The Jackson 5 made their network debut today (December 14, 1969), on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
Ed Sullivan introduced the “sensational group” as they began a rendition of Sly & The Family Stone’s single “Stand,” in clothes they purchased off the rack, in Greenwich Village.
The Jackson 5 went into their next song, “Can You Remember?” before finishing their set with their own hit single “I Want You Back.”
After the performance, Ed Sullivan nodded to Diana Ross, who was in the crowd cheering on Michael Jackson and the rest of the group.
By all accounts, the performance was an overwhelming success.
Motown promotional man Weldon McDougal accompanied The Jackson 5 to “The Ed Sullivan Show,” for their performance.
According to McDougal, prior to “The Ed Sullivan Show,” it was difficult for him to get “I Want You Back” airplay on the radio.
“When I went out to get it played, it was very difficult,” McDougal remembered in the book “Motown: The Golden Years.”
“Everybody said, ‘man who wants those little young guys? What are they? They don’t know nothing about love, and I can’t do nothing with these guys,'” McDougal explained.
This helped create the popular myth that Diana Ross discovered the group, when in fact The Jackson 5 were discovered by Gladys Knight and Bobby Taylor.
“Everything that we used to do, we used to do it on the back of another artist,” McDougal continued. “The Supremes were #1. Berry told Diana ‘let’s make The Jackson 5 your protégés.’ And then we wrote it up, ‘Diana Ross’ protégés, The Jackson 5.'”
The gimmick led to an appearance on the show “Hollywood Palace,” and eventually their opportunity to be on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
By January 1970, “I Want You Back” was number one on the R&B charts.