This is getting to be pretty unpleasant. We seem to be losing great figures in classic soul on a weekly basis. Just a couple of weeks ago we lost the “King of Rock ‘n Soul” Solomon Burke. That was followed closely by the death of General Norman Johnson, and just like that two of the great voices of soul have been stilled.
Most people know General Johnson as the frontman of the Chairmen of the Board, who had a smash hit in 1970 with the unforgettable “Give Me Just A Little More Time.” The song was written and produced by Holland-Dozier-Holland, and released on their Invictus imprint. The single was released in December, 1969, and made it all the way to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. By May of the following year it was certified as a million seller. The Chairmen of the Board had other minor hits, and were prominent players on the Carolina Beach Music scene, but they never again equalled the overwhelming success of “Give Me Just A Little More Time.”
But General Johnson had hits prior to forming the Chairmen of the Board, and today I would like to bring you one of those early hits. In 1961 he was the lead singer of the New Orleans-based group The Showmen when they recorded a song that became something of an anthem for New Orleans music, and rock and roll in general. I am speaking of course of the classic “It Will Stand”, which was released on Minit Records and reached number #61 on the Billboard Hot 100. When the single was re-released by Imperial in 1964, it was a hit all over again. The group also had a hit with another Carolina Beach Music classic called “39-21-46.”
Another one gone. You probably get tired of me saying that these people are irreplaceable, but I don’t quite know what else to say. Each time we lose an artist of the stature of General Johnson I feel like a little piece of me, of all of us, is gone. Rest in peace sir.