Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Scoop on Weldon McDougal III

To all the fans, brand new fans and followers of J5 Collector’s fabulous blog, I want to introduce to you a very good friend of mine over the last 10 years, Weldon Arthur McDougal III. I first had the pleasure of being introduced to Weldon through a mutual friend, Phoenix, author of the book Touched By The Jacksons. I’ll never forget that day, I was at work and the phone rang, it was my friend Phoenix. He and I spoke briefly and then he introduced me to Weldon. I was like a kid in the candy store! I couldn’t believe I was actually speaking to someone who worked with The Jackson 5! Holy Toledo! I had no idea what I should ask, what I shouldn’t ask, but whatever I did it must have made an impression on him. I do remember asking him if it was ok for me to call from time to time and he said “Yeah man, no problem." And the rest as we say is… history.

For many years, I’ve been a huge follower and supporter of J5 Collector and I thought I would show my appreciation and contribute to the best J5 blog I’ve seen thus far! I offered a suggestion to spotlight an interview with Weldon and J5 Collector was all for it!

Here goes, I hope everyone enjoys it!

How It All Started...

An Interview with Weldon McDougal III

1) What was your role at Motown?
My role at Motown was pretty spread out. When I got there there was only one other promotions man. I took care of the East Coast. The gentleman at Motown, who thought I was fabulous, was Irv Beagle. He asked me to work Boston, New York, Jersey, and Washington, D.C. It was me and a guy named Eddie Biscoe, he was a fabulous guy! He knew everything about all the artists, he lived and breathed Motown. He encouraged me. I felt the same spirit he did and we went out there and promoted records.

2) Where did you first meet The Jackson 5?
I first met the Jackson 5 at the High Chaparral; it’s a night club in Chicago. They were there to do a talent show. At the High Chaparral, whoever won the talent show would get a paid salary to work on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I was there to see who would be the winner that week. And the winner of that week was the Jackson 5. I was introduced to Joe Jackson as the Motown promotions man and he told me “Hey man we wanna be on Motown” and I said, “Man, that ain’t what I do. I promote records." I didn’t want to discourage him -- I just didn’t want to misrepresent myself with people and tell them that I could get them on Motown.

At that time, I had never gotten anyone on Motown and I never thought of it. My job was to promote records and that was hard enough. When I saw Michael and the guys, I told them that Bobby Taylor, who was a guy I hung out with, got a production deal with Motown. He could produce anybody and they [Motown] would at least listen to the records he produced. Bobby Taylor and The Vancouvers were the headliner for that weekend at the High Chaparral. I told the guys "When you come in on Friday, you’ll see Bobby Taylor and he might be interested in you guys." I saw Bobby the next day and told him how good I thought they were and they were interested in being on Motown. Bobby said he would see what he could do with them and the rest is history.

3) To end all speculation, Weldon, you were the one that opened the gates getting The Jackson 5 on Motown?
That’s true.

4) How easy or challenging was it promoting their first Motown single, “I Want You Back”?
Well, part of my job was to personally introduce the artists to the disc jockeys. I came up with an idea to help push them along by doing a five city tour. I was laughed at. There was no money to send them on a five city tour, which included the guys, their father, and their road manager who was their uncle. The people didn’t accept the record at first.

Over the next couple of months in another meeting it was decided that The Jackson 5 would become Diana Ross’s protégés. She would put her name to them since she was #1 at the time. I’ll never forget we made a postcard advertisement and I’d give them out when I would promote the record. It helped a little bit, but not much. The challenge had nothing to do with The Jackson 5, it was Motown. We had Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, The Four Tops, The Temptations, so many artists on the charts already. The average record list at a radio station was 40 records. If we had ten records, we had a little too many because there were other record companies as well. We were fortunate to have that many hits. Anytime a new artist comes in, they (radio stations) weren’t always ready to jump on them.

Now you may wonder how The Jackson 5 really made it. They really made it when they went on the Ed Sullivan Show. The day after the show, I got so many calls asking me for a copy of “I Want You Back” so the radio stations could play it. Ed Sullivan’s show had a great audience, black and white kids saw the show, and even the pop stations called me for the record.

5) Berry Gordy had a goal in making the first four Jackson 5 singles #1. How did all of that happen?
Bobby Taylor was recording them, and he recorded a lot of songs that he felt were ideal for the group. When Berry Gordy finally saw them, he decided to produce them in the way he felt they could sell records. So “I Want You Back” is the song that Berry Gordy and The Corporation came up with, along with the term “bubble gum soul." Berry was a busy guy, he worked closely with The Supremes and he would attend a lot of their gigs. So, as I mentioned, “I Want You Back” didn’t start out like a gangbuster, it trickled in there. But after The Ed Sullivan Show, the rest of it was easy to an extent because everyone was waiting for the next Jackson 5 record. So for the next 3, there it was!

6) Do you remember attending your very first Jackson 5 concert?
The first one I remember was at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. Then they started doing big venues. It was a sellout house!

7) How would you describe The Jackson 5?
The Jackson 5 was a big group, the fans loved them all! I don’t believe the fans liked one more than the other. Now the teenage girls had certain ones that they wanted to marry, which made it hard for Michael and Marlon to get that type of reaction because they were so young. I’ll give you an example. When they would have guests come up to the room and speak to The Jackson 5, the guests always wanted to go in Jackie and Jermaine’s room. They would be having popcorn or whatever they were doing, nothing risqué. I remember Michael would be going down to their rooms knocking on the door trying to get in himself. He was the little brother and wasn’t hanging out with his older brothers all the time.

8) Many fans know that you have a book called The Michael Jackson Scrapbook, which contains some of the very best candid photos, how did you start taking photos of the Jackson 5?
That came about because of Michael and Tito mainly. They both bought Nikon cameras. Michael always wanted me to use his camera and take photos of whatever he was doing. We were in Cincinnati at the World Series where they sang the National Anthem and there was strict security on the field. I had Tito, Jermaine and Michael’s camera and started taking pictures of them singing. There was a guy that worked for the press that wanted buy a roll of film for $50. The first guy I ran into was Tito and I told him about the guy wanting to buy the roll of film, Tito said no problem. We split the money. Tito felt really good about making the $25 even though he was making money all the time. I’ll never forget when we were leaving Cincinnati the next day -- the front page of the newspaper had a picture of The Jackson 5 that I took. Crystal clear! It was done very well! After that, I bought my own camera and started taking my own pictures of them on the fly all the time.

9) In the early years, the Jackson 5 eventually caught the attention of mainstream publications like 16 magazine, Fave, and Tiger Beat. How did The Jackson 5 start a relationship with Right On! magazine?
I used to go out with one of the secretaries of Laufer Publications. Mr. Laufer told me he was going to start a magazine just for The Jackson 5. I didn’t believe it and next thing you know, the first issue had nothing but The Jackson 5 in it. At the time, I thought it would only be one or two issues, but it went on for many years.

10) Weldon, there is a photo of Michael wearing a very unique hat in your book The Michael Jackson Scrapbook, what’s the story behind that odd looking hat?
I was in Brazil and there was a guy that was the number 1 entertainer at the time and he dressed like a clown. I went to his show, it was wild and at times there would be watermelons thrown in the audience. So I was introduced to the guy and he said, “I hear you used to work with Michael Jackson”, I said “Yeah”. He took his hat off and said "Next time you see Michael Jackson, tell him I said hi and I want him to have this hat." Michael came to my house in Philly since he was nearby in New York. He looked at my record collection and saw the hat. I told him a guy gave it to me for you, and he tried it on and I took photos of him in the hat. When Michael left my house, he left the hat.

11) Is there any song by The Jackson 5 that is special to you?

Each song that they came out with is special to me, but I’m not a fan of which song is better than the other. I will say “Got To Be There” always rings out when I think of Michael Jackson. That record was easy to promote, they were on a roll, they became hotter than The Temptations, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, and Marvin Gaye. People were ready for them! I remember the disc jockeys would be waiting for the next Jackson 5 record and people would be glued to the radio waiting to hear the new single.

12) Did you ever get a chance to watch the Jackson 5 recording sessions?
Yes, several of them. To be honest, I’m also a record producer; I produced “Yes I’m Ready” by Barbara Mason and if you are producing a record it’s exciting. If you are just standing around and watching it’s boring.

13) What is next for Weldon McDougal III?
On July 4th I went to London and participated in a special that will come out in August or September, called The Real Story of Michael Jackson. Most of the things we’ve discussed today are going to be in that TV special. I provided them with pictures from The Michael Jackson Scrapbook, so the fans will be able to see those photos if they don’t have the book. The guy that is doing the show is David Gest.

A funny story…David told me that he went to Michael’s house and Michael showed him The Michael Jackson Scrapbook and Michael wouldn’t let him touch it, he thumbed through the pages himself and he didn’t want anyone to mess up his book. That was exciting putting together that book and I saw the book for sale the first time at a train station coming home from New York. I still have a copy of my own book and it’s kind of beat up.

Adam Worthy (Scoop Newsworthy) has been a Jackson 5 fan since 1981 when he first saw the Jacksons on TV at age four, and he has been a collector since 1991. He loves to listen to music, dissect music, make music, and spend time with his wife and children.


  1. Question for you, Scoop -- do YOU have a copy of The Michael Jackson Scrapbook? It's a pretty rare collectible.

    It's so interesting that it was one of Michael's prize possessions.

  2. Great interview Adam! I enjoy reading about Mr. McDougal! It was a real pleasure.

    I am bless and highly favored to own the Scrapbook. It is such a rarity to have!

  3. Yes, I have a signed copy of the Michael Jackson's a highly sought after collectible.

  4. Hey Thanks Corey! I enjoyed your review of What You Don't Know...a very underrated song, would have been a great B-side.

  5. my copy has a written inscription inside.

    To _______ best wishes, Weldon McDougal III?

    i can't remember to whom Weldon addressed it to. all of my 50+ Thriller era books are in storage.

  6. as you can guess my copy is second hand.

  7. Wow, how could someone give that away, especially an autographed copy?

  8. I wish McDougal would put it on PDF and sell it that way. Really informative column, Scoop, I loved it. Those unsung Motowners did so much we'll never know. I'd like to hear more about his job, and his record producing. "Are You Ready" is an incredible record. I wonder how he felt about K.C. of the Sunshine Band doing it in 1980. I'd buy a McDougal autobiography! Motown is so interesting. I'd also like to see a feature on Suzie Ikeda, she was in the studio coaching Michael on vocals in the early days, Deke Richards and those other Corporation fellas, and of course Bobby taylor. Love this blog, there's so much we don't know know know know know know know!

  9. Weldon is one of my best friends. He has always been a straight shooter that tells it like it is. Way to go Weldon.

  10. Weldon Mcdougal has passed away this morning after a five week battle with cancer! Weldon you will not be forgotten. RIP

  11. Weldon has passed, not sure what happened or if he was ill. Rest In Peace Weldon

  12. Unfortunately, Weldon passed away Friday morning. He will be missed

  13. I was so proud to come across this amazing article RIP Mr Weldon and I thank you for the kind words you Said about My Father late great Eddie Biscoe written in the beginning of this Article Scoop this was an excellent find I to was a Jackson Fan and My father contributions with Motown make me proud to be his son

    All The Best

    Taylor Biscoe