1964-1967: Early yearsEdit
Born and raised in Gary, Indiana, the Jackson brothers were guided early in their careers by their father Joseph Jackson, a steel mill crane operator and former musician, and their mother Katherine Jackson, who watched over the boys during the early years. Tito recalled playing around with his father's guitar while he was away working on Gary's steel mills. One night, Joe discovered Tito had been playing his guitar after Tito broke a string. Initially upset with his sons playing behind his back, he saw their potential and in 1964, Jackie, Tito and Jermaine formed The Jackson Brothers, including hometown friends Reynaud Jones and Milford Hite on guitar and drums respectively. By the end of the following year, the group's younger brothers Marlon and Michael joined the instrumental band playing tambourine and congas respectively.
Showing extraordinary talent at a very young age, young Michael began demonstrating his dance moves and singing ability at the age of five. Michael's moving rendition of "Climb Every Mountain" sung at his kindergarten talent show earned him a place in his brothers group. Before his eighth birthday, Michael was allowed to perform his song-and-dance routine at a talent contest held at Jackie's Roosevelt High School in Gary, helping his brothers win the competition. It was at that point that Tito's junior high school orchestra teacher Shirley Cartman began mentoring the group. She suggested replacing Jones and Hite with talented musicians Johnny Jackson (no relation) on drums and Ronnie Rancifer on keyboards. Tito moved up to lead guitar while Jermaine played bass guitar after several years as a rhythm guitarist.
Evelyn Lahaie, a local talent agent, suggested Joe to rename the group The Jackson 5 when they performed in her Tiny Tots Jamboree in Gary. After the contest win, the group began playing professional gigs in Indiana, Chicago and across the U.S. Many of these performances were in a string of black clubs and venues collectively known as the "chitlin' circuit". The group also found themselves performing at strip joints to earn money. Cartman got the Jackson 5 a record deal with Gordon Keith's local Steeltown label, and the group began making their first recordings in October 1967. Their first single, "Big Boy", was released in January 1968 and became a regional hit. This was followed by a second single, "We Don't Have to Be Over 21 (To Fall in Love)". A third, "Let Me Carry Your School Books", features Michael Jackson's singing with backing provided by The Ripples and Waves.