The Five Stairsteps was formed in Chicago in 1965 and comprised of Burke family members Kenneth, James, Aloha, Dennis and Clarence Jr. They got their name, when "Momma Stairsteps" as Betty Burke was affectionately called, noticed that her kids looked like stair steps when stood next to each other according to age.

Close friend and neighbor Fred Cash of The Impressions, took Keni and the guys to see Curtis Mayfield. Shortly they were signed to the Windy C Records imprint Curtis had with Buddah Records. They later switched to Mayfield's Curtom Records.

The young quintet enjoyed a consistent run of R&B chart success, with releases on the Windy City, Curtom and Buddah labels. The albums were: "The Five Stairsteps" (Windy C 1967), "Our Family Portrait" (Buddah 1967), "Love's Happening" (Curtom 1968), "Step By Step By Step" (Buddah 1970) and "The Stairsteps" (Buddah 1970). The material ranged from gentle dance songs to orchestrated ballads and their 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 The Five Stairsteps & Cubie to include five-year-old sibling Cubie, but when the newcomer left in 1969, the line-up reverted to The Five Stairsteps. Later, when sister Aloha got married and left the group, they dropped the "5" altogether. They had their biggest hit in 1970 with "O-o-h Child", a US Top 10 entry and a signature song of the early 70's.

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, and Clarence Jnr. and Kenneth became session musicians.

In 1976 the duo resumed work with brothers Dennis and James, now calling themselves just Stairsteps, securing a contract with George Harrison 's Dark Horse label. It was singer Billy Preston who introduced them to The Beatles and helped them get the Dark Horse deal.  They released the album "2nd Resurrection" produced by Billy Preston and Robert Margouleff. Although The Stairsteps  returned to the soul Top 10 with the single "From Us To You", written by Keni and Clarence Jnr., they split up again soon afterwards.



There are several CD compilations available, but the 17 track "The First Family of Soul: The Best of the Five Stairsteps" (2001) from the reincarnated Buddah label is by far the best. Included are most of the groups' higher-charting singles anchored by the passionate and uplifting "O-o-h Child", but what makes this collection special is that many of the old Windy C recordings appear in stereo for the first time. The sonic improvement is substantial and breathes new life into these tracks that have been available only in somewhat lifeless mono versions. All tracks but one are presented in crystalline stereo. A six-page liner notes booklet provides a musical background of the group along with track info. If you're a fan and already own a Five Stairsteps compilation CD, the sonic improvements alone make this a worthwhile replacement or addition.

Clarence Jnr. subsequently formed the Invisible Man's Band, who recorded two albums, "The Invisible Man's Band" (Mango/Island Records 1980) - scoring a sizable hit seller with "All Night Thing" - and "Really Wanna See You" (Boardwalk 1981). The group again split up and Kenneth, latterly known as Keni Burke, enjoyed a successful career as a solo artist and producer.



The Five Stairsteps:
The Five Stairsteps
Windy C Records 1967
Produced by Curtis Mayfield
Side A
01. Danger! She's A Stranger 2:45
02. The Girl I Love 2:13
03. Come Back 2:52
04. The Touch Of You 2:35
05. You Waited Too Long 2:49
06. Playgirl's Love 2:10
Side B
01. World Of Fantasy 3:01
02. Oooh, Baby, Baby 2:30
03. Don't Waste Your Time 2:25
04. You Don't Love Me 2:25
05. Behind Curtains

 

The 5 Stairsteps & Cubie:
Our Family Portrait

Buddah Records 1967
Produced by Clarence Burke Jr.
Side A
01. A Million To One 2:45
02. You Make Me So Mad 2:07
03. Something's Missing 2:45
04. The Look Of Love 3:01
05. New Dance Craze 3:00
06. Windows Of The World 3:15
Side B
01. Bad News 3:05
02. Tell Me Who 2:55
03. Under The Spell 2:10
04. Find Me 2:35
05. I Remember You 3:00

 

5 Stairsteps & Cubie:
Love
' Happening
Curtom/Buddah 1968
Produced by Curtis Mayfield
(Reissued as 'Stairsteps: Stay Close To Me' on Buddah Records 1971)

Side A
01. Stay Close To Me 2:02
02. Don't Change Your Love 2:17
03. Love's Happening 2:51
04. Little Young Lover 2:19
05. I'm The One Who Loves You 2:22
Side B
01. Little Boy Blue 2:27
02. Your Love Has Changed 2:17
03. I Made A Mistake 2:44
04. Baby, Make Me Feel So Good 2:45
05. New Dance Craze 3:00

 

Stairsteps:
Stairsteps

Buddah Records 1970
Produced by Curtis Mayfield
 and Stan Vincent*
Side A
01. We Must Be In Love 3:00
02. (Baby) Make Me Feel So Good 2:00
03. Stay Close To Me 3:00
04. Ooh Baby Baby 2:30
05. Because I Love You 4:32 *
06. Behind Curtains 2:49
07. O-o-h Child 3:17 *
Side B
01. World Of Fantasy 3:01
02. Come Back 2:52
03. Don't Waste Your Time 2:25
04. Playgirl's Love 2:10
05. You Waited Too Long 2:49
06. The Touch Of You 2:35
07 Danger! She's A Stranger 2:49

 

The Stairsteps:
Step By Step By Step

Buddah Records 1970
Produced by Stan Vincent
Side A
01. Getting Better 2:30
02. Dear Prudence 3:32
03. Sweet As A Peach 2:27
04. Vice The Lights 3:00
05. O-o-h Child 3:17
Side B
01. Because I Love You 4:32
02. What About Your Wife 3:16
03. Up & Down 2:52
04. Who Do You Belong To 2:32

 

Stairsteps:
2nd Resurrection

Dark Horse Records 1976
Produced by Billy Preston and Robert Margouleff
Solaris CD 2014
01. From Us To You 3:39
02. Pasado 3:09
03. Theme Of Angels 3:19
04. Lifting 2nd Resurrection 3:45
05. Time 3:48
06. Throwin' Stones Atcha 3:04
07. Far East 1:06
08. In The Beginning 2:53
09. Tell Me Why 4:31
10. Salaam 4:34

 

The Five Stairsteps:
The First Family of Soul: The Best of The Five Stairsteps

Buddah CD 2001
01. You Waited Too Long 2:55
02. Danger She's A Stranger 2:48
03. Come Back 2:54
04. Playgirl's Love 2:12
05. World Of Fantasy 3:03
06. Oooh, Baby Baby 2:31
07. Don't Waste Your Time 2:19
08. You Don't Love Me 2:32
09. Behind Curtains 2:51
10. The Girl I Love 2:16
11. Ain't Gonna Rest (Till I Get You) 2:37
12. The Touch Of You 2:41
13. Something's Missing 2:48
14. Don't Change Your Love 2:48
15. Baby Make Me Feel So Good 2:45
16. We Must Be In Love 3:10
17. O-o-h Child

 

The Invisible Man's Band:
The Invisible Man's Band

Mango/Island Records 1980
Produced by Alex Masucci & Clarence Burke
Island Japan CD 2009

 

01. Full Moon 4:53
01. All Night Thing 6:20
03. X Country 6:19
04. 9 X's Out Of Ten 5:52
05. Rent Strike 6:54
06. Love Can't Come / Love Has Come 8:03

 

The Invisible Man's Band:
Really Wanna See You

Boardwalk Records 1981
Produced by Clarence Burke & Alex Masucci
FTG CD 2009
01. Really Wanna See You 5:32
02. Rated X 5:28
03. Circles 5:18
04. Party Time 4:15
05. Along The Way 3:50
06. Same Thang 7:15