In the heart of the Midwest there is a Soul Music historian with a wonderful story to tell.
Milwaukee native and entrepreneur, Johnnie Gee has over 48 years of experience in all aspects of music. To date Johnnie Gee continues to control all of his Publishing, Licensing, Distributing and copyrights and continues to be a relevant factor in today’s music industry, Gee, has experienced things most artists have only dreamed about.
Johnnie Gee was born on in September of 1959 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was the 6th of seven children who began his musical career at the age of 6 as a drummer. In 1968, Gee became the founder/lead vocalist and front man for the Midwest popular act known as the Exclusive “Step By Step Band”. In his earlier years, Lil Johnnie Gee and the Step By Step Band played local clubs and bars. As their popularity grew, they began to travel and compete in various music competitions. During those early years, Lil Johnnie Gee and the Step By Step Band would perform at the same venues as popular artist such as Jackie Wilson, James Brown, The Chi-Lites, The Stylistics, Ike & Tina Turner and many others.
In the late 60’s the group achieved regional attention with the recording of their first single on Cuca Records titled “Time After Time” and performed with likes of the “Jacksons”, The Platters to name a few. 1970, Ray Goodman and Brown also known as The Moments, took an interest in the group and introduced them to, Joe and Sylvia Roberson of All Platinum Records who later signed the Step By Step Band to their label. Although the group recorded several songs including “Love Is Strange", which was a personal song of Sylvia Roberson, no records were released with All Platinum Records due to creative differences between All Platinum and its producers.
Through passion and perseverance, the group continued to perform nationally opening for groups such as the Chi-Lites, O’Jays, Millie Jackson and other Disco/Funk artists. In 1972 Lil Johnnie Gee and Step By Step were setting up to perform at a local club in Minneapolis, MN called the Filling Station. After several hours of setting up, the group decided to go to the hotel to freshen up. Upon their return they could hear a guitar doing a phenomenal solo, and with much surprise a 16 year old local guitarist by name of Rogers Nelson was caught playing a Step By Step members guitar. He was asked to put down the equipment, he hopped off the stage and ran off with a smile. Today, that artist is known by many as “Prince”.
Through touring with national acts, in 1975 the group began opening for Brunswick Recording artists the Chi-Lites, after several touring dates, tour manager Tim Butler and Marshall Thompson of the Chi-Lites introduced Lil Johnnie Gee and the Step By Step Band to Nat Tarnopol, CEO of Brunswick Records. After auditioning for the label the group was signed and recorded their first album on Brunswick Records titled, “I Always Wanted To Be In The Band” which was released in 1976. Frank Sinatra’s personal string section of the Chicago Symphony performed all string arrangements for The Step By Step LP. The album was a masterpiece which rocketed up the Pop and Soul charts and immediately made the Step By Step Band the most sought after Northern Soul & Pop artists in the country during the Mid 70’s. At their peak, Lil Johnnie Gee & the Step By Step Band were perhaps the most consistent young song writers in Soul Music history from the Midwest.Read more online about the history of Johnnie Gee & "Step By Step" Band at www.johnniegeemusic.com