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Chambers Brothers


The Chambers Brothers are a soul music group, best known for its 1968 hit record, the 11-minute long song "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. Based on their Southern roots, the brothers brought a raw authenticity to their recordings and live performances that was missing from many other acts of that era. Their music has been kept alive through heavy use in film soundtracks.

The Chambers Brothers first honed their skills as members of the choir in their Baptist church. This set up ended in 1952 when older brother George was drafted into the army. After his discharge George moved to Los Angeles. The other Chambers 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. Also in 1965, Brian Keenan joined the group as their drummer. Brian's eerie drumming on "Time Has Come Today" was one of the elements of success of that hit.

In the early 1960s, these four brothers from Carthage, Mississippi, Joe (b. August 22, 1942) and Willie (b. March 3, 1938) on guitar, Lester (b. April 13, 1940) on harmonica, and George (b. September 26, 1931) on washtub bass, 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 (b. January 28, 1943) 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. Guitarist 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. Having made this change of direction, George would trade in his washtub bass for a Danelectro bass guitar.

Shortly after this, the group recorded its debut album People Get Ready.

The group was formed in 1964 in Los Angeles, California by four brothers from Mississippi.
The Chambers Brothers are a soul music group, best known for their 1968 hit record, the 11-minute long song, "Time Has Come Today".
They reformed in 1974 to record Unbonded, and have toured regularly since.

 

70's Rock

Time Has Come Today

Members of this Group


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