Home Music Chairman of the Board Member General Johnson Dies at 69

Just a day after celebrating Sam Moore‘s 75th birthday, and a few days after the passing of Solomon Burke, General Johnson has died.

He was the writer and often lead singer for a group called Chairmen of the Board. Their hits included “Pay to the Piper,” “Give Me Just a Little More Time,” “Finders Keepers,” and “You’ve Got Me Dangling on a String.”

Chairmen of the Board was really supposed to be what the Temptations were to Motown for Invictus Records circa 1970. That was the label started by legendary Motown/Four Tops writers Holland, Dozier, Holland after they split from Motown. Johnson wrote hits for other Invictus acts, notably “Bring the Boys Home” and a trio of hits for the Honey Cone: “Want Ads,” “Stick Up (Highway Robbery),” and the essential–my favorite– “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show.”  He also had a hit on “Patches” for singer Clarence Carter.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BfJT4GwWzKU

Johnson came from Raleigh, North Carolina, where he and the band were into what they called Beach Music. HDH lured them to Detroit, where they had their big success with those singles. Here’s what Johnson says on his website:

“In 1968, 1 moved to Detroit, Michigan to further my career with Invictus Records. As a member of The Chairmen of the Board, I experienced and enjoyed international success as a songwriter and an artist. My success in such a short period of time magnified the business dealings with my recording and management companies. Soon, business disagreements deteriorated our musical relationship and eventually terminated our successful venture. In 1974, 1 left Invictus.”

His singing was a little like that of my old favorite Billy Stewart. He used kind of a stutter and a staccato phrasing to make the songs stand out. It worked. Thanks, General, for leaving those little masterpieces behind.

6 replies to this post
  1. The men in the above You Tube video are not the Chairmen of the Board. There appears to be a mistake. I have been a fan of the group for over thirty years and I know them when I see them. This refers to the video called, “Mashup” where they are supposidly singing, Give Me Just A Little More Time. Their mouths do not even match the lyrics to the song; and it seems that this was another group who was performing another song, but somebody just dubbed in the Chairmen’s hit. Besides, there were four members of the original group, not three as depicted in the You Tube video. The suits with the tight pant legs leads me to believe that this was a group from the mid sixties. The Chairmen were formed in the early 1970s.

  2. I made an error in my statment above that The Chairmen of the Board had an autograph signing at the Wherehouse Record Store. It was not the Wherehouse, it was Tower Records at the top of the Strip. They were staying at a highrise hotel a short distance away also on Sunset. I have forgotten the name of the place. I contacted General Johnson’s record label in North Carolina yesterday where I was informed that he died from lung cancer. Danny Woods was the only member from the original group who continued to perform with General along with newcomer, Ken Knox. I was told that both of these men plan to continue performing as the Chairmen of the Board, although I assume they will seek a replacement to fill General’s position.

  3. When I was in my twenties, my dream was to wrtie music for Chairman of the Board. I loved the music which they created under the guidance of Holland, Dozier, Holland’s record label, Invictus. I once got to meet them at the Wherehouse Records Store on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood where they appeared for an authograph signing party. He told me that his true name was General, a name which was given to him by his mother. Their manager was Tommy Chapman who was the husband of Florence Ballard, who had just been removed from the Supremes. Tommy invited me and my sister to P.J.’s night club in Hollywood the next evening. He met us at the door, escorted us to a long table which he shared with another agent, Mr. Lyons and members of the band. The organ player, was really cool and asked me to submit some of my original songs to him. He bore an African name, but told me that his birth name was the same as mine. I wonder what ever happened to him? He was from Detroit. The Chairman eventually came on stage and gave an outstanding performance. Not many recording artist can reproduce the sound of the original hits as they were made in the studio. However, the Chairman had no problem with that. What you heard on the record was what you heard in their live performance, plus more. General gave the impression that he was politically in touch with world events. When he sang, Men Are Getting Scarce, he lowered the volume of the band, and began talking to the audience about the injustice of the Vietnam War; man’s inhumanity to man, and how hundreds were being killed yearly in a war which the majority of Americas was were opposed to. He was not just involved with writing and singing “love songs,” he created songs with the purpose of making political and social change in the world. He never stopped recording but went on to create an even greater sound with the Chairman, and his CDs can still be ordered from their own personal website. I enjoyed General while he was here but oh, what a great loss.

  4. i work for the general one day while in his office he look me straight in the eyes and said chris always remember your street smarts in this business. i have always remember that he truly was a legend beyond his time. he will be sadly miss in the music world
    chris lee

  5. Wow. Congratulations for getting so much wrong in such a short piece. Even the headline puts “Pay to the Piper” above the Chairmen of the Board’s first and biggest hit, “Give Me Just a Little More Time.” But that’s a minor misjudgment compared with the flat-out errors.
    * Johnson wrote the Freda Payne hit “Bring the Boys Home,” not “Band of Gold.”
    * He didn’t “come from Raleigh” — he was born in Norfolk, VA, and later lived in Atlanta, GA, and spent much time in Charlotte, NC, which served as the headquarters of his group.

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