The Wheels Keep Turning: Tito Jackson's Standout Moments

Tito Jackson in 2019
Photo Credit
Marcus Ingram - ABA /Getty Images

Tito Jackson is a member of the royal family of soul music – and although he’s not necessarily the most famous member of that family, he has, over the years, managed to stand out in significant ways. First, there was that guitar – the big ol’ Gibson ES he played from the first time anyone saw The Jackson 5, throughout their time at the top of the pop and R&B charts. While at Motown, Jackson was never allowed to play in the studio (the Motown machine preferred to use session players on record), but he brought it live, executing his part of the group’s extensive choreography without missing a single note – not one single syncopated chord.

When the group broke to CBS Records in the mid-’70s (and were re-dubbed The Jacksons), Tito was given more opportunity to participate instrumentally in the group’s sound. And though he still isn’t the most famous member of the family, he continues to make music to this day – music that spans multiple genres and continues to find an audience. Let’s give a listen to some of Tito Jackson’s standout performances.

The Jacksons, "Man of War": The rhythm guitar comping on this track from 1977's Goin' Places isn’t flashy and, to be honest, it sits back in the mix, way behind the vocals and strings. The performance is notable, though, because it’s all Tito – no other session guitarists appear on the song.

The Jacksons, “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)”: It’s another all-Tito guitar track, but this one is even more notable, thanks to the facts that a) his playing is more than just straight rhythm – he works in subtle licks here and there that move the song forward; and b) it’s one of the group’s best and biggest hits, one that will still get dance floors filled and people moving, all these years later.

Betty Wright, “Give a Smile”: Outside his work with his brothers, Jackson played guitar on sessions by a range of performers, including this bright, positive jam by Southern soul queen Betty Wright. This is an early ‘80s tune, so there’s plenty of disco strings and beats, but if you listen closely, you can hear some tasty guitar licks popping up between the vocal lines.

“Wheels Keep Turning”: Tito released a new solo album in 2021, Under Your Spell, and this track is a horn-spiked Southern blues that sounds like a party on a platter.

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(Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images)
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