Sunday, June 27, 2010

Bobby Taylor Discovers the Jackson 5

It's not news to fans that Bobby Taylor (leader of another Motown group, Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers) discovered the Jackson 5 when he saw them performing at the Regal Theater in Chicago.

We all know the back story: Diana Ross got credit for the discovery because Berry Gordy asked her to "present" the Jackson 5 to the public, thereby launching their career and Ross's solo career in one fell swoop. Immediately -- and it may have had something to do with the language Motown used in their promotional materials, such as "the Jackson 5 were discovered by Diana Ross" -- the story began to circulate that Ross had discovered them while doing a benefit show for Mayor Richard Hatcher in Gary, Indiana. I suppose it was a more romantic story than the truth -- that they were performing on a gritty Chicago stage during a 10-night run when they were discovered by another struggling singer who just happened to have a recording contract and connections.

For years the story swirled around that it wasn't Diana Ross but Gladys Knight who discovered the Jackson 5. And sure enough Knight has gone on record saying that she had called the Motown office when she had seen the Jackson 5 on stage some months earlier and she suggested they might want to send someone down from Detroit to see them. But at the time she was new to the label and, by her own admission, didn't have much clout, so her suggestion was ignored. The Diana Ross discovery story stuck, even though many were suspicious of its veracity.

I always thought the truth came out about Bobby Taylor's role with getting the group to Motown in the 1988 documentary, Michael Jackson: The Legend Continues. During an interview, Marlon sets the record straight by telling us that it was Bobby Taylor who had discovered them. I always thought that was the first time Taylor was given credit. that is, until I found this article in the New York Amsterdam News from August 20, 1975:


  1. it's a shame this article wasn't printed on the front page of Billboard.

  2. Nice find. You are a wonderful researcher and I love that every posting has the history with it.


  3. Whomever was first to meet and suggest the J5 should record for Motown is debatable. According to a close source, someone brought the J5 to Bobby Taylor's attention and it wasn't Gladys Knight. Any want to take a wild guess?

  4. Contrary to popular belief, Diana Ross never discovered the Jackson, she merely 'presented' them on a show, that is all she did.
    If you have watched 'Michael Jackson: The Life Of An Icon' (available on DVD and Blu-ray) then you would know that it was BOBBY TAYLOR who discovered the Jackson 5. Bobby was a member of the soul band 'Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers'.

  5. Anon, first, I'm glad you are interested in J5 history. Now if you would read the above post a little more carefully, you would see that the question addressed is not whether Bobby Taylor discovered the Jackson 5 (all J5 fans know that), but WHEN the truth first came out. Most of us thought Marlon settled it once and for all in 1988 in the documentary "The Legend Continues." But this news article published in 1975 shows that the truth was out there much earlier.