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Chairmen Of The Board

IGive Me Just A Little More Time

Chairmen Of The Board

Give Me Just A Little More Time


Before he was a Chairman, General Norman Johnson was a Showman. Prior to that, a real Humdinger.

Born May 23, 1943 in Norfolk, Virginia, Johnson sang gospel with his father's group, The Israelites, as a child. His first secular aggregation, The Humdingers, made an unissued 1956 session for Atlantic before changing their name to The Showmen and finding their way to New Orleans to sign with Joe Banashak and Larry McKinley's Minit label. The flowing piano of Minit's young yet prolific A&R man Allen Toussaint was prominent on the Norfolk quintet's Johnson-penned '61 Minit debut It Will Stand, a tribute to rock and roll's timelessness that made a small pop chart impact in both '61 and '64 after Imperial bought the Minit catalog and reissued their debut single.

Johnson's distinctive lead was featured on several more New Orleans-cut Minit 45s (39-21-46 was mesmerizing). The Showmen stopped at Swan Records in Philly for three mid-'60s Richard Barrett-produced singles before General left. Meanwhile, up in Detroit, Holland-Dozier-Holland acrimoniously parted company with Motown, inaugurating their own Invictus and Hot Wax labels in 1969. H-D-H boldly put four previously unrelated vocalists together in a new Invictus group called Chairmen Of The Board. Joining Johnson were Danny Woods, who cut for Detroit's Correct-Tone during the early '60s; Eddie Custis out of Philly, and Canadian newcomer Harrison Kennedy. They never met until their first rehearsal. 

Edward Holland had entrusted his lieutenant Jeffrey Bowen with locating Johnson. "I would say, 'I'm looking for this kind of group,'" Holland says. "'And you remember that guy that had this kind of voice? I can't remember this guy, but he sung with this group. He sang "It Will Stand." That guy I like! Check and see if can you find that guy and see what he's doing.'"

General fronted the new group's first certified smash at #3 pop and #8 R&B: Give Me Just A Little More Time boasted a relentless bass line and bouncy H-D-H-style chord progression that radiated Motown craftmanship. Some compared General's pungent lead to that of The Four Tops' Levi Stubbs. "He had a totally different sound to me. But I heard a lot of people say that," says Holland. "General could have a very aggressive approach. A very tough, aggressive approach to rhythms and melodies, and so could Levi. But basically, they were different as day and night."

Democratically spreading lead duties around, The Chairmen posted three more hits in 1970, Pay To The Piper easily the biggest. The self-named Chairman Of The Board did well in '71, and Finders Keepers cracked the R&B Top Ten in '73 (Custis left after their second LP). Johnson put his writing and production skills to excellent use at Invictus/Hot Wax as well. The Showmen and The Chairmen have commanded huge beach music followings for decades, and the General is still in charge of both.


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