and this is more of a concert hall type tour. It's a whole different set up but there's a lot of beautiful songs, a lot of excitement. The brothers are looking forward to perform for the other cities on the tour. We're just having the time of our lives. It's been a while since we've been together as a group and performing on stage as a touring group. Everything is so exciting and we're having so much fun and enjoying it. People are having a great time singing and enjoying the music. And that's what this show is about.

Yes, your music brings a lot of joy that's for sure. I read recently that when you were very young, your dad forbade you from touching his guitar, yet one day, your curiosity got the better of you. 

Yes, well I broke a string and didn't know how to fix it. I was 8 or 9 years old somewhere in that area. He told the boys 'don't touch my guitar', but my mama would let me play it because I was fascinated by the instrument. And you don't tell a young kid not to do something like that. You don't hear the word 'don't', you hear the other words, but you don't hear the word 'don't.'

So of course I was the one that was hard-headed and grabbed my father's guitar and after I broke the string, me and my mom did not have a clue what to do, so we just stuck it back in the case and put it in the closet. He pulls it out to go play it and he notices the string is broken and he wanted to know, 'whose been fooling around with my guitar?' Of course it was me, so he got me in his lap and said, 'show me what you know.' So I played him some songs and he was taken aback, he was so fascinated by it that he took me out the next day and bought me my own guitar. That's one of the most memorable memories in my life and touching moments in my mind because that's what started me as a musician. And after that, I would gather my brothers and I would learn all the songs on the radio, how to play them and how to sing them and we would try to be all these groups that we idolized, The Temptations and so on. That's one of the ways that we got started, besides singing with mama while she washed dishes. We'd sing a lot of country western songs with her and harmonized. it was just a beautiful time in our lives as children.

I understand you performed with your father and your uncles prior to being joined by your younger siblings.  

Well, I didn't sing with them, but I played a lot of music, a lot of blues and things of that nature which I still do today. I have a solo act where I travel the world performing some of the songs that I grew up on, just doing a lot of BB King, Bobby Blue Bland and all these other blue's legends, just performing their songs. And I've released my very first record a couple of months back. It can be purchased on iTunes if you care to check it out. And I'm going to continue. I was the first Jackson to play an instrument and the last Jackson to record a record! Even my children have recorded, so I said, 'what am I waiting for?' I was becoming a trivia question of, 'which Jackson never recorded a record?'

Oh no, you didn't want that!

I didn't want that so I did my record.

Do you have any plans to sing or record with your children?

Absolutely. I've recorded and they produced some of the songs on my LP and we've done some spins through Europe together. We're going to continue. They love the business as I do and one day they went to see their uncles perform at the L.A. Forum arena and they came home, they were just little tots, around 6, 7 and 8, and they grabbed broom sticks and mops and pretended to be the Jackson 5 with our records playing in the background. And I said, 'guys, if you like this and want to do this, you have to really play and sing, you can't fake it.' So unlike my father, I turned them on to my instruments and said, 'if you're really serious, come into the studio, pick up any of these instruments, the keyboards and guitar and have fun with them, you know, I have plenty of them.' And they were very serious, they would practice and when I saw that, I got involved. I'd help them tune them up. My wife at the time made sure that they kept a rehearsal schedule and their very first gig when they were just like 9, 10 and 11 years old, they played for Yamaha, the musical company. Yamaha hired them to play for them and that was a very exciting moment to have hire three teens for the first time. And it made them want to continue with what they're still doing today.

Do you think there will be a live recording of the Unity Tour?

I don't know. Anything is possible. We have a long way to go as far as this tour. We're going to take this tour abroad. We start in Asia and take it on to Europe. But after we do this first leg, the American leg, we're going back into the studio and record some more songs. It's well overdue, and we're gonna do our Asia and European tour and make the second round at some of the spots that we didn't visit here in America.

You have a busy couple of months coming up!

Oh yeah. But it's what we enjoy doing so it's not a stress or anything like that. We're very excited about it and it's what we love and what we've always done, so it's alright with us!

I'm wondering what you think of the idea of a possible Broadway show based on the music of the Jackson 5.

That's been talked about many times. That's very possible. That would be a nice play I think. Hopefully it could be put together in the future. Our minds are open to it and I look forward to something like that. It's never too late for that. Great, great idea!

The Jackson Unity tour will play at Englewood's bergenPAC on June 30th. bergenPAC is located at 30 North Van Brunt Street, Englewood, NJ 07631. For tickets and further information, please call: (201) 227-1030 or visit: www.bergenpac.org

The Jackson Unity tour will visit the following U.S. cities:

6/26 Cleveland; Jacob’s Pavilion
6/28 New York; Apollo
6/29 Atlantic City, N.J.; Borgata
6/30 Englewood, N.J.; Bergen PAC
7/1 Baltimore; Lyric Opera House
7/3 Washington; DAR Constitution Hall
7/6 Raleigh, N.C.; Raleigh Amphitheatre
7/7 Charlotte, N.C.; Time Warner Cable Uptown Amphitheatre
7/8 Atlanta; Chastain Park
7/10 Nashville; Ryman Auditorium
7/11 St. Louis; Fox Theatre
7/13 Dallas; Verizon Theatre
7/14 Houston; Bayou Music Theatre (Verizon Theatre)
7/17 Albuquerque; Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
7/18 Phoenix; Dodge (Comerica Theater)
7/20 Las Vegas; The Cannery
7/21 San Diego; Harrah’s Rincon
7/22 Los Angeles; The Greek Theatre
7/27 Saratoga, Calif.; The Mountain Winery
7/28 Lincoln City, Ore.; Chinook Winds Casino
7/29 Snoqualmie, Wash.; Snoqualmie Casino

For more information, please visit: http://www.thejacksons.com/

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