Liz Nicholls chats to singer, songwriter, guitarist and dad Tito Jackson
Q. Hello Tito and thanks for coming to play in this country for your 50th anniversary. 50 years – how does that feel?
“It’s been a great trip! In the early days, as brothers we couldn’t have dreamed we’d be what we are today. To have such a longevity is a blessing – we can put ourselves in the same category as the Stones. Every turn of the way there’s something new to be excited about which keeps our motivation going. We’re very proud of the 50 years we’ve done. We keep making the music and telling our story and being The Jacksons – that is who we are.”
Q. Do you feel Michael is present with you on stage?
“Yes, Michael is constantly in our minds while we’re on stage. We’re performing songs of the Jackson Five and we feel him with us. We do some of Michael’s music on stage and he’s certainly remembered.”
Q. I hear you love playing in England?
“Yes; England has always been a love, not just for me but the whole group – it was the first country we ever visited outside of America. When we got there in the early 1970s we got such a reception – they chased us through the airport, gathered outside our hotel singing Jackson Five songs, the streets blocked off and everything! England’s history, beauty and the people mean we love performing for English people!”
Q. What was it like meeting The Queen?
“I played at the Jubilee show in the ’70s and met The Queen and Charles – Elton John played, too. We had all the instruction on how to greet The Queen – there’s certain protocol, you see, you mustn’t touch her hand and all that… and we were nervous! But when we met her she was very nice to us, made us feel so comfortable around her. It’s a memory you’ll never forget, meeting The Queen of England; I have that picture of us all on my mantelpiece. For us, it’s right up there with being inducted into the Hall of Fame.”
Q. Do you listen to new music?
“Yup, I try to put my ear on everything I can. Even if you don’t care for a song when you first hear it, you can get something from it. I listen to as much as possible; it keeps me musically trained so that’s where I’m at with that. I like Bruno Mars, Maroon 5, Beyoncé, The Weeknd… and all music by The Jacksons, 3T stuff [Tito’s sons’ band], and Janet’s too, of course!”
Q. Did you encourage your sons [TJ, Taryll and Taj] into the industry or was it a natural career choice for them?
“It was natural because when they were little boys they always went to their uncles’ shows. They’d lip synch along to I Want You Back and ABC and I’d say ‘what are you guys doing?’ And they’d say ‘we love the music and want to be like our uncles’. And I said ‘there’s more to it than lip synching – if you’re gonna be like us you’ve got to learn some instruments!’ The next four years we’d mess around, having so much fun with drums and keyboards and, the next thing you know, they were playing a Yamaha convention and have been going ever since. I’m proud of my sons – you’ll be hearing more from them!”
Q. Would Janet or Latoya ever be part of the group?
“As far as sharing a stage, it’s a possibility. It’s just scheduling – a task that can be tackled! We’re all excited for Janet, the baby of our family who now has a baby of her own; she’s doing great. She’s very happy about her new son and can’t wait to get herself back on the road someday.”
Q. What advice would you give to any budding musician? “Remember showbusiness is fun but has lots of setbacks. There are good avenues you can take, but bad ones, too, which lots of artists have taken. If you can keep your head level, make the best music you can, love your fans and never rely on one hit, you’re good. Without fans you don’t have a leg to stand on – they support you and keep you standing. I’ve never refused a picture or autograph. You owe them… Yep – remember your fans!”