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The Five Stairsteps

The Five Stairsteps were "The First Family of Soul" -- a title bestowed upon the Chicago-based teenaged group in part because of their astounding five-year run of hits, which included the million-selling "O-o-h Child" and eight other singles that, from 1966 through 1970, reached the Top 20 of Billboard's R&B chart. The Jackson 5 took the title, but the Stairsteps continued to record through 1976, and the group's members continued to be successful as artists, songwriters, and producers long after their reign.

The children of Clarence Sr. and Betty Burke, the Five Stairsteps were formed in 1958 as a five-member brother-and-sister teenaged vocal group. The group got its name when "Momma Stairsteps" -- as Betty Burke was affectionately called -- noticed that her kids looked like stair steps when stood next to each other by age. Clarence Jr., the eldest son, was the group's lead singer, choreographer, principal songwriter, and guitarist. Alohe, a contralto vocalist, also played trumpet in her school's concert orchestra. First tenor James sang lead on the group's Top 40 R&B hit "Oooh Baby, Baby"; he also played guitar and was a skilled line artist who won three scholarships to the Art Institute of Chicago and won an Artist of the Year Award from the Chicago Board of Education. Second tenor Kenneth was a talented bass player. Clarence Sr., a detective for the Chicago Police Department, played bass guitar, oversaw the group's material, and was their manager. He backed the group on bass and co-wrote songs with Clarence Jr. and Gregory Fowler.

After they won first prize in a talent contest at the legendary Regal Theater, the Five Stairsteps were deluged with recording contract offers. Neighbor and family friend Fred Cash of the Impressions introduced the group to Curtis Mayfield. Signing with Mayfield's Windy C label, distributed by Philadelphia-based Cameo Parkway, their first single was the upbeat "Don't Waste Your Time," a Mayfield song, backed with the Clarence Jr.-written ballad "You Waited Too Long." A double-sided hit in Chicago, the B-side peaked at number 16 on Billboard's R&B chart in the spring of 1966. More hits followed: the soft, lilting "World of Fantasy" b/w "Playgirl's Love," the "blue light in the basement" ballad "Come Back" b/w "You Don't Love Me," and the slinky, exotic "Danger! She's a Stranger" b/w "Behind Curtains." Most of the singles were on the LP The Five Stairsteps, released in 1967.

Around the end of 1967, Cameo Parkway folded and Windy C switched to Art Kass' New York-based Buddah Records through former Cameo Parkway executive Neil Bogart, who joined the new label as co-president. The group's second album, Our Family Portrait, was recorded and produced in Chicago by Clarence Jr. With the addition of their three-year-old brother, the group temporarily went by the Five Stairsteps & Cubie. Our Family Portrait yielded the singles "Something's Missing," a cover of Jimmy Charles & the Revellettes' 1960 R&B/pop hit "A Million to One," and "The Shadow of Your Love." Switching to Mayfield's Curtom Records, they continued to chart with "Don't Change Your Love," "Baby Make Me Feel So Good," "Madame Mary," and the midtempo groover "We Must Be in Love." The group often toured with the Impressions.

After signing with Buddah, the group was once again known as the Five Stairsteps. In the spring of 1970, the group released its sole certified million-seller and biggest pop hit, "O-o-h Child" (written by Stan Vincent), which hit number 14 R&B and number eight pop. The flip side, a cover of John Lennon and Paul McCartney's "Dear Prudence," charted number 49 R&B. The following year, the group resurfaced as the Stairsteps with two charting Buddah singles: "Didn't It Look So Easy" and "I Love You-Stop." The group appeared in the 1970 movie Soul to Soul (a documentary of a benefit concert filmed at New York's Yankee Stadium) and on the nationally syndicated show Soul. During the early '70s, sister Alohe married and both she and Cubie left the group. Kenneth played bass on records and tours of Billy Preston, who later introduced the Stairsteps to the Beatles, and the group signed with George Harrison's A&M-distributed Dark Horse label. 2nd Resurrection was issued in February 1976, produced by Billy Preston, Robert Margouleff, and the Stairsteps. "From Us to You," written by Clarence Jr. and Kenneth Burke, was the group's biggest hit since "O-o-h Child," peaking at number ten R&B in early 1976.

Four members of the Stairsteps, along with keyboardist Dean Gant, later formed the Invisible Man's Band. Their Mango single "All Night Thing" hit number nine R&B in the spring of 1980. One of the members was Kenneth, aka Keni, who had become a top session bassist and occasional songwriter, producer, and recording artist. In addition to his role in the Invisible Man's Band, he worked with Mayfield, Bill Withers, the O'Jays, the Jones Girls, and Keith Sweat, among others. Clarence Jr. died in 2013. Cubie, who released a solo single in 1982, died in 2014. ~ Ed Hogan
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Barry Williams Presents: 70s Music Explosion

Disc 1

1. Brandy (You're A Fine Girl)

2. Saturday Night

3. Come And Get Your Love

4. Love Train

5. Knock Three Times

6. Little Willy

7. Baby Don't Get Hooked On Me

8. It Never Rains In Southern California

9. Best Of My Love

10. Everybody Plays The Fool

12. I Can See Clearly Now

13. You Make Me Feel Like Dancing

14. Lady Marmalade

15. Mr. Big Stuff

16. Indian Reservation (The Lament Of The Cherokee Reservation Indian)

17. Cover Of The Rolling Stone

18. Alone Again (Naturally)

19. Gonna Fly Now

20. Wildfire

Disc 2

1. Magic

2. Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)

3. Seasons In The Sun

4. Play That Funky Music

5. My Maria

6. One Toke Over The Line

7. Afternoon Delight

9. I Can Help

10. Magnet And Steel

12. Ring My Bell

13. Beach Baby

14. O-O-H Child

15. In The Summertime

16. Sometimes When We Touch

17. Rose Garden

18. Brother Louie

19. Brand New Key

20. Please Come To Boston

Disc 3

1. Bad, Bad Leroy Brown

2. Crocodile Rock

3. Don't Pull Your Love

4. She's A Lady

6. Jackie Blue

7. Bad Blood

8. Escape (The Pina Colada Song)

9. I'm Not In Love

10. Drift Away

11. Indiana Wants Me

12. Heartbeat (It's A Love Beat)

13. Billy, Don't Be A Hero

14. The Morning After

15. Y.M.C.A.

16. Spiders And Snakes

17. Signs

20. If I Can't Have You

Disc 4

1. Saturday In The Park

2. Sunshine

3. I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing (In Perfect Harmony)

4. Midnight At The Oasis

5. December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night)

6. Summer Breeze

7. I'd Really Love To See You Tonight

8. Rock Your Baby

9. Baby I'm-A Want You

10. Give Me Just A Little More Time

11. Le Freak

12. Moonlight Feels Right

13. I'd Love You To Want Me

14. Rock And Roll Heaven

15. (Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty

17. Sky High

18. Cat's In The Cradle

20. Shannon

x

Track List: Cameo Parkway (1957-1967)

Disc 1

1. Butterfly

2. Fabulous

3. Race For Time

5. You're The Greatest

6. Over The Weekend

7. Night Time

8. Memory Lane

9. Silhouettes

10. Daddy Cool

11. Back To School Again

12. The Class

13. Bad Motorcycle

14. Shake A Hand

15. Dinner With Drac Part 1

16. Mexican Hat Rock

18. Birds N' Bees

19. Two Weeks With Pay

20. Rocka-Conga

21. Kissin' Time

22. We Got Love

23. The Twist

24. Wild One

25. Swingin' School

26. Pony Time

27. Teach Me To Twist

28. Let's Twist Again

29. Bristol Stomp

30. The Wah-Watusi

Disc 2

1. Slow Twistin' (Feat. Dee Dee Sharp)

2. Mashed Potato Time

3. Gravy (For My Mashed Potatoes)

4. Don't Hang Up

5. Ride!

6. Do The New Continental

7. The Popeye Waddle

8. Limbo Rock

9. The Cha-Cha-Cha

10. Volare

11. Sweet Georgia Brown

12. One More Time Back To School

13. (I'm The Girl From) Wolverton Mountain

14. Rowdy

15. Forget Him

16. Mother Please!

17. Come On And Dance With Me

18. Groovy Baby

19. The Jam Part 1

20. You Can't Sit Down

21. South Street

22. Everybody South Street

23. Do The Bird

24. Not Me

25. Crossfire!

26. (Everybody Do) The Swim Pt. 1

27. The 81

28. Daydreamin' Of You

29. The Boy With The Beatle Hair

30. Jingle Bell Rock

Disc 3

1. So Much In Love

2. Wonderful! Wonderful!

3. I'll Be True

4. When We Get Married

5. Somewhere

6. Hey Good Lookin'

7. Just One Chance

8. You'll Never Walk Alone

9. Danny Boy

10. Cast Your Fate To The Wind

11. It Only Took A Minute

12. Long Tall Sally

13. Boys

14. You Still Want Me

15. Funny How Love Can Be

16. Tossing & Turning

17. She's Fallen In Love With The Monster Man

18. Wild Thing

19. Little White House

20. Fool, Fool, Fool

22. Society Girl

23. Soldier Baby Of Mine

24. S.O.S. (Heart In Distress)

26. Heartaches Away My Boy

27. Got To Run

28. My Boy

Disc 4

1. Angel Of The Morning

2. The Love Of A Boy

3. This Can't Be True

4. World Of Fantasy

5. Come Back

6. Am I A Loser (From The Start)

7. Danger! She's A Stranger

8. Meet Me In Church

9. You've Been Untrue

10. Get A Hold Of Yourself

11. He Don't Really Love You

13. The Grass (Will Sing For You)

14. I (Who Have Nothing)

15. Beg, Borrow And Steal

16. 96 Tears

19. Can't Get Enough Of You Baby

20. Respect

21. Shake Your Tambourine

22. Let The Good Times Roll & Feel So Good

24. Lovey Dovey-You're So Fine

25. Sock It To Me Santa

x

Track List: Cruzin TV Oldies

1. Ladies Night

2. You Are My Lady

3. Walking In Rhythm

4. Ain't No Woman (Like The One I've Got)

5. Why Can't We Be Friends

7. O-O-H Child

8. Hurt So Bad

9. Everybody Plays The Fool

10. I Belong To You

11. I Still Believe

12. Gimme Little Sign

13. Misty Blue

x

Track List: Lowrider Oldies, Vol. 8

1. Ladies Night

2. You Are My Lady

3. Walking In Rhythm

4. Ain't No Woman (Like The One I've Got)

5. Why Can't We Be Friends

7. O-O-H Child

8. Hurt So Bad

9. Everybody Plays The Fool

10. I Belong To You

11. I Still Believe

12. Gimme Little Sign

13. Misty Blue

x

Track List: The First Family Of Soul: The Best Of The Five Stairsteps

1. You Waited Too Long

2. Danger! She's A Stranger

3. Come Back

4. Playgirl's Love

5. World Of Fantasy

6. Ooh, Baby, Baby

7. Don't Waste Your Time

8. You Don't Love Me

9. Behind Curtains

10. The Girl I Love

11. Ain't Gonna Rest (Till I Get You)

12. The Touch Of You

13. Something's Missing

14. Don't Change Your Love

15. Baby Make Me Feel So Good

16. We Must Be In Love

17. O-O-H Child

Comments

Report as inappropriate
There should be a unsung on BET of them tomorrow's promise The Escorts & chocalate syrup slowjams goups
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So fresh,clean and beautiful.
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Awesome. Memories...f o r e v e r .
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I saw The 5 Stair Steps at the old Phila. Uptown back in the day. Great show !!! "Jug "
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Music to unwind to..
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Beautiful music....So relieved rite now...
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LOVE THIS SONG........ . . . . .
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cmujahid
Great memories! The Five Stairsteps and Kool and the Gang were regulars at club Cheetah in early 70's in NYC. We partied to the next morn.
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There no coming bk I try so hard to
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javier.javi. g u t i e r r e z
"I'm distracting you, you big turd-blossom . "
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yes we love the Five Stairsteps.T h e y are truly unsung
Report as inappropriate
I really wish they would do an Unsung episode on them. As much as I love the J5, these guys were before them and the bomb. Products of Curtis Mayfield.
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where have you gone now...off with someone new.....beau t i f u l harmonies
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I got turned on to this song at a very young age when it was used in the movie Over The Edge.
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artist685
I love this song! I used to sing this song to my son when he was a toddler and when this song came on the radio, my lil boy asked if it was me on the radio. How cools that! O-O-H Child.
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i love reading all your stories and a little envious you were able 2 have those kind of memories ... oldies live for ever
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Fantasy is unreal..
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Sometimes we all need a world of fantasy
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I grew up down the street from them in Chicago.they lived on 99th & king drive. I remember playing with Cubie., we were about 6yrs old..
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I remember being young dancing slow to this jam yes at Bronxriver in the 60. Those were the days
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The Five Stairsteps sang their hearts out to the world
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So nice ♥ this song
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Haven't heard this song in a long time. Always loved this family of singer's
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Wow! I remember my sisters and their friends listening to this kind of music. They would pay me nickels and dimes to sing.
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THEY WERE ONE OF THE TOP SINGERS
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Unsung...but not forgotten
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THIS A JAM
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BOY TODAY MUST BE MY DAY THE MUSIC IS GREAT ANOTHER FAVORITE SONG OF MINE
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I have nothing but love for the Stairsteps.
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UNSUNG
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so wonderful to hear the five stairsteps again....kee p this music alive
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We when on before them at west. Kinny.st.sch o o l in newark
N.j RASHON IBN ALMUHYI
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Another OG CURTIS production
T F S great group OG sound. 3m 14y
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:(
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Robyn I LOVE this. Music
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Always on my mind.
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It's talent, all groups had soul but did not sound exactly alike.
Report as inappropriate
Sing it Man these songs are so nice makes me want to party.
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deadartist1
The Five Stairsteps out of Chi-town were discovered by Curtis Mayfield. Wonderful group. Originally 4 brothers and sister Aloha. Lead singer Clarence Burke recently passed away. RIP
Report as inappropriate
I grew up in Chicago. My family would throw "sets" and parties and then as the night went on they would put the "Dusties" on. You would slow dance with your girl all night.....
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I just love the way they put a song together, thats when music was music
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letsduetagai n
This group had the best harmonies ever, even to this day. They were very very professional and just all aronnd talented. I am so blessed to have seen them perform. They just don't make music like that anymore.
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One of favorite. I have something I will dedicate to them in the near future.
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My sincere condolences to Mr. Burke.
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Love me some five stair steps. Hated it when the jackson five came in.
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Love this group.
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Well, last I heard of the lead singer, Clarence Bauer, he sometime does small gizz with the South Orange Studios Producer, Mr. Scott.
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Love the five staistepts would like 2 know were they r today.
Report as inappropriate
This group is from Chicago's South side..There were 5 or six boys and 1 sister, Aloha. The bass guitarist and writer of the group was Greg Fowler, my 1st cousin. Would love to know where they all are now.
Report as inappropriate
corliss53
Was a card-carryin g , active member of fan club late 60's. early 70's I hear Clarence Burke recently performed in NYC. We do need a bio.
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