Thu | Jun 20, 2019

Father takes son out of Musical Youth - Michael Jackson respected group but passed up on picture

Published:Sunday | June 24, 2018 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Michael Jackson
British band Musical Youth with Frederick Waite (back row, second left)) in the 1980s.

Musical Youth's official biography, a printed 48-page keepsake, says, "it was in Birmingham that Michael and Kelvin Grant, Junior and Patrick Waite, and Dennis Seaton were born and grew up. It's still the boys' home base, the place they know and love and are glad to come home to after their trips around the world. But their parents never forgot their Jamaican roots, and the boys grew up hearing stories about their relatives back home, enjoying the delicious Jamaican food their mums cooked, and best of all, learning to love Jamaican music."

There could have been another name in Musical Youth with a Jamaican connection, but Toney Owens, co-founder of Musical Youth, along with Freddie Waite, put family preferences aside. Having migrated to England from Jamaica when he was 18 years old, Owens started the Cultural Music Workshop, with Waite ending up having two sons Junior and Patrick in Musical Youth. However, Owens' son "was learning to play the saxophone but was not serious, so I got rid of him out of the group".

Although the younger Owens did not get a shot at childhood stardom, things did not turn out too badly. "He is a bank manager and management consultant," Tony Owens told The Sunday Gleaner, chuckling.

With Pass the Dutchie and Unconditional Love (done with Dona Summer) under their young belts, Musical Youth caught the eyes and ears of members of another family very familiar with childhood musical stardom. Jermaine Jackson on the British television show Razmatazz, who told them how impressed he was. Owens related that Jackson said, "you guys are more talented than us the Jacksons. We were given songs to sing, backed by the Motown orchestra. You guys write your own songs, play, record.

"He told Michael about us and he wanted to meet us. We were recording the second album in Beverly Hills, USA, and he called us," Owens said. He did not believe, hanging up three times. "I thought it was a prank," he said. Someone else Owens knew called and said it was the real thing.

Musical Youth went to Michael Jackson's house and the interaction was good. Brooke Shields and Janet Jackson, Michael's brothers and father were also there. Owens wanted to record the moment and asked Jackson if he could take a picture of the "historical scenario".

"Michael is so smart. He was so down to earth - jeans and loafers, shoes heel lean. He was comfortable. I said, 'Michael, can we take a picture together?' He said ,'are we friends'? I said yes. He said, 'Do we have to take pictures to show people we are friends?'" Owens related. "I put down the camera."

"He just wanted to enjoy the day. It was a lovely day."