Soul And / Or Related Artists
the (five) stairsteps

The Stairsteps c.1971

A Chicago, Illinois group comprised of the Burke family members:

Clarence Newton Burke Jnr. (b. 25th May 1949, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. d. 26th May 2013, Marietta, Georgia, U.S.A.)

James Burke (b. 19th September 1950, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. d. 19th February 2021, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.)

Kenneth (Keni) Burke (b. 28th September 1953, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.)

Dennis Burke (b. 1952, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.)

Alohe Jean Burke (b. 1st January 1948, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.)


Cubie Edwin Burke (b. 8th November 1964, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. d. 14th May 2014, Smyrna, Georgia, U.S.A.)

The Stairsteps were discovered and produced by Curtis Mayfield, this young quintet enjoyed a consistent run of R & B chart success, with releases on the Windy C, Curtom and Buddah labels.

Their father, Clarence Snr was a detective in the Chicago police department and their mother was Betty Burke.

Five Stairsteps

The group got its name, the Five Stairsteps, when Momma Stairsteps as Betty Burke was known, noticed that her kids looked like stair steps when stood next to each other according to their ages.

The Stairsteps


clarence burke jnr - along the way

Most of the band members, Clarence Jr., Alohe, James, Dennis, and Kenneth attended Harlan High School.

The group's material - 'You Waited Too Long' (1966), 'World Of Fantasy' (1966), 'Come Back' (1966) and 'Danger, She's A Stranger' (1967) - ranged from dancers to beautifully arranged ballads, and their blossoming talent was recognized in 1967 with a NATRA award as that year's outstanding R & B group.

StairstepsFamily PortraitStairstepsStairsteps

the five stairsteps (1967) / our family portrait (1968) / love's happenning (1969) / their greatest hits

For two years the group's name was expanded to include five-year-old sibling Cubie, but when the newcomer left in 1969, the line-up reverted to the 5 Stairsteps, later dropping the '5' altogether.


Paradoxically, the 5 Stairsteps' biggest hit, 'O-o-h Child' (1970), a U.S. Top 10 entry, came on parting with Mayfield. 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.

Dear PrudenceStairsteps

stairsteps (1970) / the first family of soul (2003)

In 1971, the group resurfaced as the Stairsteps with two charting Buddah singles: 'Didn't It Look So Easy' and I Love You-Stop.'

The group appeared in the 1970 movie 'Soul to Soul', a documentary of a benefit concert filmed at New York's Yankee Stadium and on the New York produced nationally syndicated show 'Soul'.

The group broke up in 1972, but whereas the majority entered full-time education, Clarence Jnr and Kenneth became session musicians.

In 1976 the duo resumed work with brothers Dennis and James, securing a contract with George Harrison's Dark Horse label at the behest of singer Billy Preston.

Front CoverRear Cover

2nd ressurrection (1976)

Although the Stairsteps returned to the soul Top 10 with 'From Us To You', they split up again soon afterwards.

Invisible Man's BandInvisible Man's Band

the invisible man's band (1980) / really wanna see you (1981)

Clarence Jnr. subsequently formed the Invisible Man's Band, who recorded two albums, 'The Invisible Man's Band' (featuring 'Love Can't Come, Love Has Come' in 1980) and 'Really Wanna See You' (featuring 'Along The Way' in 1981).

While Kenneth, latterly known as Keni Burke, enjoyed a successful career as a solo artist and producer.

Clarence Burke sadly passed away in 2013, sadly again, followed by Cubie Burke in 2014.

Clarence Burke Snr.

Clarence Burke Snr. with Keni

The father of the group, Clarence Burke Snr., died in July 2020.

Alohe Jean Burke is now known as Alohe Rami. She wrote:

'My brothers are doing fine. Clarence Jr is still writing music. Kenneth is still heavily writing and producing. Dennis has his own business with his wife Pat and they are both doing very well. James is drawing and selling some of his artwork and he is retired and laid back. Cubie is a professional dancer. He has danced with The Dance Theater of Harlem, The Atlanta Ballet, Alvin Ailey, and has done commericals for Clairol and choreographed the Atlanta Hawks, and has done the Olympics when they were in Spain. I am a college grad and a scientist. I play trumpet and drums in a concert band. I am also into gaming and raising exotic animals. Most of us live in Atlanta Georgia, except for Clarence Jr. He is residing in Florida for the moment. We give donations to the Cobb Energy of the Art Centre, and I have opened up a scholarship for students who are in need, at my alma mater. I love the fans and I consider them friends. Thank you so much for remembering us.
Alohe (Rami)'

September 2007

Very many thanks to Alohe for keeping folks updated with the family.

Real Player


as the Five Stairsteps:

The Five Stairsteps (Windy City Records 1967)

The Five Stairsteps (Buddah Records 1970)

as the 5 Stairsteps And Cubie:

Our Family Portrait (Buddah Records 1968)

Love's Happening (Curtom Records 1969)

as the Stairsteps:

Step by Step By Step (Buddah Records 1970)

Stairsteps (Buddah Records 1970)

Stay Close To Me (Buddah Records 1971)

2nd Resurrection (Dark Horse Records 1976)

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