The Showmen were an R&B/doo-wop group that became famous during the 1960s. Best remembered for "It Will Stand" and "39-21-46," this group has, over the years, remained hugely popular among fans of Carolina beach music, a regional genre that developed from various pop/rock and R&B dance music of the 1950s and 1960s.
The Showmen were formed in 1961 in Norfolk, Virginia by General Norman Johnson (May 23, 1941 - October 13, 2010) whose distinctive raspy, emotive lead vocals were an essential part of the group's unique sound. The original lineup also included Milton Wells, brothers Gene and Dorsey Knight, and Leslie Felton. Noah Biggs, the group's manager, took The Showmen to New Orleans where they teamed up with famed songwriter and producer, Allen Toussaint, and signed with Minit Records.
The Showmen made their debut on the Pop/Rock charts in 1961 with the Johnson-penned "It Will Stand," which became a minor hit and later re-entered both the R&B and Pop/Rock charts in 1964. Two other minor hits followed, "In Paradise" (1965) and "39-21-46" (1967), both of which were also written by Johnson. Although none of these songs made the Top 40, "It Will Stand" and "39-21-46" (a.k.a. "39-21-40 Shape") became top regional hits on the East Coast and made The Showmen and Johnson longtime favorites among the beach music crowd. The Showmen also became popular abroad among fans of Northern Soul music with their song, "Our Love Will Grow," which is included in the Northern Soul Top 500.
In 1968, Johnson left The Showmen and formed Chairmen Of The Board the following year. Over his long career, he became an iconic figure within the beach music genre as the lead singer of both The Showmen and Chairmen Of The Board and later as a solo performer. In addition, he was a prolific songwriter whose many songs for other bands and artists included most of the hits songs for Chairmen Of The Board and Honey Cone and Clarence Carter's "Patches," which earned Johnson the Grammy Award for Best R&B Song in 1970.
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- The Guardian remembers General Norman Johnson. (As it turns out, General was actually his real first name, one that he had inherited from his father.).
- The Showmen's "Our Love Will Grow" is listed at #382 in the Northern Soul Top 500 list.
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- 39-21-46 1967
(This song is also known as "39-21-40 Shape.")
- It Will Stand 1961
(This song first became a minor hit in 1961 then recharted in 1964.)
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