The Brothers Johnson were an American funk and R&B band consisting of American musicians and brothers George (“Lightnin’ Licks”) and Louis E. Johnson (“Thunder Thumbs”). They achieved their greatest success from the mid-1970s to early ’80s, with three singles topping the R&B charts (“I’ll Be Good to You”, “Strawberry Letter 23”, and “Stomp!”).
Guitarist/vocalist George and bassist/vocalist Louis formed the band Johnson Three Plus One with older brother Tommy and their cousin Alex Weir while attending school in Los Angeles, California. When they became professionals, the band backed such touring R&B acts as Bobby Womack and the Supremes. George and Louis Johnson later joined Billy Preston’s band and wrote Music in My Life and The Kids and Me for him before leaving his group in 1973. In 1976, The Brothers covered the Beatles’ song, Hey Jude, for the ephemeral musical documentary All This and World War II.
Quincy Jones hired them to play on his LP Mellow Madness, and recorded four of their songs, including Is It Love That We’re Missing? and Just a Taste of Me.
After touring with various artists including Bobby Womack and Billy Preston, they were hired by Quincy Jones for a tour in Japan and produced their debut album Look Out For #1, released in March 1976 (#9 US) Their Right on Time album was released in May 1977 and reached number 13 on the Billboard Hot 200. Blam!! came out in August 1978 and reached number 7 on the Billboard 200.
Two of the duo’s songs were featured on the soundtrack of the 1976 film Mother, Jugs & Speed. The instrumental track Thunder Thumbs and Lightnin’ Licks refers to the brothers’ nicknames. Get the Funk Out Ma Face was cowritten with Quincy Jones.
Their popular album Light Up The Night was released in March 1980 and rose to #5 on the Billboard 200. It was number 46 on the “Top 100 LPs of 1980” list in Rolling Stone Magazine. The brothers self-produced the subsequent album, Winners; released in July 1981, it only reached #48 on the Billboard 200.
Among their most popular songs are I’ll Be Good to You (Billboard Hot 100 #3 in 1976), Strawberry Letter 23 (Hot 100 #5 in 1977, originally recorded by Shuggie Otis), Ain’t We Funkin’ Now (1978), and Stomp! (Hot 100 #7 and Hot Dance Music/Club Play #1 in 1980). Their styles include funk, and R&B ballads. Each album also included at least one instrumental cut that would either be considered lite jazz (Tomorrow 1976, Q 1977, Smilin’ On Ya 1980, Tokyo 1984) or Funk (Thunder Thumbs &Lightning Licks 1976, Brother Man 1976, Mista Cool 1978, Celebrations 1980).