They put out some of the hottest funk tracks at the end of the funk era. But they too couldn't stay away from the big disco market. The Brothers Johnson eventually slid over to disco and pop and had a couple of huge worldwide hits.
The very talented brothers George (born May 17, 1953) and Louis (April 13, 1955) Johnson grew up in Los Angeles. Still in school, they put together the band Johnson Three Plus One along with another brother, Tommy, and their cousin Alex Weir.
George on guitar and Louis on bass were so full-fledged musicians so they got to work with renowned soul acts at an early age. They played in the backing bands of The Supremes and Bobby Womack. In the early 70's they joined Billy Preston's band and wrote some songs for him. George and Louis stayed with Preston until 1973. Louis "Thunder Thumbs" Johnson was a very sought after bass player and appeared on albums by Herbie Hancock, Grover Washington Jr., Bill Withers, Bobby Womack.
Quincy Jones jumped out of his shoes when he first heard this skilled couple and asked them to play on his Mellow Madness album in 1975. Jones recorded four songs contributed by the Johnson brothers. They joined Quincy on his tours through the US and Japan.
In 1976 it was time for the brothers to do their own thing, The Brothers Johnson was formed. Quincy Jones signed them to his record label A&M and produced the debut album Look Out For # 1. That record was solid from beginning to end and shot the group straight to stardom. The single I'll Be Good To You conquered the number 1 R&B position and number 3 on the pop chart. Look Out For # 1 contained some soul and some pop flirts, but most of all, it was funky. The nasty Get The Funk Out Ma Face is an all time funk classic.
The Brothers Johnson/Quincy Jones team kept together for four albums. The second album Right On Time was released in 1977. Thanks to the success of the previous album, Right On Time got a free ride and sold gold three days after it hit the street. It contained the international hit Strawberry Letter 23. These two albums and the third, Blam!, are considered to be Brother Johnson's finest work, mainly because Jones' great production. Each record had some exciting funk cuts and the brothers had the strength to stay away from disco
But disco was just around the corner. The problem with Blam! was the lack of a hit single. Jones compensated this by making the fourth album Light Up The Night for the disco market... being a great grief to all funk freaks. This production aimed for the money, and disco were where you could reach a big black and white audience and pull some greens. Stomp became Brother Johnson's last big hit single.
Brothers Johnson and Quincy Jones parted ways. The two brothers released their self-produced Winners album in 1981. Even though they did a pretty good job, it couldn't repeat their earlier success. The record spawn two hits, The Real Thing and Welcome to the Club.
It would take three years before any new material was recorded. Meanwhile, some side projects kept them busy. Once again Louis teamed up with Quincy Jones who was producing Michael Jackson's Thriller album (1982). Louis played bass on Thriller. George worked with Steve Arrington.
When it finally was time for George and Louis to work on their on thing they hired the hot producer Leon Sylvers. The result was their sixth album Out Of Control in 1984, which turned them more towards a pop sound. They had a hit with You Keep Coming Back.
When they returned four years later it was sort of a come back. Kickin' from 1988 was their last album. They had a minor hit with Kick It To The Curb, but the music had changed and those old funky ingredients didn't work anymore.
The Brothers Johnson stands for one of the best contributions to funk in the late 70's.