The Showmen were one of the R&B groups to bridge the gap between doo wop and soul in the early '60s, creating a buoyant, energetic fusion of harmonies and propulsive R&B beats. The group only had one hit, "It Will Stand," which charted both in 1961 and in 1964, but their lead singer, General Johnson, went on to greater success as the leader of the '70s soul group Chairmen of the Board.
Formed in Norfolk, VA, in the early '60s, the Showmen consisted of Johnson (born Norman Johnson, May 23, 1943), Leslie Felton, Gene Wright, Dorsey Wright, and Milton Wells. In 1961, the group signed with Minit Records, which was based in New Orleans. Their first single was a rock & roll anthem, "It Will Stand." Released in the fall of 1961, "It Will Stand" was a hit, particularly on the East Coast and in the New Orleans era, but it only peaked at number 61 on the pop charts. Nevertheless, the song's popularity never decreased and it became a hit three years later, when re-released on the Imperial label. On its second release, the single peaked at number 80 on both the R&B and pop charts.
Between the two chart appearances of "It Will Stand," the Showmen kept recording and performing. During this time, they had no national hits, but "39-21-46" became a significant regional hit. In 1965, the group signed with Swan Records, but none of the ensuing singles became hits. In 1968, Johnson left the band and moved to Detroit, where he formed the Chairmen of the Board, who would later have hits with "Give Me Just a Little More Time," "(You've Got Me) Dangling on a String," and "Everything's Tuesday" in the early '70s. In the three decades after the breakup of the Showmen, "It Will Stand" and "39-21-46" remained popular on the East Coast "beach music" scene and Johnson would later return to this area, carving out a living as a local performer. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi