Gary James' Interview With Marshall Thompson Of
The Chi-Lites

Chicago, Illinois' contribution to the music world is five guys who collectively call themselves The Chi-Lites. Since 1969, this group has had 17 top 20 R&B singles. Some of their more famous radio hits include "Oh Girl", "Have You Seen Her" and "Stoned Out Of My Mind". We talked with Chi-Lite founder and lead vocalist Marshall Thompson.

Q - What's new with the Chi-Lites?

A - We're putting out a new 12" Disco single called "Ride Sally Ride". Our English label Decca is releasing our Greatest Hits album this week.

Q - Why are the Chi-Lites going Disco?

A - We're trying to do what's happening today. We're changing with the time. Pretty songs are nice, but fast songs are what's selling.

Q - Why do so many people go to discos?

A - To get away from their problems.

Q - What's been the response to your new record?

A - In the Chicago discos, it's met with great results. As soon as the needle drops, people are out of their seats. It's a fast funky record.

Q - You worked with Stevie Wonder?

A - Yes, about two months ago I recorded a song with Stevie on harmonica, called "If IHad A Girl" - a beautiful tune, but it was a big letdown to me. Nothing happened. It just wasn't the right time for it.

Q - How long have you been in show business?

A - 19 years. My family was musical. I played drums for Gladys Knight and the Pips and Major Lance.

Q - What's the Chicago music scene like?

A - It looks like Chicago is going to bust open again with people like Tyrone Davis, Jerry Butler.

Q - How do you handle hecklers?

A - Make 'em part of the show. Given 'em a big hand.

Q - Do TV appearances hurt a performer's concert draw?

A - More people would come out to see a show if there were no Soul Train, Rock Concerts and Midnight Special. Who wants to pay $8.50 to see somebody when they can see them on TV free?

Q - Are you saving your money?

A - We are now. We had a big tax problem, but now we've got nice management (Kessler & Grass) and a beautiful agency. Rennaissance Talent.

Q - What would you tell someone who wants to be a performer?

A - Use your head. It's a great thing to be in. You have to want it in your heart. Get with the right people who know what's happening.

Q - What's down the road for The Chi-Lites?

A - On January 25th (1979) we're in London with Glora Gaynor. March 1 we're in Germany. We're doing a USO tour that's going to last anywhere from six months to a year.

© Gary James. All rights reserved.