General Johnson/The Showmen

                                           The Showman

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.

11 thoughts on “General Johnson/The Showmen”

  1. While they were certainly popular in NC, the beach music scene's epicenter is Myrtle Beach, SC. As a South Carolina expat myself, I can't let anyone else grab credit for one of the few things we got right. Here's my mother's Beach Club schedule for 1967, where the General played two week-long gigs with a return engagement at the summer's end:'ve got the '66 one, too, but Debbie D mistakenly deleted it, thinking it was a duplicate post. I'll repost it eventually.

  2. “Here's my mother's Beach Club schedule for 1967, where the General played two week-long gigs with a return engagement at the summer's end: “I assume Doug Clark & his Hot Nuts were off playing frat houses that month…..

  3. Myrtle Beach – home of the greatest junk store ever, The Gay Dolphin! The last time I was there I got thrown out of a store for laughing at a “His Pain, Your Gain” shirt because I thought it was a joke.

  4. I've been in NYC since '77 and can't remember General Johnson ever performing here, with or without Chairmen of the Board. Anybody?COTB's 'Skin I'm In' (1974) is a darker, more Sly and Funkadelic-influenced album than you might expect from this group. Worth checking out…

  5. And once again, as with Roy Head, there's a cool interview with General Johnson in the Michael Shelley archives on the WFMU site.

  6. I bought a cassette years ago with 'This misery' on it. Just about to buy an MP3 converter and then found your site. Thank you ever so much for sharing.Alan

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