The Chambers Brothers

The Chambers Brothers

The band in 1970.
Background information
Origin United States
Genres soul, funk, R&B, disco, psychedelic soul, rock, pop rock, garage rock, protopunk
Years active 1954–present
Labels Columbia, Avco Embassy
Associated acts Lester Chambers
Past members
Lester Chambers
Joe Chambers
Willie Chambers
George Chambers
Brian Keenan

(See members)

The Chambers Brothers is 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, spawning a heady mix integrating all these factors. 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.[1] 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 Mississippi, Joe and Willie on guitar, Lester on harmonica, and George 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, one of Los Angeles's most popular folk clubs. It became a favorite haunt of theirs 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. She 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.[2]

They were becoming more accepted in the folk community, but, like many on the folk circuit, they were looking to electrify their music and become more rock and roll. 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.[2] Now having gone electric 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 Time Has Come Today

One night while playing at the Cheetah Club the band were met by a man smoking a cigar who said that he was there to bring them to Columbia Records and that's where they met David Rubinson. Actually, Warner Brothers and RCA wanted to sign them as well but wanted to change the bands image and put them in uniforms and have them put down their instruments. This is something that the brothers did not want! In the beginning it didn't seem much better with Columbia.

Columbia president Clive Davis didn't want them to record their song "Time" and said that they didn't record that kind of stuff at Columbia. He also wanted to find a white group to record the song for them. The band said that this would never happen. When they broke the news to David Rubinson he was very heartbroken as he was really looking forward to producing "Time". He found a solution to the problem. He told the brothers that he might lose his job for doing this but they were going to record the song. He told them to come in early for the session. Everything would be ready but they wouldn't have any time to overdub or fix anything on the recording. They went into the LA studio in 1966 and recorded it with Rubinson adding some strange sitar like sounds over the song with some primitive / early Roland Farfisa synthesizers that he found in the studio. It didn't do any good because Columbia refused to put the single out.

Later on when the group had a regional hit with the song "All Strung Out Over You", Columbia allowed Rubinson and the Chambers Brothers to re-record "Time" in 1967. By this time they had expanded "Time" to be the showpiece of their live show. They recorded the new version in one take with all of the effects live in the studio. Rubinson had set up the reverb and reinsertion things with Fred Catero, the studio engineer. Rubinson recalled that it was just one of those incredible magic sessions with all of them reacting to each other and even the trippy time tunnel section in the center of the song was a spontaneous creation.[3]

The band scored its first major hit in 1968 with "Time Has Come Today" (written by Joe & Willie Chambers), from the group's similarly named third album, The Time Has Come. The song spent five consecutive weeks at #11 on the Billboard Hot 100, just missing the Top Ten.

Later years

Later incarnations of the group included session guitarist Steve Hunter (Alice Cooper)[4] and session whiz Stephen Patt (Northwind).[citation needed] , freeing the brothers up to become front men, not just instrumentalists.[citation needed]

However, due to a succession of dishonest promoters and managers, the group found it difficult to build on this success and eventually split up in 1972. The 1972 album they recorded for Columbia, Oh! My God, remains unreleased. They reformed in 1974 to record Unbonded and Right Move (1975) for the Avco label. In 1976 they released the final Recorded Live In Concert on Mars for the Roxbury label. They have toured irregularly since.

They were signed to support Maria Muldaur on her Gospel Nights album. They also made commercials for Levi's jeans.

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 [5] and would later become a deacon of his church.

Keenan retired to Connecticut where he set up his own recording studio,[5] plied his trade as a carpenter[citation needed], and died of heart failure in 1985.[5]

Later, another member of the band, 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.

In 2006 Guitarist Willie Chambers brought the house down, sitting in with a group called Vince and the Invinceables at a benefit concert for Arthur Lee of the group Love.[6][7]

Billboard singles & albums listing

Billboard Singles listing

  • 1968 I Can't Turn You Loose — Pop Singles — Peaked at # 37
  • 1968 Time Has Come Today — Pop Singles — Peaked at # 11
  • 1969 Wake Up — Pop Singles 92
  • 1970 Love, Peace And Happiness — Pop Singles — Peaked at # 96
  • 1971 Funky — Black Singles — Peaked at # 40
  • 1974 Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go — Black Singles — Peaked at # 76 [8]

Billboard albums listing

  • 1968 A New Time-A New Day — Black Albums- Peaked at # 24
  • 1968 A New Time-A New Day — Pop Albums — Peaked at # 16
  • 1968 The Time Has Come — Black Albums — Peaked at # 6 - Pop Albums — Peaked at # 4
  • 1970 Love, Peace And Happiness — Black Albums — Peaked at # 17 - Pop Albums — Peaked at# 58
  • 1970 The Chambers Brothers Greatest Hits (Vault) — Pop Albums — Peaked at# 193
  • 1971 New Generation — Black Albums — Peaked at# 36 - Pop Albums — Peaked at# 145
  • 1972 The Chambers Brothers' Greatest Hits (Columbia) — Pop Albums — Pop Albums — Peaked at # 166
  • 1974 Unbonded — Black Albums — Pop Albums — Peaked at# 144 [9]


Record Albums

  • People Get Ready (Vault 9003, 1966) [10]
  • Now (Vault SLP-115 - 1966) [11]
  • Barbara Dane and The Chambers Brothers (Folkways Records FA 2468 - 1966)[12]
  • The Time Has Come (Columbia CL 2722 (Mono)/CS 9522 (Stereo) - 1967) [13]
  • Groovin' Time (Folkways Records FW 31008 - 1968)[14]
  • Shout (Vault SLP-120 - 1968) [15] & (Vault VS 390 - 1968) [16]
  • A New Time – A New Day (Columbia CS 9671 - 1968) [17]
  • Love, Peace And Happiness / Live At Bill Graham's Fillmore East (Columbia CS 9934, 1969) [18]
  • Shout - (Liberty, LBS 83272 - 1969), Reissue
  • Feelin' the Blues (Vault 128 - 1970)[19]
  • New Generation (Columbia C 30032 - 1971)[20]
  • Oh, My God! (Columbia 31158 - 1972) [*Unreleased*] [21]
  • Unbonded (Avco AV 11013 - 1974) [22]
  • Right Move (Avco AV 69003 - 1975) [23]
  • Live in Concert on Mars (Roxbury RLX-106 - 1976)[24]

CD Albums

  • Now! Live (One Way 35142 - 1999, reissue of Now Vault SLP-115 LP) [25]
  • The Time Has Come (Columbia/Legacy 63984 - 2000), also on (Repertoire 2337 - 2007 with Bonus tracks) [26]
  • Live Fillmore West 65 (Falcon Music Germany 3537 - 2004) [27]
  • Live (Acrobat 4046 - 2005) [28]
  • Soul Up (Karussell 635050 - 19??, reissue of Now Vault album)
  • People Get Ready (Collectors' Choice 08302 - 2007 reissue of (Vault 9003, 1965 LP) [10]
  • Now (Collectors' Choice 08312 - 2007 reissue of Vault SLP-115, 1966 LP) [11]
  • Shout (Collectors' Choice 08322 - 2007 reissue of (Vault SLP-120 - 1968) [15]
  • Feelin' the Blues (Collectors' Choice 08332 - 2007 reissue of Vault 128, 1970 LP) [29]
  • The Time Has Come (Sony/BMG Special Markets, 2008)



  • Chambers Brothers' Greatest Hits [Double Album] (Vault SLP 135, 1970)
  • Greatest Hits (Columbia 30871, 1971) [30]
  • The Best of the Chambers Brothers [Double Album] (Fantasy 24718, 1973)
  • The Time Has Come / A New Time – A New Day [2 on 1 Album] (Columbia CG 33642, 1975) [31]


  • Greatest Hits (Columbia CK-30871, 1988)
  • Goin Uptown (Sony Special Products, 1995)
  • Time Has Come: Best Of The Chambers Brothers (Legacy/Sony, 1996)
  • Time (Sony Special Products, 1998)
  • Now / People Get Ready [2 on 1 CD] (Repertoire, 1999)


  • Lifted: Songs of the Spirit (2002, Sony/Hear Music)—"People Get Ready"
  • The song 'Funky' was sampled by Tribe Called Quest for 'I Left My Wallet In El Segundo'


  1. ^ allmusic The Chambers Brothers biography
  2. ^ a b Richie LINER NOTES FOR THE CHAMBERS BROTHERS' SHOUT! By Richie Unterberger
  3. ^ Jud Cost — Santa Clara, CA 1996 - The Time Has Come, The Best of the Chambers Brothers, Columbia Legacy CK 65036
  5. ^ a b c Classic TheChambers Brothers
  6. ^ Mojo Music Review of the June 28, 2006 Arthur Lee Benefit Concert at the Whisky a Go Go
  7. ^ Whiskey-A-Go-Go, L.A.US June 28. 2006
  8. ^ ALL Music The Chambers Brothers Billboard Singles
  9. ^ All Music The Chambers Brothers Billboard Albums
  10. ^ a b Allmusic People Get Ready
  11. ^ a b Allmusic Now!
  12. ^ Barbara Dane discography
  13. ^ Discogs Chambers Brothers, The - The Time Has Come
  14. ^ Smithsonian Folkways Groovin' Time
  15. ^ a b Allmusic The Chambers Brothers Shout!
  16. ^ Discogs [1] Chambers Brothers, The - Shout!]
  17. ^ Discogs Chambers Brothers, The - A New Time - A New Day
  18. ^ Discogs Chambers Brothers, The - Love, Peace And Happiness / Live At Bill Graham's Fillmore East
  19. ^ Allmusic Feelin' the Blues
  20. ^ Discogs Chambers Brothers, The - New Generation
  21. ^ Allmusic Oh My God!
  22. ^ Discogs Chambers Brothers, The - Unbonded
  23. ^ Discogs Chambers Brothers, The - Right Move
  24. ^ Discogs Chambers Brothers, The - Live In Concert On Mars
  25. ^ Now! Live
  26. ^ Allmusic The Time Has Come
  27. ^ Allmusic Live Fillmore West 65
  28. ^ Allmusic Live
  29. ^ The Chambers Brothers
  30. ^ Discogs Chambers Brothers, The - The Chambers Brothers' Greatest Hits
  31. ^ Discogs Chambers Brothers, The - The Time Has Come / A New Time - A New Day

External links


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