Archives Reveal Family History

Archives Reveal Family History
Paternal Geat-grand Parents, Mittie and Jacob Smith

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

MJ:This Is It and How it Was

As the media blanketed the star-studded premier of Michael Jackson's "This is It"
documentary, I pondered MJ and family’s incredulous journey, from his humble beginnings in my old stompin' grounds to the pinnacle of fame, wealth and celebrity. Many in the jazz community and those plugged in to major social media sites such as Face book and My Space are familiar with my early affiliation with Steel town Records. My group, the Valiants were among the roster of artists on the short lived label credited with having recorded the groups' first moderately successful tune Big Boy. What is remarkable is the support network of my friends and associates whom were there to help the J5 sensing something great on the horizon was unfolding, most simply wishing to help out. Now many opportunists are seeking a stake in the Jackson enterprise that could yield big dividends for years to come. Music historians, collectors, curators, wealthy conosuiers, and producers are vying for connections with authentic memorabilia as pop culture writers attempt to sort fact from fiction.In The Chicago Reader article, entitled The Find, writer Jake Austen attempts to sort out the Jacksons early recording history.Thus far most Michael Jackson autobiographical books and movies depicting their early recording years are frought with distortions,blatant misrepresentations and right out lies. My group The Valiants are not directly mentioned in this lengthy Chicago Reader article,however, my role and the group are referenced in Bob Abrahamian’s interview with Delroy Bridgeman on WHPK 88.5 FM Chicago based radio show "Sitting in the Park". Several members of the Valiants are referred to, they include the late, Solomon Ard, Ludie Washington, singer turned actor seen in Hollywood Schuffle, Jo Jo Dancer, UHF, he was a co-founder of Steeltown Records(deceased)and Delroy Bridgeman. These lifelong friends were my former singing mates during Steeltown Record’s beginnings, and they were of immense help to Joe Jackson and the boys. When I left for Nashville to attend college, members of the group lent their more mature voices to the J5's first soundtrack success Big Boy by augmenting the adolescents’ youthful vocals with a somewhat more robust vocal background. They escorted and drove the brothers to their after school rehearsals when Joe Jackson worked evening or night shifts at Inland Steel in East Chicago; fetched sandwiches for a weary young nine year old Michael during long recording sessions. These deeds were rarely boasted about over the years, it was simply what one did in that era to help one another get to the next level. My remembrances of the stories shared of a working class family's struggle to attain musical super success , makes the very surreal Hollywood premier seem real when I think back on those days.Then we knew the meaning of the African proverb, “It Takes A Village.” These are some of the shoulders upon which the J5 stood during the lean and mean years far away from the glitter of a Hollywood blockbuster premier.I plan to see This is It but I'll always remember how it was as well.

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