Best known for the stuttering number three single "Give Me Just a Little More Time," the Chairmen of the Board were one of the smoothest and most popular soul acts to emerge from Detroit in the early '70s. Although their time at the top of the R&B charts was brief -- their first Top Ten arrived in 1970, their last in 1973 -- they recorded a handful of '70s soul classics, all distinguished by the high, trembling vocals of General Norman Johnson, who also wrote the bulk of the group's material.
Born and raised in Norfolk, VA, Johnson began singing in the church choir when he was a child, eventually forming his first vocal group, the Humdingers, when he was 12. During high school, he formed the Showmen, and in his senior year, the group recorded the rock & roll tribute "It Will Stand." The single scraped the pop and R&B charts in 1961, and Johnson stayed with the Showmen for the next seven years, releasing a series of singles on Minit and Swan Records that became regional hits. By the end of the group's career, they had become staples on the beach music circuit on the East Coast. Johnson decided to leave the group for a solo career in 1968, eventually working his way to Detroit, MI, where he signed with former Motown producers and songwriters Holland-Dozier-Holland's fledgling Invictus record label. Johnson formed a group with former Showman Danny Woods; ex-Stone Soul Children Harrison Kennedy; and Eddie Curtis, who had formerly sang with Lee Andrews & the Hearts and Huey Smith & the Clowns. Originally, the group was called the Gentlemen, but they quickly changed their name to the Chairmen of the Board.
The Chairmen of the Board's first single, "Give Me Just a Little More Time," was an instant hit, reaching number three on the pop charts and number eight R&B in early 1970, putting Invictus on the map. Two other singles, "(You've Got Me) Dangling on a String" and "Everything's Tuesday," followed, which established them as R&B chart contenders, but they failed to climb past 38 on the pop charts. Although the subsequent "Pay to the Piper" reached number 13 on pop, it was their last Top 40 hit. Between 1971 and 1974, the Chairmen of the Board received more support from the R&B audience, with songs like "Chairman of the Board" (1971) and "Finder's Keepers" (1973) reaching the Top Ten. Despite this constant stream of singles, the band stopped recording in 1971, which led to a temporary breakup. The following year, they re-formed and toured throughout the Southeast beach music circuit, where their singles were continually regional hits. Although the Chairmen were having trouble reaching the charts, Johnson's songs became hits for the likes of Clarence Carter ("Patches"), Freda Payne ("Bring the Boys Home"), and Honey Cone, who had no less than three hits -- "Want Ads," "Stick Up," "One Monkey Don't Stop No Show" -- with his compositions.
The Chairmen of the Board continued touring and releasing albums until 1976, when they disbanded, with each member releasing solo albums. Johnson and Woods continued performing under the Chairmen name for a short time before Johnson moved to Arista in the late '70s. He had a handful of hits for the label, all of which demonstrated contemporary disco influences, before reuniting with Woods as the Chairmen in the early '80s. Over the next two decades, the duo regularly toured the Southeast to much success. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
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