The Five Stairsteps Biography

A Chicago group comprised of Burke family members Clarence Jnr. (1951), James (b. 1952), Aloha (b. 1950), Kenneth (b. 1954) and Dennis (b. 1953). Discovered and produced by Curtis Mayfield, this young quintet enjoyed a consistent run of R&B chart success, with releases on the Windy C, Curtom and Buddah labels. The unit’s material - ‘You Waited Too Long’ (1966), ‘World Of Fantasy’ (1966), ‘Come Back’ (1966) and ‘Danger, She’s A Stranger’ (1967) - ranged from gentle dance songs to orchestrated ballads, and their fledgling talent was recognized in 1967 with a NATRA award as that year’s outstanding R&B group. For two years the group’s name was expanded to include five-year-old sibling Cubie, but when the newcomer left in 1969, the line-up reverted to the 5 Stairsteps, later dropping the ‘5’ altogether. Paradoxically, the 5 Stairsteps’ biggest hit, ‘O-o-h Child’ (1970), a US Top 10 entry, came on parting with Mayfield. Instrumentally self-contained, the quintet pursued a direction similar to Sly And The Family Stone, but they were unable to capitalize on this new-found position. The group broke up in 1972, but whereas the majority entered full-time education, Clarence Jnr. and Kenneth became session musicians. In 1976 the duo resumed work with brothers Dennis and James, securing a contract with George Harrison’s Dark Horse label at the behest of singer Billy Preston. Although the Stairsteps returned to the soul Top 10 with ‘From Us To You’, they split up again soon afterwards. Clarence Jnr. subsequently formed the Invisible Man’s Band, who recorded two albums, The Invisible Man’s Band (1980) and Really Wanna See You (1981). While Kenneth, latterly known as Keni Burke, enjoyed a successful career as a solo artist and producer.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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