Monday, January 10, 2011

Takin' Care of Busines withTcB!

TcB! was the first fanzine exclusively devoted to the Jackson 5. Today one of the rarest Jackson collectibles in existence, TcB! began showing up on newsstands throughout the United States in the autumn of 1970, selling for 50 cents. Because it was produced by Motown Records, it was also advertised for sale on the inner sleeve of Jackson 5 albums beginning with the Maybe Tomorrow LP, so that young fans could send away directly to Motown to get a copy in case they had missed it when it was on sale in their neighborhood shops.

In 1970 the acronym "T.C.B." was a popular slang expression, like "far out" and "groovy." The letters stood for "Taking Care of Business" and implied that you were focusing on the things that truly mattered and were important. And that is exactly what the fanzine TcB! did when it devoted its entire first issue to the phenomenal Jackson 5.

Hard as it may be to imagine in today, forty years ago the Jackson 5 was virtually invisible in the mainstream popular print media. Although the group was tearing up the charts in 1970 with four number one singles in a row, were breaking attendance records wherever they appeared in concert, and were nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Performance by a Contemporary Vocal Group (up against The Beatles, The Carpenters, Chicago, and Simon & Garfunkel), teen magazines at the time rarely even mentioned these five incredible young brothers.

Good-looking, clean-cut and talented, The Jackson 5 would appear to be every marketing executive's dream except for one thing: they were Black. And back in 1970 American society did not seem to know what to do with Black teen idols. There had simply never been such a thing up until that time. But times were changing and, by the sheer force of their talent and enormous appeal, The Jackson 5 were destined to break the barriers and clear the path for the young Black performers who would follow them. It would, however, be nearly two years before they were regularly featured in teen fanzines such as 16, Spec, Tiger Beat, Fave, and Flip (and even then the editors of some of these 'zines had a perennial problem with telling Marlon and Michael apart).

While over in the mainstream, The Jackson 5 were being co-opted, white-washed and re-created as a comparatively bland family act known as The Osmonds (who were being plastered across the pages of the afore-mentioned teenie mags), Motown got busy and created its own fan magazine for their hottest young group. By the time TcB! hit the newsstands late in 1970, young J5 fans were hungry for facts, articles, photos and pin-ups of Michael, Marlon, Jermaine, Tito and Jackie. In fact, we were starving for details. We wanted the full story behind those fantastic voices we heard singing to us on the radio. We needed more pictures than the first three LPs offered us: we wanted pictures we could hang on the wall.

TcB! delivered. Against a glossy, vibrant red background, a full-color cover photo of The Jackson 5 stopped the hearts of many a young fan making a routine check of the magazines at the corner store in neighborhoods across America. Bright yellow letters spelled out the words we had dreamed to see in print:

We thought we had died and gone to heaven.

Inside, TcB! was filled with articles, photos and -- gasp! -- PIN-UPS! There was one full-page glossy color pin-up of Michael, one of Jermaine, one of The Jackson 5, and even a double-page color centerfold poster of the whole group. Full-page black-and-white pin-ups accompanied feature stories about each of the five brothers, which revealed such interesting tidbits as the fact that Jackie had a fondness for antique furniture and the color yellow, and that Marlon wanted to trade places with a bank president for 24 hours so he could sit in the vault and "just look at all that bread."

Throughout the magazine there were dozens and dozens of photos of the five Jackson brothers, most never seen before and many never seen since. The camera followed The Jackson 5 to a costume fitting one day, for example, and two pages of TcB! show the J5 trying on and modeling some of the fabulous threads they wore in concert in the early Motown days. On another day, the rigors of rehearsing for an upcoming concert were captured by a TcB! camera. We see Michael and Marlon clowning around during a break and Jermaine and Tito looking very serious about their music once rehearsal resumes, in addition to great shots of The Five practicing all their stunning dance routines in front of floor-to-ceiling mirrors.

One of the articles that seemed the least interesting in 1970 has turned out to be one of the most interesting 25 years later. "The Secrets in The Jackson Five's Handwriting!" called on graphologist Dr. Coleridge Taylor to analyze the J5's signatures. This is what he had to say about Michael:
Now here's a fellow who might have grown up to be very shy and quiet and the kind of kid who always hides in the back of the classroom for fear the teacher will call on him. But just in time, he caught himself and turned into a leader, a fellow who takes the first step and will rock out or break free or do just about what he feels like doing, providing it's okay. I've never talked to Michael but I bet he doesn't plan to get married till he's thirty -- if ever! He's generous too but can be very unpleasant if someone crosses him the wrong way... He wants to know exactly where he's at all the time. You may not realize it, but he's always watching every move someone makes.
All that insight and accurate forecasting from just 14 letters scrawled by an 11-year-old kid? Amazing!

While Issue #1 (dated Spring 1971) of TcB! was a one-of-a-kind publication, it did seem to inspire the creation of Right On! magazine, the first issue of which was published in October 1971. The latter was a monthly teen fanzine devoted exclusively to Black stars which is still being published today (and which still occasionally features a Jackson on its cover). In its early years, Right On! was filled with news and photos of the Jackson 5 and, before long, many young fans forgot the hunger they used to feel in 1970.

For those of us who were lucky enough to find TcB! back then, we'll never forget the feast it provided for our eyes and our souls. We consumed it -- quite literally -- clipping out all the photos to put on our walls or share with friends or paste into scrapbooks. That's what makes it such a rarity among collectors today. Most collectors, even of the long-time, die-hard variety, have never seen it themselves first-hand. It shows up only occasionally on eBay. One of my collector friends recalls having seen a copy of TcB! advertised for sale several years ago for $250.00 and today he regrets that he didn't buy it, because he has never seen it advertised for any price since then.

If you are one of the fortunate few to own a copy of TcB!, rest assured that you have one of the rarest Jackson collectibles in the world, not to mention a proud relic of Black American entertainment history. But if, like the vast majority of fans, you have never even seen it, we I will be sharing highlights from TcB! over the coming week.

First published in a slightly different version in Jackson Magazine in 1995. Special thanks to Chris Cadman for his encouragement and friendship.


  1. Wow, I never knew all this. Do you own any TcB magazines yourself?

  2. There was only one issue, and I still have the one I bought back in 1970.

  3. Was there really only one number of this magazine? I wish I see one of them on ebay one day, but I guess I'll need a lot of money!

  4. i just wanted to say that j5 collector ROCKS..
    thank you for wonderful contriutions!

    always best, franklin fuentes

  5. Anyone know what it is worth today
    I have one thinking of listing it on ebay