Passings: Clarence Burke, Jr. of the Five Stairsteps (1951 - 2013)

Clarence Burke, Jr., the original lead singer of the Five Stairsteps, has died according to a number of reliable sites; however, no reason for his death has been announced. He was 62.

The original Five Stairsteps were made up of five of the children of Betty and Clarence Burke, Sr., Clarence, Jr., James, Dennis, Kenneth and daughter Alohe.  They started in 1958 with their father as their manager and playing bass in their band and played around their hometown of Chicago until winning a talent contest at the Regal Theater.

Record companies came forward with the winner being Curtis Mayfield and his Windy City label. Mayfield took the group under his wing and produced all of their original recordings, the first four of which made the national R&B top twenty (You Waited Too Long (1966 / #16 R&B / #94 Pop), World of Fantasy (1966 / #12 R&B / #49 Pop), Comeback (1966 / #15 R&B / #61 Pop) and Danger! She's a Stranger (1967 / #16 R&B / #89 Pop).

When Windy City moved from under the now defunct Cameo-Parkway to Buddah Records, Clarence, Jr. took over the production and the family's young brother, Cubie, was added, making the group The Five Stairsteps and Cubie. They continued to score minor R&B hits while touring with Mayfield and the Impressions on a regular basis.

In the spring of 1970, the group released their biggest hit O-o-h Child, which only made it to number 8 on the Pop chart and 14 on R&B but has gone on to become one of the most loved R&B singles from the 70's. The group broke up in 1972 but reformed in 1976, singing with George Harrison's Dark Horse Records where they scored one more significant hit, 1976's From Us to You (#10 R&B / #102 Pop).

The Five Stairsteps once again split soon after and, in 1979, brothers Kenneth (now Keni) and Clarence, Jr. formed The Invisible Man's Band who scored in 1980 with All Night Long (#9 R&B / #45 Pop).

After that band ended in 1983, Clarence, Jr. began doing independent work in music, writing and producing for other artists and, later, touring. He was in the process of putting together a new tour when he died.


Anonymous said...

according to another source mr. burke was 64 years old and apparently died on his birthdate: Clarence Burke Jnr. (b. 25th May 1949, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.)

Anonymous said...

Clarence was a musical creator. He had a natural feel for improvising melodies that only the truly greats share. The shame is that much of his produced work will never be heard. I had the honor and privilege to know him and watch him and enjoy bites of his genius .. My prayers are with him and I am happy his soul is at peace!! Joe Maggio

Anonymous said...

Clarence Burke Jr., may your soul be blessed with many of the blessings that you have bestowed upon your many fans. God surely has the most talented band up there and I hope that you are singing and dancing "all night long".

Rudy Barnes BKNY said...

"Come Back" is my first thought but when He calls we have a new assignment to fulfill. And I think to myself that, "You waited to long" to make your great come back. You really would have been great to see again. The last time I saw you was at the old Brevoort Theater in Brooklyn, NY in 1968. I was the groups #1 fan. R.I.P Brother Clarence for a job well done.

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