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Subject: Etta James Remembers Little Michael Sun May 06, 2012 10:09 am
In May 1968, the group was invited back to the Apollo to perform and, this time, be paid for their appearance. They were on a bill with Etta James, Joseph Simon and another family group, The Five Stairsteps and Cubie – a singer who was just two years old.
‘Michael was a hard worker,’ rhythm-and-blues singer Joseph Simon said in an interview, adding in an echo of the memories of practically everyone who ever worked on the same stage as the young Jackson star, ‘there was a part of me that thought he was a midget. His father was a slick businessman, I had heard. It would've been just like him to pass a midget off as a child, I heard. I remember going up to Michael and looking at him real close, thinking, Okay now, is this kid a midget or not?
‘“Hey man, stop starin' at me, okay?” he told me.’
Etta James January 25, 1938 – January 20, 2012
‘I remember him being talented, yes,’ Etta James said of Michael, ‘but polite and very interested too.
I was working my show, doing my thing on stage, and as I'm singing “Tell Mama”, I see this little black kid watching me from the wings. And I'm thinking, Who is this kid? He's distracting me. So I go over to him in between songs, while the people are clapping, and I whisper, “Scat, kid! Get lost. You're buggin' me. Go watch from the audience.” I scared the hell out of him. He had these big ol’ brown eyes, and he opened them real wide and ran away.
‘About ten minutes later, there's this kid again. Now he's standing in front of the stage, off to the side. And he's watching me as I work.’
After the show, when Etta was in her dressing room taking off her makeup, there was a knock on the door.
‘Who is it?’ she asked.
‘Michael,’ the young voice said. ‘Michael Jackson.’
‘I don't know no Michael Jackson,’ Etta said.
‘Yes, you do. I'm that little kid you told to scat.’
Etta, a robust black woman with dyed blond hair and a big, booming voice, cracked the door open and looked down to find a nine-year-old gazing up at her with large, wondering eyes.
‘Whatchu want, boy?’ she asked.
In a manner that wasn't the least bit timid, Michael said, ‘Miss James, my father told me to come on back here and 'pologize to you. I'm sorry, ma'am, but I was just watchin' you 'cause you're so good. You're just so good. How do you do that? I never seen people clap like that.’
Etta, now flattered, smiled and patted the boy on the head. ‘Come on in here and sit with me,’ she said. ‘I can teach you a few tricks.’
‘I don't remember what I told him,’ Etta recalled, ‘but I remember thinking as he was leaving, 'Now, there's a boy who wants to learn from the best, so one day he's gonna be the best.’
Etta James at Montreux Jazz Festival 1989 with The Roots Band
Source: The Magic, the Madness, the Whole Story by J. Randy Taraborrelli