(MUSICMAN PRESS) In a surprising move, recording giant Columbia signed a hefty contract with rap group The Johnson 5 from Kingston, Jamaica.
The Johnson 5 began recording together in 1961 and recorded mainly reggae tunes until 1969. On April 20 1969, lead singer and guitarist Herbert "Shrimp Legs" Johnson announced his intentions to go solo. The band broke-up a month later.
Johnson's Record entitled, "The Shrimp Legs Fly" sold five copies, four of which were bought by Herbert himself to give to family and friends.
In 1971, he released "Shrimp Legs Love Songs". This record sold four copies, Johnson purchased three. After three years, two albums, and nine copies sold, Johnson returned the occupation from which he received his nickname - shrimp fishing.
In 1994 the band reunited to perform reunion concerts in Jamaica entitled, "The Johnson 5, 25 Years Later." The band's drummer Skip "Hog Jaws" Johnson suggested they reunite permanently. All were in favor of this move until banjo player Fred "Lighten Fingers" Johnson stated that the way to get a contract would be for them to become a rap group. William "Bill Will" Johnson agreed with Lighten Fingers, as did Shrimp Legs and Hog Jaws. However, Howlin' John Johnson disapproved of the change saying only that the band would lose their fans.
After four years of arguing, the crew voted 4-1 to become a rap group. In 1998, they released their first rap song, "Hangin' With My Shrimp Crew". The song was a huge hit along Jamaica's northern coast but Southern Jamaicans disliked the tune.
Over the next eight years the band produced nine albums - "Shrimp Rappin'", "Please Shrimp Legs Don't Hurt 'Em", "S-Unit", "S-Day", "Crazy In Shrimp", "1, 2, Shrimp", "It's All About The Shrimppin'", "I Shrimped So Hard", and "You Can't Catch This."
Columbia said that in the states, the Johnson 5 would mainly be a "remake band". "They will take other artists' music and remake them while turning the old song into a rap version." said a spokesman.
He also said that the group would soon begin work on a remake of George Jones' "He Stopped Lovin' Her Today." As well as the possibility of remaking such hits as Loretta Lynn's "Coal Miner's Daughter" Johnny Cash's "Ring Of Fire" Ray Charles' "Georgia On My Mind" Sam and Dave's "Soul Man" and maybe even Marvin Gaye's "I Heard It Through The Grapevine."