The Chambers Brothers





Unlike some acts billing themselves as "brothers", The Chambers Brothers really were brothers. Growing up in a sharecropping family in one of the most impoverished parts of Mississippi, the four siblings first started to sing at the Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Lee County.

After his discharge from the army in 1952, the oldest brother, George, headed to South Los Angeles and was soon joined by the other three. Here, the foursome began performing gospel and folk throughout Southern California, with George on bass guitar, Willie and Joe on guitar, and Lester on harmonica. They toiled in obscurity for years before switching to a more gospel/folk sound in 1961.

In 1965, they added a drummer to the group, a white man named Brian Keenan and moved more toward a rock/soul act. The group attracted national attention when they appeared at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival and were soon booked into the psychedelic venues of Electric Circus and both Filmore East and West, as well as The Apollo Theatre. They recorded their own version of The Isley Brothers' hit, "Shout" for the "Vault" label, but it went largely un-noticed.

The band was signed by Columbia Records in 1967 and the title song from their first album became their biggest hit, when "Time Has Come Today" reached #11 on Billboard's Hot 100 in 1968. The L.P. featured an 11-minute psychedelic version of the song. Although they released several more singles over the next few years, only "I Can't Turn You Loose" managed to make a dent on the charts (#37 in 1968), although they did reach the soul charts a few times.

The original group went their separate ways in 1972 but the four brothers came together again for a 1974 album, "Unbonded", that failed to sell well. The quartet continued to tour on and off and were signed to support Maria Muldar (Midnight At The Oasis) on her "Gospel Nights" album as well as making commercials for Levis' blue jeans.

Early in 1980, Lester relocated to New York, where he formed a band with ex-Electric Flag bassist, Harvey Brooks. Willie and Joe found work as session men and George went back to singing gospel music. The gospel group, "The Chambers Family Choir" stayed a priority for the brothers.

Former drummer, Brian Keenan started up his own recording studio in Connecticut, but suffered a fatal heart attack in 1985.

In 2006, guitarist Willie Chambers brought the house down when he sat in with a group called Vince And The Invinceables at a benefit concert for Arthur Lee of the group Love. Lester Chambers and his son Dylan continued to turn clubs, concerts and festivals into Rock 'n' Roll church with his Lester Chambers Blues Revue. In 2013, the 73-year-old musician was back in the news again after he was attacked onstage by a female fan after dedicating a song to slain Florida teen Trayvon Martin, shortly after the man accused of his murder was acquitted.