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Profile: Chairmen of the Board

By

The Chairmen of the Board

The Chairmen of the Board

source: chazzfest.com

Formed:

1969 (Detroit, MI)

Genres:

Pop-Soul, R&B, Beach Music, Rock and Roll

Principal Members:

  • General Johnson (b. Norman Johnson, May 23, 1943, Norfolk, VA): vocals
  • Harrison Kennedy (b. March 17, 1946, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada): vocals
  • Danny Woods (b. April 10, 1944, Atlanta, GA): vocals
  • Eddie Custis (b. 1938, Philadelphia, PA): vocals

Contributions to music:

  • Kings of the Carolina "beach music" scene who define the soul subgenre known as "shag"
  • Allowed the Motown songwriting team Holland-Dozier-Holland to break away from the label and establish their own
  • Singer/songwriter "General" Johnson is one of the leading lights of sweet soul, and also a major force in early-70s R&B
  • A major force in bridging the raw "Southern" soul of the Sixties with the funkier, poppier Seventies era
  • Johnson also created one of the great rock and roll anthems in the early Sixties with "It Will Stand," as well as crafting Clarence Carter's 1970 smash "Patches"

Early years:

The Chairmen of the Board were a supergroup of sorts, assembled by the famous Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting team, composers of the majority of Motown's legendary hits. When they reached an impasse with label head Berry Gordy over royalties, they left to start their own labels, Invictus and Hot Wax. Their first group on Invictus was the Chairmen, built around leader Norman "General" Johnson, who, while still a teen, had already established himself in rock history by recording "It Will Stand" for New Orleans' Minit label in 1961, widely considered one of the great rock anthems of all time.

Success:

Joining Johnson in this new vocal group were Danny Woods, a veteran of the Detroit scene, Harrison Kennedy, a Canadian who'd been in a well-received production of Hair, and Eddie Custis, who'd sung with Huey "Piano" Smith and the Clowns as well as Lee Andrews' Hearts. Controversy still swirls around the writing of the Chairmen's first big hit, "Give Me Just A Little More Time": it's credited to Ron Dunbar and Edith Wayne, which some claim is a pseudonym for the H-D-H team, used to avoid legal wrangling with their own boss at Motown. (Lamont Dozier, for his part, denies this.)

Later years:

Ironically, it was the group's very same "super" makeup that caused them to split within a few years: Custis left in 1972, longing to get back to pop ballads; by 1974, the hits had stopped coming as a result of the remaining three dividing their time over solo projects and squabbling over petty differences. Johnson went on to pen and produce several hit songs for other artists; in 1980, realizing he had a dedicated fan base in Carolina, he formed his own label, Surfside Records, and dedicated himself to replicating his classic "beach music" sounds for the faithful. A new Johnson-led group still tours today.

Other facts:

  • Johnson was discovered after his group, The Humdingers, opened for Chuck Willis and the manager of the Cookies, who were serving as backup, recommended him to Atlantic
  • Dick Clark once called "It Will Stand," by the Showmen, "the anthem of rock and roll"
  • The Showmen's "39-21-46" was originally written and performed as "39-21-40 Shape," but the label pressing plant made an error that stuck
  • The Chairmen were choreographed by the same man who'd taught Gladys Knight's Pips
  • "Patches" was originally supposed to be the follow-up to "Give Me Just A Little More Time," but was edged out by "Dangling On A String"

Awards/Honors:

    General Johnson:
  • GRAMMY Award (1971)
  • BMI Songwriter of the Year Award (1972)

Recorded work:

Top 10 hits:
Pop:

"Give Me Just A Little More Time" (1970)

R&B:

"Give Me Just A Little More Time" (1970)
"Pay To The Piper" (1970)
"Chairman Of The Board" (1971)
"Finders Keepers" (1973)

Other important recordings: "{You've Got Me) Dangling on a String," "Everything's Tuesday," "Since The Days Of Pigtails (And Fairy Tales)," "Hanging On (To) A Memory," "Men Are Getting Scarce," "Try On My Love For Size," "Patches," "I'll Come Crawling," "Bless You," "When Will She Tell Me She Needs Me," "Tricked And Trapped," "Working On A Building Of Love," "Bravo, Hooray," "Elmo James," "Bittersweet," "I'm On My Way To A Better Place," "So Glad You're Mine," "Morning Glory," "Lover Boy"
Wrote or co-wrote: "It Will Stand," The Showmen; "Patches," Clarence Carter; "Bring The Boys Home," Freda Payne; "Somebody's Been Sleeping In My Bed," 100 Proof (Aged In Soul); "Want Ads," "Stick Up," "One Monkey Don't Stop No Show," The Honey Cone Covered by: Clarence Carter, Angela Clemmons, Ron Dante, Bill Deal, The Lost Generation, Kylie Minogue, Joe Stubbs, Alabama, Archie Bell and the Drells, George Jones, Bruce Cockburn, Jerry Reed, The Rudies

  1. About.com
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  3. Oldies Music
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  5. Carolina Beach and Shag music
  6. Chairmen of the Board Profile -- History of the Chairmen of the Board -- Chairmen of the Board Songs, Biography, and History

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