I spend a lot of time traveling in my car between my current home in Rhode Island and my former home state of New Jersey. Last summer, I was delighted when SiriusXM added a channel called Carolina Shag which played the best of Carolina Beach Music. Unfortunately, after the summer SiriusXM removed the station from the radio airwaves and although you can still hear it online it’s just not the same as being able to listen in the car as you’re headed down the highway.
If you know anything about Beach Music you know that the Chairmen of the Board are the reigning kings of the genre. The group was led by General Johnson who was no stranger to musical success. Johnson had chart hits in the early 1960s with a group from New Orleans called the Showmen. Those hits included “It Will Stand” and “39-21-46” which itself is a Beach Music standard.
The idea for the Chairmen of the Board came from the songwriting and production team of Holland-Dozier-Holland which had left Motown Records in a contract dispute in 1967 and founded their own Invictus/Hot Wax label group. It was their concept to team Johnson with Eddie Custis, Danny Woods, and Harrison Kennedy. At first, the lead vocals were divided more or less evenly among the group but it wasn’t long before Johnson’s unique vocal style came to the fore.
“Give Me Just a Little More Time” was released in December 1969 and it rocketed up the chart to the #3 spot. By May of the following year, the record was a million-seller. Although “Give Me Just a Little More Time” was written by Holland-Dozier-Holland along with Ronald Dunbar, the ongoing lawsuit with Motown necessitated the use of the pseudonym Edythe Wayne in the songwriting credits. One thing that hadn’t changed for Holland-Dozier-Holland was their use of the Funk Brothers to supply the backing track just as they had done on all of those Motown hits.
While “Give Me Just a Little More Time” was the biggest hit for the Chairmen of the Board, it was not their only success. The group also scored with “(You’ve Got Me) Dangling on a String,” “Everything’s Tuesday” (the B-side of that single was the original version of “Patches” which was later a hit for Clarence Carter), and “Pay to the Piper.”
There were several lineup changes and solo albums by various members but Johnson kept the act alive until 1976 when he signed a deal with Arista Records as a solo artist. Two years later Johnson and Woods reformed the group adding Ken Knox to the lineup. They founded their own label, Surfside Records, and began their career as Beach Music kings. The label exists to this day and so do the Chairmen of the Board although Johnson passed away in 2010 and Woods passed away earlier this year. Knox now tours with Thomas Hunter and Brandon Stevens.
The North Carolina Music Hall of Fame inducted the Chairmen of the Board in 1999.