General Johnson: Lead singer with Chairmen of the Board

With such good-natured and infectious songs as "Give Me Just A Little More Time" and "You've Got Me Dangling On A String", the Chairmen of the Board became disco favourites in the early 1970s.

Their lead singer, General Johnson, was a fine songwriter, describing his early life, with a few changes, in "Patches", a Grammy award winning record for Clarence Carter in 1973.

General Norman Johnson was born in Norfolk, Virginia in May 1943, General being a family name. The young boy preferred Norman but when he started making records, he was told that General was more distinctive.

His father was a shipyard worker who sang gospel music. He encouraged his son to sing, giving him playful slaps whenever he hit wrong notes. From the age of 12, Johnson was part of a neighbourhood group, the Humdingers, and they performed locally, once supporting the rhythm and blues star, Ruth Brown.

The Humdingers were spotted by Allen Toussaint, who wrote theirfirst record, "It Will Stand", changing their name to the Showmen. LikeDanny and the Juniors' "Rock And Roll Is Here To Stay", "It Will Stand" was a cheerful testimony to the enduring power of the new music, an unusual thought for 1961. The Showmen recorded "39-21-40" (wrongly printed on the label as "39-21-46"), whichJohnson had written when 14. He wrote several songs for the group and Toussaint gave him the sound advice that it was quality and not quantity that mattered.

The Showmen continued until 1967. Johnson planned a solo career, but was invited to join a new label, Invictus, whose proprietors were the former Motown songwriting and production team of Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland. They formed the Chairmen Of The Board with Johnson, Eddie Curtis, Harrison Kennedy and Danny Woods. The label's first hits, both in 1970, were "Band Of Gold" for Freda Payne and "Give Me Just A Little More Time" on which the Chairmen Of The Board sounded like the Isley Brothers. They had two more UK Top 20 hits with "You've Got Me Dangling On A String" and "Everything's Tuesday" and Johnson co-wrote their chart entries, "Pay To The Piper" (1970), "Elmo James" (1972) and "Finders Keepers" (1973).

Johnson was a strong lyricist and he rewrote the Honey Cones' "Want Ads" (1971) so that it no longer sounded like a prostitute looking for work. He wrote the anti-Vietnam song, "Bring The Boys Home" for Freda Payne and "Somebody's Been Sleeping (In My Bed)" for 100 Proof Aged In Soul, both 1970. His best composition was his coming-of age song, "Patches", originally recorded by the Chairmen Of The Board.

When the Chairmen of the Board toured the UK in 1975, only Johnson and Woods remained from the original line-up, and Johnson described the litigation that was destroying Invictus. Lamont Dozier, Freda Payne and several artists had left. Johnson was unhappy that unfinished tracks had been released on the album, The Skin I'm In, and he was not allowed to record as Chairmen Of The Board as Invictus owned the name.

Johnson recorded a solo album, General Johnson, for Arista in 1979 and worked and recorded as Chairmen Of The Board around Carolina. He turned down a national deal from Berry Gordy, the head of Motown, because he had had enough of company politics. His beach party song, "Carolina Girls" (1980), became a local anthem. The Chairman Of The Board continued working to the present, with a new album, Treasure Chest, about to be released.

General Norman Johnson, singer and songwriter: born Norfolk, Virginia, 23 May 1943; married (two sons, one daughter); died Atlanta 13 October 2010.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
The Aviva Premiership trophy
rugby union All the latest from Twickenham
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Aston Villa manager Tim Sherwood
footballDanny Higginbotham: Tim Sherwood must play game of two halves to cause major upset
News
Caber is trained to help child victims of serious crimes testify
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Accounts Executive

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Administrator / Secretary - South East

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time Administrator/Secreta...

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor