The Chambers Brothers
The band in 1970
|Origin||Los Angeles, California|
|Genres||Psychedelic soul, funk, rock, psychedelic rock, R&B, gospel|
|Years active||1954–1972, 1974–present|
|Labels||Vault, Columbia, Avco, Roxbury|
|Past members||George Chambers|
The Chambers Brothers are an American soul band, best known for their eleven-minute 1968 hit "Time Has Come Today". The group was part of the wave of new music that integrated American blues and gospel traditions with modern psychedelic and rock elements. Their music has been kept alive through heavy use in film soundtracks.
Originally from Carthage, Mississippi, the Chambers Brothers first honed their skills as members of the choir in their Baptist church. This set up ended in 1952 when the eldest brother George was drafted into the Army. George relocated to Los Angeles after his discharge, and his brothers soon settled there as well. As a foursome, they began performing gospel and folk throughout the Southern California region in 1954, but they more or less remained unknown until appearing in New York City in 1965.
Consisting of George (September 26, 1931 - October 12, 2019) on washtub bass (later on Danelectro bass guitar), Lester (b. April 13, 1940) on harmonica, and Willie (b. March 3, 1938) and Joe (b. August 22, 1942) on guitar, the group started to venture outside the gospel circuit, playing at coffeehouses that booked folk acts. They played at places like The Ash Grove, a very popular Los Angeles folk club. It became one of their favorite haunts and brought them into contact with Hoyt Axton, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Reverend Gary Davis, and Barbara Dane. Dane became a great supporter, performing and recording with the brothers. With the addition of Brian Keenan (January 28, 1943 – October 5, 1985) on drums, Dane took them on tour with her and introduced them to Pete Seeger, who helped put the Chambers Brothers on the bill of the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. One of the songs they performed, "I Got It", appeared on the Newport Folk Festival 1965 compilation LP, which was issued on the Vanguard label.
They were becoming more accepted in the folk community, but, like many on the folk circuit, were looking to electrify their music and develop a more rock and roll sound. Joe Chambers recalled in a May 1994 Goldmine article that people at the Newport Folk Festival were breaking down fences and rushing to the stage. "Newport had never seen or heard anything like that." After the group finished and the crowd finally settled down, the MC came up and said "Whether you know it or not, that was rock 'n' roll." That night they played at a post-concert party for festival performers and went to a recording session of the newly electrified Bob Dylan. Shortly after appearing at Newport, the group released its debut album, People Get Ready.
"Time Has Come Today"
The band scored its only major hit in the fall of 1968 with "Time Has Come Today", an 11-minute opus written by Joe and Willie Chambers and highlighted by echoing vocal effects and Keenan's drumming which gave the song a psychedelic feel. "Time Has Come Today" was edited for release as a single and spent five consecutive weeks in September/October at #11 on the Billboard Hot 100, just missing the Top Ten.
Later incarnations of the group included session guitarist Steve Hunter (known for his work with Alice Cooper) and session whiz Stephen Patt (Northwind), freeing the brothers up to become front men, not just instrumentalists. However, due to a succession of dishonest promoters and managers, the group was unable to build on their success and eventually split up in 1972. An album recorded that same year for Columbia, Oh! My God, remains unreleased. They reformed and moved from Columbia to Avco Records and released Unbonded (1974) and Right Move (1975). In 1976 the brothers released Recorded Live In Concert on Mars for the Roxbury label. They have toured irregularly since.
Lester moved to New York and formed a band with former Electric Flag bassist Harvey Brooks. Guitarists Willie and Joe would find work as session men; George went back to singing gospel music and would later become a deacon of his church. Keenan retired to Connecticut where he set up his own recording studio, plied his trade as a carpenter, and died of heart failure in 1985.
Art Ramsey was hired as a replacement drummer. He performed live, on-the-road and in many different cities and venues with the Chambers Brothers band after Keenan's departure. Later, L.A. session drummer Fabian Jolivet joined the band for a 1997 tour that ended with the full line up returning to the Ash Grove and playing a Gospel set.
In 2016, Willie, Joe, and occasionally George, along with their nephew Jerry Warner on bass, Crazy Tomes on guitar, and LA drummer Jon McCracken, reformed as the Chambers Brothers to do shows in the Los Angeles area; including the world-famous Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, CA.
George Chambers died October 12, 2019 at age 88.
Billboard singles and albums listing
Billboard singles listing
- 1968 "Time Has Come Today", Pop Singles, #11
- 1968 "I Can't Turn You Loose", Pop Singles, peaked at #37
- 1969 "Wake Up", Pop Singles, #92
- 1970 "Love, Peace And Happiness", Pop Singles, #96
- 1971 "Funky", Black Singles, #40
- 1974 "Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go", Black Singles, #76
Billboard albums listing
- 1968 A New Time-A New Day, Black Albums, peaked at #24
- 1968 A New Time-A New Day, Pop Albums, #16
- 1968 The Time Has Come, Black Albums, #6; Pop Albums, #4
- 1970 Love, Peace and Happiness, Black Albums, #17; Pop Albums #58
- 1970 The Chambers Brothers Greatest Hits (Vault), Pop Albums #193
- 1971 New Generation, Black Albums #36; Pop Albums #145
- 1972 The Chambers Brothers' Greatest Hits (Columbia), Pop Albums, #166
- 1974 Unbonded, Pop Albums, #144
- The Time Has Come (1967)
- A New Time – A New Day (1968)
- Shout (1968)
- Love, Peace And Happiness/Live At Bill Graham's Fillmore East (1969)
- Feelin' the Blues (1970)
- New Generation (1971)
- Unbonded (1974)
- Right Move (1975)
- People Get Ready (1966)
- Now! (1967)
- Live in Concert on Mars (1976)
- Live Fillmore West 65 (2004)
- Live (2005)
- Oh, My God! (1972)
- Groovin' Time (1968)
- Chambers Brothers' Greatest Hits [Double Album] (1970)
- Greatest Hits (1971)
- The Best of the Chambers Brothers [Double Album] (1973)
- The Time Has Come / A New Time – A New Day [2 on 1 Album] (1975)
- Greatest Hits (1988)
- Goin Uptown (1995)
- Time Has Come: Best Of The Chambers Brothers (1996)
- Time (1998)
- Now/People Get Ready [2 on 1 CD] (1999)
- Barbara Dane and The Chambers Brothers (1966)
- Mike Bloomfield: From His Head To His Heart To His Hands (incl. Tombstone Blues - Alternate Chambers Brothers Version, with Bob Dylan)
- Dane, Barbara (1965). "The Chamber Brothers Do That Real Thing" (PDF). Folkway Records.
- allmusic The Chambers Brothers biography
- "George 'Pops' Chambers, of Chambers Brothers, Dies". Bestclassicbands.com. July 30, 2015. Retrieved October 14, 2019.
- Richie Unterberger.com LINER NOTES FOR THE CHAMBERS BROTHERS' SHOUT! By Richie Unterberger
- 1-94 Bar ONLY FINGERS BLEED: '70s GUITAR STYLE-MASTER DICK WAGNER By GEOFF GINSBERG
- Classic Bands.com TheChambers Brothers
- Mojo Music Review of the June 28, 2006 Arthur Lee Benefit Concert at the Whisky a Go Go
- love.torbenskott.dk Whiskey-A-Go-Go, L.A.US June 28. 2006
- "Improv - Where Comedy Begins". Improv.com. Retrieved October 14, 2019.
- "The Chambers Brothers Rocked The House". Ashgrovemusic.net. April 13, 2016. Retrieved October 14, 2019.
- "An Evening With The Chambers Brothers". Grammymuseum.org. Retrieved October 14, 2019.
- ALL Music The Chambers Brothers Billboard Singles
- All Music The Chambers Brothers Billboard Albums
- Discogs Chambers Brothers, The - The Time Has Come
- Discogs Chambers Brothers, The - A New Time - A New Day
- Allmusic The Chambers Brothers Shout!
- Discogs  Chambers Brothers, The - Shout!]
- Discogs Chambers Brothers, The - Love, Peace And Happiness / Live At Bill Graham's Fillmore East
- Allmusic Feelin' the Blues
- Discogs Chambers Brothers, The - New Generation
- Discogs Chambers Brothers, The - Unbonded
- Discogs Chambers Brothers, The - Right Move
- Allmusic People Get Ready
- Allmusic Now!
- Discogs Chambers Brothers, The - Live In Concert On Mars
- Allmusic Live Fillmore West 65
- Allmusic Live
- Allmusic Oh My God!
- Smithsonian Folkways Groovin' Time
- Discogs Chambers Brothers, The - The Chambers Brothers' Greatest Hits
- Discogs Chambers Brothers, The - The Time Has Come / A New Time - A New Day
- "Barbara Dane discography". Wirz.de. Retrieved October 14, 2019.