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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: Stairsteps (Bonus Track Version)

1. Getting Better

2. Dear Prudence

3. Sweet As A Peach

4. Vice The Lights

5. O-O-H Child

6. Because I Love You

7. What About Your Wife

8. Up & Down

9. Who Do You Belong To

10. Madame Mary

Comments

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COME BACK .....
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Great song
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Wish I could dedicate this song to my granddaughte r and now
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I waited so long for you, 40 plus years .In a heart beat you were gone from me. God had other plans!!! Gone but never forgotten!!! ! ! !
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Danced with my son on his wedding day mother son dance love this song and I love it for all the children
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This reminds me of this movie and it was called guardians of the galaxy
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It
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Same thing happened to me and my favorite song is called ooh child I love
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nice song 1st time hearing it like it
like them
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my my favorite song In the World I dance with my son on his wedding to this song is to the world
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love this song thank god for oldies
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Romantic soul at it's best
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This is all I need
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nancyweissbe i n
World of Fantasy, nice song!
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The five stairstwps, where are they now?.unsung next season...
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World Of Fantasy ...
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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
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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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