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Whether it's art, literature, bluegrass or blues, Black Kentuckians have had a hand in shaping it. The African American Folklorist explores that history by providing a more personal look at culture. Building upon the existing newspaper and podcast series, The African American Folklorist presents a chance to share lesser known stories of influential figures.

The African American Folklorist: Tito Jackson was always The Blues

Tito Jackson

Tito Jackson recently released a blues album called “Under Your Spell” featuring great cuts and legendary musicians.


He’s often, if not always remembered as the guitar player of the 70s pop boy band the Jackson Five, who took Motown, music, and the world by storm.


What most don’t know is that Tito has always played the blues. The Blues played and listened to by his father and uncle inspired Jackson to pick up his daddy’s guitar.


Most know the rest of that story. 


In this episode of the African American Folklorist, Tito shares his influences and beginnings with Blues, culminating in his solo album. 


An excerpt of the interview is below:

Lamont Jack Pearley: When you hear the name Jackson, depending on your age, the first thing that comes to mind is five brothers from Gary, Indiana that took music by storm. Though the lead singer of the Jackson Five became a pop icon. Everyone remembers the guitar-swinging young man with an afro, Tito Jackson, who says blues was in his home from an early age.

Tito Jackson: Every Saturday, my uncle Luther and my father would get together, you know, and they will play blues music, you know, with their guitars, and my father also blew harmonica, and I will stare at his hands you know and his fingers and try to do what he did. 

Lamont Jack Pearley: Tito says blues is in his blood. Even during his in his brother's early use of performance. 

Tito Jackson: Even the Jackson Five used to do blues in the show. You know, we used to do like five or six blues tunes in our show. Prior to Motown we used to do Bobby Bland, a couple of BB songs, and Bill Dogget, Little Johnny Taylor. Matter of fact, we opened enough for Johnny Taylor once I remember.

Lamont Jack Pearley: Jackson has entertained over five generations of fans. Currently, Tito has released his first complete blues album called “Under Your Spell.”

Tito Jackson: I promised myself that I would do a blues album a long time ago. You know when I decided to do an album. This is my sophomore album. And I decided I wanted to make a feeling of blues but have that connection sorta to the R&B and the pop world or the rock world. Because this all comes from the blues!

Lamont Jack Pearley: Jackson digs the Chicago style of blues. However, his main influence is BB King.

Tito Jackson: BB has always been my hero, you know, and I just adored his career. You know what he stood for? You know how long he stayed on top in the business. He did the same thing that a lot of our celebrities [did] such as Sammy Davis or Sinatra. You know these guys playing out there up until their senior age. 

Lamont Jack Pearley: Jackson speaks highly of today's young blues practitioners advocating for the connection between the musical generations. He fears if there are not enough young black blues musicians to pick up the mantle, we can, in fact, lose our roots. And the connection to our musical tradition.

Titi Jackson: It's very important because what's going to happen probably we're not going to be in the game of blues if we keep it up at the rate that we're going. And it's great to have young musicians, the few that we have such as a Kingfish (Christone Ingram). You know, these young men are blues guys, for the black people of the future, and they're very good. It's very, very important.


For the entire interview visit the


Lamont Jack Pearley is an applied folklorist, ethnographer and African American traditional music historian and practitioner enrolled at WKU in the African American and Folk Studies programs. He is an African American Studies Ambassador with the African American Studies Department, hosts a weekly segment on WKU Public Radio called the African American Folklorist, and is the editor of the African American Folklorist Newspaper. He was inducted into the New York Blues Hall of Fame as Great Blues Historian and TV/Radio Producer (2017) and Great Blues Artist (2018).
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