Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Concert at West Side High

The day before the Jackson 5 arrived in their hometown, The Gary Crusader, the city's local Black newspaper, ran a full-page ad promoting their concert.

Amazingly, the superstar group was scheduled to perform two concerts the next day -- in a local high school gymnasium. We can only imagine what the sound quality must have been like, not to mention the challenges security must have faced with getting the capacity crowd of 8,000 excited teens in and out of a space not designed for such events. And not just any teens. These were teens who all felt like they had some sort of personal connection -- real or imagined -- to the Jackson family.

With all the press coverage given to the Jackson 5's return to Gary, I have found very little about the actual concert, which was, after all, the purpose of their visit. I have learned from press reports that the Jackson 5 performed for 50 minutes at each concert, and that they were preceded by their usual opening acts, Yvonne Fair and the Commodores.

There are, however, photos from the concert that come from various sources. here's one that was published in Jet magazine. The spotlight is on Michael, but look at Marlon in the background, singing his heart out.

I wish I had a better copy of this grainy photo I found in the Gary Crusader. I like it not only because it shows the whole group on stage but because you can see the scoreboard behind them, listing the players' names. These are the kids who would have played as Jackie's rivals if things had been different and he had had a normal life as a high school basketball star. You can also see the sign painted on the wall that says "West Side High School."

The oddest source for concert photos, though, was a strange compilation album that came out from Musico Records in 1971 called Getting Together with the Jackson 5. It includes only two songs from the Jackson 5, "We Don't Have to Be over 21 to Fall in Love" and "Some Girls Want Me for Their Lover." It also includes songs from artists such as Jerry Butler, Frankie Lymon, and the Platters -- but you'd never know it from the pictures on the cover, which are all Jackson 5. There are eight photos in all and they were all taken at the concert at West Side High School in Gary. They're grainy and they appear to have been taken by an amateur photographer. I've blown them up and am posting them here for your viewing pleasure.


  1. Love the ad and photos


  2. Is this picture taken backstage in Gary?

    Michael and Marlon wear the same clothes and the commodores were there too. But I'm not sure about Tito's shirt and Jackie's collar.
    Could it be Tito an Jackie wore another shirt for the 2 concerts?

  3. I don't think that photo was taken in Gary, if for no other reason than there would not have been a back stage at a high school gym. And given the location, I doubt the Jackson 5 had time to stand around and pose for pictures right before the concert. They would have been mobbed by kids who knew their way around the school. I think they were probably whisked in through a back door right before they started and then whisked back out after they were finished. All the news accounts say that the J5 were surrounded everywhere they went in Gary because everyone knew who they were, and felt they had a personal connection to them. Even adults expressed disappointment that they didn't get to talk to the kids who used to mow their lawns.

    In any case, identifying photos by clothes alone will only take you so far. Even after the J5 started having special concert costumes designed for them, they still wore the same clothes multiple times. Look how often Michael wore that orange-and-black daisy outfit, for example. And the costumes they wore in Gary they also wore a few months later in Columbus, Ohio. I would assume they wore them many times throughout 1971.

    The only reliable identifying marks are background setting (e.g. the West Side High sign) and source (e.g. the Gary Crusader).

  4. LOL :)
    That's good to know, I think I had it in the Gary folder on MJPC.
    I moved it and I added a group shot that I had for a long time but I always forgot to upload. It has all 5 brothers and Ronnie on stage, I wish I had a larger version but at least it's a pretty clear picture: