General Norman Johnson (born in Norfolk,Virginia, 1943) died last Wednesday at his home outside of Atlanta. He was 67. An obit can be found here. He is best remembered for being the lead singer on the Chairman Of The Board’s chart topper Give Me Just A Little More Time, and writing Patches for Clarence Carter, Want Ads for the Honey Come and Bring The Boys Home for Freda Payne, but to me he’ll always be remembered as the lead voice on one of my all time favorite records– It Will Stand b/w Country Fool by the Showman (Minit, 1961), produced by Allen Tousaint. The Showmen an R&B vocal quintet, originally from Norfolk, Virginia, relocated to New Orleans after signing to Minit. Although It Will Stand only reached #80 on the charts, it sold for years and the song was extremely popular around the beaches of North Carolina where it was considered a “shag” classic. The Showmen’s sound was at the crossroads of the older 50’s group harmony style and the coming Soul music. General Johnson’s voice had a beautiful gravely quality to it, with a natural vibrato that made him an extremely distinctive singer. I know nothing about his background, but I’ll bet my socks he started singing in church. The Showmen were, in addition to lead singer General Johnson– Milton “Smokes” Wells- bass, Dorsey “Chops” Knight- second tenor, Gene “Cheater” Knight- first tenor, and Leslie “Fat Boy” Felton- baritone. They recorded for Minit and its subsidiary label Instant from 1961-6. After parting with Minit, where they made their best discs, they recorded for BB, Swan, Imperial and Lawn. Some of their other great discs include This Misery, The Wrong Girl, Swish Fish, I’m Coming Home, Strange Girl, True Fine Mama and an alternate take of It Will Stand. Jonathan Richman covered It Will Stand in 1976 on the Beserkley label.
After leaving the Showman, Johnson headed to Detroit where the songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland put together the Chairmen of the Board around him, scoring a huge hit with Gimme Just A Little More Time. It Will Stand remains the ultimate rock’n’roll anthem, and it will be remembered as long as someone out there loves real rock’n’roll.