Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Snapshot of History

732toni recently bought a bunch of Joe Jackson's stuff in an auction, and is now re-selling it all, piece by piece, on eBay. The most interesting piece in the bunch so far is this old -- really old -- family snapshot of the Jackson 5 performing.

It can be yours for $1,149.00 (plus $40 postage -- go figure). I don't feel a need to own it, but I do feel a need to look at it and discuss it here. (View the slightly larger and enhanced quality version from MJPhotosCollectors below)

I have never seen this photo before, but I have seen others where they are wearing these same stage costumes and are about the same size. They wore these outfits for the Roosevelt High School Talent Show in Gary:

I don't know if anyone has ever been able to track down the exact date of that legendary talent show, but one of the things that is most interesting about Joe's snapshot is that it actually has a date on the photo's edge: FEB 1966. Since I was around back then, I know that the dates like this on photos were not necessarily the date the photo was taken but rather, the date it was developed. So this photo might have been taken earlier than February of 1966, but it wouldn't have been taken any later than that. (Some families waited for months to get photos developed because you didn't take your pictures in to the shop until all the photos on the roll of 12 or 24 or 36 were used up. That's why all my family's Christmas photos were usually dated April of the following year and included photos from my brother's birthday, my birthday, and Easter.)

The Jackson 5 performing at Roosevelt High School with Michael at the right on bongo drums
I would guess the snapshot was taken after the talent show because Jermaine didn't have a bass yet when they performed at Roosevelt High. In fact, he was the group's lead singer and Michael was part of the group's percussion section that included Marlon on tambourine and Michael on bongo drums.  In the first  snapshot, Michael and Jermaine look like they were sharing vocals, but we'll never know if they were harmonizing or if one was singing lead and the other was singing backing vocals. What we do know is that Michael had moved up from being the group's bongo player.

Other than the date, the next best thing about this photo is that it's in color. Who knew that their cummerbunds were pink? 

The snapshot doesn't offer any real clues about where this performance is taking place. It doesn't look like a nightclub or a school. The floor, walls, and recessed ceiling all look institutional, like this may have been a VFW Hall or some sort of similar venue. The wall behind them looks like it has a sliding plywood panel of some sort or a portable backdrop. I am perplexed by the curtains, the long flowered drapes not quite covering some big turquoise-colored boxy thing. And there, right in the lower right corner, is what looks like an antique Louis XVI side table, sort of like this one  (which you can get on eBay right now for $975):

But on closer inspection, I think it might just be a regular old stand of some sort where the Jacksons have placed Michael's bongo drums.
I know the snapshot is a blurry and it's hard to tell, but a set of bongo drums certainly makes more sense than a Louis XVI table. And for J5 fans, it's a much more satisfying speculation -- even though Michael was starting to take on some vocals at this point, it's nice to know that he was still keeping the bongos handy. Just in case the singing thing didn't work out.