General JohnsonView in iTunes
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Leader of Chairmen of the Board and a top R&B songwriter/producer as well, General Johnson enjoyed a long career stretching from his debut during the mid-'50s glory days of R&B to his status as a turn-of-the-century beach music icon. Born and raised in the seaside city of Norfolk, VA, Johnson began singing in church with his father at the age of six, and made his recording debut at 12 when his group the Humdingers recorded a few unreleased sides for Atlantic. Several years later, after a change of name to the Showmen, Johnson and the group moved to the New Orleans hit factory Minit for the 1961 rock & roll anthem "It Will Stand." The single charted both in 1961 and 1964, but the Showmen only recorded a dozen sides for Minit and Swan before breaking up in 1968. General Johnson briefly attempted a solo career, but wound up in Detroit attached to the fledgling Invictus label helmed by Motown hitmakers Holland-Dozier-Holland. With Danny Woods (from the Showmen), Harrison Kennedy, and Eddie Custis, Johnson formed Chairmen of the Board. Their first single, "Give Me Just a Little More Time," became a big pop hit in 1970, closely followed by "(You've Got Me) Dangling on a String" and "Everything's Tuesday." Johnson wrote another of the group's moderate hits, "Pay to the Piper," and several of his songs became hits for other artists: "Patches" made the Top Ten for Clarence Carter (Jerry Reed also recorded a country hit), and fellow Invictus act Honey Cone hit the charts with his "Want Ads," "Stick Up," and "One Monkey Don't Stop No Show." Chairmen of the Board slipped from the charts during the mid-'70s, and while General Johnson and Danny Woods stuck together for a time (as the Chairmen), Johnson finally earned his solo career in 1979. His self-titled album for Arista was a minor hit, translating soul into the contemporary sounds of disco. Johnson reunited with Woods early in the '80s, and the pair toured the Southeast beach music circuit to much success. The early '90s brought another album, What Goes Around Comes Around, also recorded with Woods. General Johnson died at his home in suburban Atlanta, GA on October 13, 2010, reportedly from lung cancer. He was 67 years old. ~ John Bush