GARY -- For two numbers and an encore, he was on the same stage with the Jackson 5.
Reynaud D. Jones, who played lead guitar, was the tallest of the group in the photo taken at the 1965 Roosevelt High School Talent Show. To his left was Marlon, Tito, Jackie, Jermaine and Michael on the bongos.
Jones, now director of residential services at Lake County Community Corrections, believes that was the moment when the world outside their midtown neighborhood first recognized the rock 'n' roll phenomenon that became the Jackson 5.
Jones said it happened when they won the competition that night with their performance of "My Girl," and his own creation, "Shake It Baby."
"That was the launching. Publicity spread by word of mouth. When I went to school the next day, the teachers were all talking about this new group and kids dancing and singing. It just spread through the city," he said.
Jones, who lived across the alley from the Jacksons' home at 23rd and Jackson, said he first came to know them through his classmate, Maureen "Rebbie" Jackson, the oldest of the siblings. He recalled their father, Joseph, a strict disciplinarian and an enthusiast of rhythm and blues. "You could always hear music coming out of the house," Jones said.
"You wouldn't believe the atmosphere in Gary in the 1960s. There were talent shows at Tolleston High, the Memorial Auditorium and Indiana University (Northwest). If you weren't in sports, you were on the stage."
Detroit's Motown groups were sweeping the country. He and his friends shopped for the newest 45s at downtown record shops like Camay's on Broadway and watched them on Dick Clark's Bandstand and the Ed Sullivan Show
"We were all mesmerized by this. We patterned ourselves after the Temptations, the Miracles, the Marvelettes James Brown, Marvin Gaye," he said.
Jones, who had his own group called the Epics, said he, Milford Hite, who played the drums, and the Jacksons' common interest in rock 'n' roll led to their performing together at local yard parties and barbecues.
"We would practice in my basement, because the Jacksons didn't have a basement. Michael was very energetic with his dancing even then," he said.
He said they decided to try their luck at the Roosevelt High Talent Show in spite of difficulties they knew they would encounter. With Jackie, the oldest brother at age 14 and Michael 7, the Jacksons were too young for a show normally reserved for high school and young adult acts.
But Jones, a student at the school, got permission to enter them if he and Hite took part and the Jacksons' parents approved. "Joe said they weren't ready to do this. It took me some days to convince him to allow them on."
Jones said the Jacksons' parents appeared surprised at how crowd-pleasing their children were at the show. To him the timing was crucial to their progression of more talent shows, paid gigs, the Apollo Theater in Harlem and, finally, Motown Records itself.
He never performed with them again.
"The Jacksons have been so blessed. We had so many groups. So many youngsters set out on the journey to stardom," he said.
Bill Dolan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (219) 662-5328.
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