Oregon guitarist led Michael Jackson's 'Bad' tour


by By SCOTT BURTON, Kgw.com


Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:34 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 13 at 5:02 PM

SANDY, Ore. -- For 10 years local guitarist Jennifer Batten was at Michael Jackson's side.

Local toured with 'King of Pop'

Her ride with the King of Pop began in the late 80's in Los Angeles. Batten's agent told her Michael Jackson was auditioning guitarists for his first solo tour.

Batten knew the guitar solo from "Billie Jean." After playing a couple licks of other songs she asked if she could play the solo she knew. It was an audition that placed her in the front car of a roller coaster that would consume the next decade of her life.

Batten was named lead guitarist on the "Bad" tour. After a crash course of Jackson hits, she hit the road to Japan, Italy, England and back to the United States. One sellout crowd after another, she found herself playing before tens of thousands of fans.

"Every night when he played 'Billie Jean' there was a section where he would just dance and it was him and the drums. And that's when I would sit back because I didn't have anything to do and I would go man. That's when I would look out at 60,000 people that all knew his lyrics and all knew his dance moves and just really soak in what it meant," recalls Batten.

Batten continued on the "Bad" tour and then to the "Dangerous" tour, then to the "HIStory" tour. Each night taking the stage with a flowing mane of white blonde hair styled to Jackson's precise design.

"I kind of thought it was just another rumor because I'm pelted with rumors about Michael all the time," says Batten of hearing the news of Jackson's death.

It had been years since Batten had talked to Jackson. Their last exchange was a wrap party following the "HIStory" tour. But the news of his passing still hurt.

"It's a very intense story. Gosh, tribal villages in Africa know who he is."

At the peak of his superstardom, Batten says Jackson was lonely and isolated. Fans would surround his hotels on tour singing his music for hours into the night. He couldn't leave without being mobbed. Batten, herself, was followed for blocks by Jackson fans clamoring for memorabilia.

"They would follow me for miles, autograph seekers and photos and I really got a very small taste of what he's gone through," explains Batten.

While many wanted to be close to Jackson, many more wanted a piece of him. Those looking to take advantage of his incredible wealth were everywhere according to Batten.

"Because everybody knew he was wealthy, there were people who would stand in line for lawsuits to see if they could get their cut."

In the end Jennifer Batten will remember a man who influenced not only her life, but her musical career. He was a legend in the entertainment world and a world figure with whom she shared a stage year after year.