General Norman Johnson Dies

General Johnson, lead singer of the popular beach music trio Chairmen of the Board, has died. He was 69.

Johnson died on Wednesday in suburban Atlanta, his son, Norman Johnson, of East Point, Ga., said Friday. The singer died of complications from lung cancer, his son said.

The Chairmen of the Board formed in Detroit in 1970, but moved south in the early 1980s and established a record label in Charlotte.

Johnson was the lead on two hits, “Give Me Just A Little More Time” and “(You’ve Got Me) Dangling on a String.” Johnson also won a Grammy for writing the rhythm and blues classic “Patches,” which was recorded by Clarence Carter.

Fan Harry Rogers, 60, met Johnson at a show in Gastonia in 2006, and the two traded e-mails periodically.

“He was very likeable. He was humble. He wasn’t the type of celebrity that would walk about with his nose stuck up in the air,” said Rogers, a retired Charlotte fire department captain who lives in Paw Creek.

Rogers said he shared a tale with Johnson about how the song “Give Me Just a Little More Time” helped him look beyond war’s brutality as a soldier in Vietnam in 1970.

Rogers said he was just 19 and guarding a half-dozen Viet Cong prisoners as they rebuilt sandbag defenses when he noticed one of the prisoners lip syncing to Johnson’s voice wafting from a radio tuned to the Armed Forces network.

The prisoner even knew Johnson’s flourish to the song’s lyric: “… and our love will surely grow….bluuuurrrrtttt”!

It turned out the prisoner had attended a U.S. university when his family called him home to Vietnam and he was unwillingly conscripted by the Viet Cong, Rogers said.

“We were trained to think of them as less than human,” Rogers told The Associated Press. “That was not true at all.”

Johnson began singing as a young boy in churches in Norfolk, Va., where he was born, and reached a peak as a perfomer touring the U.S. and abroad during the height of the Motown sound.

Johnson and his family moved from Detroit to the Atlanta area in 1979, Norman Johnson said, but the band’s sound adapted to a style called beach music popular in beachfront communities in North Carolina.

A Tuesday memorial service was planned for Johnson, who lived in East Point, Ga.

Johnson also is survived by his wife of 48 years, Julia Johnson; son Antonio Johnson of Union City, Ga.; and daughter Sonya Johnson Payne of College Park, Ga.