The Showmen / Chairman of the Board & Norman Johnson!

Gary: “When I first heard this song in 1961, I just loved it and I still do today.  The lead singer, Norman Johnson, eventually moved on and formed another group, which became even more popular in the late sixties and early seventies.  Now the ironic part of this is, my wife and I play a lot of Golf in the Myrtle Beach area and Norman Johnson, performs there today.

The Showmen

The Showmen
  • General Norman Johnson, lead singer (May 23, 1941 – October 13, 2010)  Johnson died on October 13, 2010, in suburban Atlanta, Georgia, due to complications of lung cancer)
  • Milton ‘Smokes’ Wells, bass guitar
  • Dorsey ‘Chops’ Knight, second tenor
  • Gene ‘Cheater’ Knight, first tenor
  • Leslie ‘Fat Boy’ Felton, baritone

One of their big songs:

  1. It will stand/ Minit/ 1961

Formed in Norfolk, VA, in the early ’60s, the Showmen consisted of Johnson (born Norman Johnson, May 23, 1943), Leslie Felton, Gene Wright, Dorsey Wright, and Milton Wells. In 1961, the group signed with Minit Records, which was based in New Orleans. Their first single was a rock & roll anthem, “It Will Stand.” Released in the fall of 1961, “It Will Stand” was a hit, particularly on the East Coast and in the New Orleans era, but it only peaked at number 61 on the pop charts. Nevertheless, the song’s popularity never decreased and it became a hit three years later, when re-released on the Imperial label. On its second release, the single peaked at number 80 on both the R&B and pop charts.

Between the two chart appearances of “It Will Stand,” the Showmen kept recording and performing. During this time, they had no national hits, but “39-21-46” became a significant regional hit. In 1965, the group signed with Swan Records, but none of the ensuing singles became hits. In 1968,

Johnson left the band and moved to Detroit, where he formed the Chairmen of the Board, who would later have hits with “Give Me Just a Little More Time,” “(You’ve Got Me) Dangling on a String,” and “Everything’s Tuesday” in the early ’70s. In the three decades after the break-up of the Showmen, “It Will Stand” and “39-21-46” remained popular on the East Coast “beach music” scene and Johnson would later return to this area, carving out a living as a local performer.

Now General Norman Johnson moves on and forms …

Chairmen of the Board

Chairmen of the Board

Video:  Not the greatest, but from 1970

     

  1. Give me Just A Little More Time/ Invictus 9074/ February 1970/ #3
  2. (You’ve Got Me) Dangling on a String/ Invictus 9078/ June 1970/ #38
  3. Everything’s Tuesday/ Invictus 9079/ September 1970/ #38
  4. Pay to the Piper/ Invictus 9081/ December 1970/ #13
  5.  

Holland/Dozier/Holland left Motown in 1967 to establish their own Invictus/Hot Wax group of labels, they teamed Johnson up with Eddie Custis, Danny Woods and Canadian born Harrison Kennedy as the new company’s flagship act, under the appropriate name “Chairmen of the Board”. Custis left the group after their second album.

Though they all had a turn at lead vocals, it was General Johnson’s quirky hiccup-laden style and his songwriting which became increasingly showcased, wit the group selling a million plus copies of “Give Me Just A Little More Time”. Chairmen of the Board also scored with “You’ve Got Me Dangling On A String”, “Pay To the Piper”, “Everything’s Tuesday”, “Working On A Building Of Love”, “Elmo James”, “Finders Keepers”, and the original version of “Patches”, a memorable ballad later covered with great success by Clarence Carter.

Kennedy, Woods and Johnson all went on to cut solo albums of varying quality, whilst Johnson wrote and produced (with Greg Perry) for other Invictus/Hot Wax acts, notably Honey Cone. Harrison having left, Johnson and Woods toured the UK in 1976 with six musicians as “Chairmen of the Board”, but were not as successful as before. The act was broken up immediately afterwards, Johnson having signed for Arista Records as a solo artist.

In 1978, Johnson reformed the Chairmen of the Board. In 1980, the new Chairmen founded Surfside Records, for which the group records for to this day.

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