Thursday, July 1, 2010

Jackson 5 Stairsteps

Much was made of a rivalry between the Jackson 5 and the Osmonds in the early 1970s, but long before the Osmonds entered the pop music scene, the Jackson 5's biggest rivals were the Five Stairsteps, another musical act made up of pre-pubescent siblings. Made up of four brothers and a sister named Burke, the Stairsteps had a few years on the Jackson brothers -- the youngest member was a few months older than Jermaine (until their younger brother Randy Cubie joined the group -- more as a gimmick since he never really sang with them).

The Burke family was from the Chicago area, right next door to Gary, so the two groups played the same local venues, most notably the Regal Theater, where they were discovered by Curtis Mayfield. From 1967-72 they released over a dozen singles, first on Mayfield's Windy City label, including the gorgeous ballad "You Waited Too Long," and later on the Buddah label, but their only big hit was "Ooh Child" from 1970. [Note on the Soul Train clip how their performance appears to have been influenced by the Jackson 5's style.] By that time, they were no longer a group of cute kids and they looked and sounded more like an adult act, specifically the Fifth Dimension.

Some soul enthusiasts argue passionately that the Five Stairsteps were the more talented of the two groups, but they never got the breaks the Jackson 5 did. There's no question that they were a talented group, but they didn't have the Jackson 5's charisma. And they didn't have Michael.

Occasionally an old timer will recall seeing the Stairsteps and the Jackson 5 on the same billing at the Apollo. For a long time, I thought they were mixed up or engaging in wishful thinking. But I recently came across an article from June 1969 that promotes this very show as an upcoming event.

No word on what ever happened to the Lollipops.


  1. you have such a great blog. plz keep it running i check it daily. i also believe jimmy briscoe & the little beavers wouldve been a competition to j5, but for some reason the group wasnt commercially successful as j5.

  2. Very nice clip - didn't even know that was a girl singing. So talented. love the guy in the hat. TWTD