On July 23, the Jackson 5 had their Motown audition, for which they performed James Brown’s then current hit "I Got the Feelin'". Berry Gordy was not in attendance, but the audition was videotaped and sent to him in Los Angeles. Gordy's initial reluctance to sign the group disappeared when he finally saw the boys perform. Gordy decided to sign the Jackson 5 to Motown, and hosted a party at his Detroit mansion on November 25, 1968, to introduce them to the Motown staff and stars. Motown began negotiations to buy out the Jackson 5's Steeltown contract, completing the deal in March 1969. By the summer, Bobby Taylor began producing the group's first recordings at Motown's Hitsville U.S.A. recording studio in Detroit. The early Taylor-produced Jackson 5 records were all covers of both contemporary hits and Motown-standards, including Sly & the Family Stone's "Stand!" and their famous rendition of The Miracles' "Who's Lovin' You", written by Smokey Robinson. Gordy moved the Jackson 5 and Joseph to California, and he and Suzanne de Passe began the process of grooming them as the label's next big act, while the rest of the family remained in Gary. While looking for a house in California, Joseph, Jermaine, Tito, and Jackie lived with Berry Gordy, Marlon and Michael lived with Diana Ross in her California home.
Motown's marketing team prepared press kits and other promotional material to begin The Jackson 5's entrance into the mainstream music industry. Motown publicity significantly altered the group's history, publicizing the ages of most of its band mates as younger than they were — Michael's age changed from eleven to nine to make him appear cuter — and identifying unrelated band musicians Johnny Jackson and Ronnie Rancifer as cousins of the Jacksons. In a major marketing coup, Gordy and Motown decided to attach the group to an established star to increase public curiosity. Thus, it was decided that Motown star Diana Ross would "discover" the group as was explained in all early press kits. According to their official Motown biography, referenced in several early interviews and liner notes, Diana Ross (and, in some versions of the story, Berry Gordy alongside her) was introduced to the Jackson 5 by Gary, Indiana's mayor, Richard G. Hatcher, at a benefit concert that the Jackson 5 were described as having played for the mayor in 1969. Impressed, Ross (and Gordy) had the act signed.
When it did, Michael became the first person born during the "Hot 100" era, established by Billboard Magazine, to reach the number one position on the Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart.