(OF THE GROUND BREAKING CHAMBERS BROTHERS)
Lester Chambers (of the groundbeaking Chambers Brothers) discusses his musical journey thru 40 years of Rock n' Roll, Blues, Jazz, Gospel, Funk, Reggae, etc. Lester also discusses his relationships with musical legends such as Sly and the Family Stone, Mahalia Jackson, Miles Davis, Curtis Mayfield, Jimi Hendrix and more, as he educates us on the past, present and future of the music/culture.
We also get a WORLD PREMIRE of selected cuts from Lester and KK Martin's new CD called 'BLUES FOR SALE'. We hear the songs Ain't Got You, Parchman Farm, People Get Ready, Time Has Come Today.
CHAT TRANSCRIPT on Friday 5/18/2001 at 11pm est:
MR. LESTER CHAMBERS
INTRO: by Debra Walker
Back in the day, sometime around the mid to late 1960's, my sister and I rushed out to get the Chambers Brothers music. We did get an album of theirs, although I no longer have it. At the time, we both dug their sound, and, in the scheme of things, e.g., so-called black music released at the time, these folks were DIFFERENT from all of the other popular acts back then. I thought that they were very ambitious, too, due to the blend of music genres that I heard in their songs, i.e., rock (especially the psychedelic trends of the day), blues, funk and gospel. And, as I recall, the Chambers Brothers, at that time, were probably considered to be interracial, too, in makeup, since there was one white member in the band. LOL...
Anyway, back in 1967 or 1968 (their heyday), this group was probably considered to be trailblazers. Perhaps, they were... As I remember, the brothers were all from down south (in the US), too, i.e., Mississippi, Alabama, etc. But, they weren't singing/performing the "usual" stuff, e.g., strict formulas for R&B/Soul music as heard from black artists at the time. BTW, the first time that I heard any of their songs, they were played on a (again...so-called) local, "white" radio station (WCFL) that was a powerhouse/"superstation" in this area.
When I listen to those songs now, I remember the vast array of talent that (I think) these folks possessed. And, each one of these songs covered one or more of the music genres that I mentioned earlier in this message, i.e., blues, rock (with psychedelic leanings), soul, funk, and gospel. I especially like the song "I Can't Turn You Loose" :)... Of course, I LOVE Otis Redding's version best of all. But, I think that the Chambers Brothers put their own unique spin on the tune, and did it justice. IMHO, they just turned the tempo up, a notch or two (or three!).
At any rate, and all things considered, I feel that you should be the
judge, in the end, WRT the significance of the Chambers Brothers, and
whether or not their music has enhanced your collection. Personally, I
have appreciated and liked most of the work that they have produced.
And, if nothing else, this group, at the time, was on the cutting edge,
as far as I was concerned.
Return to the P*Funk Review Main Page: Click here
| LESTER-CHAMBERS: HAS JOINED THE SOUL-PATROL CHAT ROOM
earthjuice: Welcome to the Soul Patrol Chat Room
April: Hello Mr Chambers. Thanks for
sharing your time with us
Hello friends & Chambers Brothers' fans,
earthjuice: Lester, this is a true honor
I'm just popping in quickly to pay my
respects to Lester. You and your kin are true originators and pioneers who are
far to often only mentioned in 60's compilation liner notes.We love your whole
body of work, not just one song. And you are FUNKY, not just psyc
That's quite a mouthful Bill
LESTER-CHAMBERS: Thanks DJ. Did you ever see us
I must go see LIVE funk music. A rarity in my
city. PLEASE post a transcript Bob!
I am much too young! Did
you ever tour in Canada?
earthjuice: u bet Bill :)
LESTER-CHAMBERS: Yes in
Toronto &; Vancouver with the group, Guess Who
and much respect to all. Guess Who have a new deal and are back on the scene you
should tour with them again!
GROWING UP IN MISSISIPPI
Chambers , who or what influenced your music?
LESTER-CHAMBERS: We started
singing church songs that we would sing in church while picking cotton in
LESTER-CHAMBERS: While living in L.A in the late 50's, we liked
Sam Cooke, Ray Charles
earthjuice: What singers were you influenced by,
earthjuice: Lester, we all know that you and your brothers grew up in
Mississippi, what was it like growing up there for you back in the 1940 s and
April: How did you go from picking cotton to a career
LESTER-CHAMBERS: We were dirt poor sharecroppers & my father was
an excellent cotton grower so the white landowners would periodically trade us
to other owners. Church was our saving grace. We won every church contests as
"The Little Chambers Brothers
earthjuice: Sounds like it was a difficult
existence?.......younger folks like myself have a hard time relating to
LESTER-CHAMBERS: My father moved us to L.A in 1953 and again we
sang in our church and eventually going to folk clubs at the beaches.
whose idea was it to enter those contests? was it something you really wanted to
LESTER-CHAMBERS: Church was the only acceptable outings for the blacks in
the south. We loved singing in church and getting this positive
earthjuice: What changed for you when you moved out of
LESTER-CHAMBERS: L.A in the 50's was quite a culture shock for
us. We could go anywhere we wanted and have jobs out of the fields. & school
April: My family picked cotton in Texas, but a generation
before me so I have a slight idea of what life was like
April: were you
accepted when you moved there?
LESTER-CHAMBERS: The predominately white folk
clubs in L.A seemed to accept our gospel a cappella singing. This is before we
all learned how to play our instruments.
earthjuice: What changed
for you when you moved out of Mississippi?
LESTER-CHAMBERS: Living in L.A was
certainly much freer than in Mississippi
April: did you learn to play in
school? what motivated you to learn an instrument?
LESTER-CHAMBERS: I started
to teach myself to play the harmonica and one night at the famous Ashgrove in
Hollywood &; asked Sonny Terry to give me an Harmonica lesson. He said if I
could cook him a meal. I cooked a wonderful southern meal & he spent hours
April: lol my family would appreciate it if you gave me cooking
earthjuice: That's an incredible story....
instruments did you learn how to play?
LESTER-CHAMBERS: My brothers &; I
are all self taught musicians, can't read a word of music. My grandfather was
also talented like this and my 2 sons play 2 instruments each.
April: do your
sons perform with you?
LESTER-CHAMBERS: My sons, Donovan, just turned 18 and
Dylan is 16. Dylan performed with the Chambers Brothers at Lincoln Center when
he was 4, singing Dock of the bay.
LEARNING THE MUSIC BUSINESS THE HARD WAY
(BY NOT GETTING
earthjuice: Who did you sign your first
record deal with?
LESTER-CHAMBERS: After doing the 1st season of Shindig,ABC
Paramount signed us to a 3 record deal but sold our contract(without our
knowledge ) to Vault. Who never paid us a dime for 5 albums, overseas sales, etc
for the next 30 years.
April: have you been able to receive anything from
LESTER-CHAMBERS: Not as penny from Vault and now Rhino owns the catalog
and is doing the same thing.
earthjuice: That sounds like a story of a large
corporation taking advantage of some young men from the south....how old were
you at the time?
LESTER-CHAMBERS: I was 23 &; knew nothing about the
business only that we could sing and loved it onstage.
April: Rhino doesn't
pay you anything for your music? I had assumed that Rhino was a godsend for
earthjuice: What can you tell us about this
earthjuice: PLAINTIFFS: LESTER CHAMBERS d/b/a The Chambers Brothers,
: CARL GARDNER d/b/a The Coasters, BILL PINKNEY d/b/a The Original Drifters,
TONY SILVESTER d/b/a The Main Ingredient- AGAINST DEFENDANTS: TIME WARNER, INC.
SONY MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT, INC COLUMBIARECORDS and BMG ENTERTAINMENT, INC.
UNIVERSAL MUSIC GROUP, INC. MP3.COM, INC
LESTER-CHAMBERS: The big guys(record
labels) are still screwing us. We didn't get paid when our albums were out &
now on CD's and now the internet.
earthjuice: Is that lawsuit still
April: I can see how you can get jerked with the internet but with
CDs and LPs there must be a paper trail of what you are owed
This case was for pension embezzlement & it has been over 8 years of suing
both AFTRA &; all the labels. It took until last year for the judge to allow
us discovery in the royalty files.
April: unless you were bamboozled into
signing away your rights
earthjuice: I see that MP3.com is one of the
LESTER-CHAMBERS: I also sued MP3.com this year and didn't even get
a chance in front of the judge & after MP3 paid Sony 20 billion the judge
threw my case out.
earthjuice: "discovery" (that sounds like it's a LONG way
off from putting some DOLLARS in your pocket?)
April: corporations are good at
delaying things, hoping the plaintiffs will get tired and go
LESTER-CHAMBERS: Columbia kept us so broke we couldn't fight
LESTER-CHAMBERS: We went 22 years without receiving a dime from Columbia
even though "Time Has Come Today" was used in 30 films & TV; overseas sales,
earthjuice: Somehow I have a feeling that NOT ONE CENT of the 20 Million
dollars found it's way into your hands?
LESTER-CHAMBERS: The record companies
feel they are the only ones to profit from the internet.
like there should be laws protecting artists such as yourself, (but then again,
we ALL know who's REALLY controlling things)
earthjuice: It must be pretty
tough to try to fight these big companies in court, they must have an unlimited
Billy: earthjuice: ...who really is controlling things?
Big Business runs things (in my opinion)
LESTER-CHAMBERS: Yeah, the RIAA have
tried to keep the artists all down. That's why singer should have their own
union. If you are a singer on an album, AFTRA is your union, but if you are also
a musician, then in steps the Musicians Union. Sometimes, they conflict.
April: what are you doing or what can you do to get what you
LESTER-CHAMBERS: Only one lawyer , Larry Feldman has been behind me.
With no $ it has been hard.
earthjuice: Thank goodness you have some
WHAT'S RACE GOT TO DO WITH IT?
earthjuice: Based on your
conversations with other artists, is your case typical?
never thought my career would be where it's at right now, especially with how
popular the blues is right now.
earthjuice: Can you explain,
LESTER-CHAMBERS: Most black artists from the 50's &; 60's,
earthjuice: Are you saying that it doesn't happen also to white artists
from the 50's &; 60's?
LESTER-CHAMBERS: Most black artist had no rights,
had to give up their publishing & no royalties to be able to sign. Don't you
remember Little Richard telling how he lost all of his publishing.
We have some white artists on Soul Patrol, such as Joey Dee, Jon Bowman, John
Sebastian, & John Mellencamp who can also describe rip-offs that have
happened to them
LESTER-CHAMBERS: White artists usually had a white manager
earthjuice: How does having a white manager make a
LESTER-CHAMBERS: Remember this was 1965 in the middle of the black
uprising and the record companies was all white and not use to even dealing with
anyone powerful that was black.
earthjuice: Did the Chambers Brothers have
Black management back in 1965?
LESTER-CHAMBERS: Our first manager was
earthjuice: Ok.......it all makes perfect sense to me
LESTER-CHAMBERS: Our style
of music scared al l the executives at Columbia because we were crazy hippies
playing an unusual style of funk, blues, rock, & gospel all combined. We
were told by the president of Columbia records that we weren't going to even
think about recording "Time Has Come Today" &; that we must sell it to a
white group on Columbia.
earthjuice: I guess they had a difficult time trying
to "market" the Chambers Brothers?
April: how did you manage to keep the song
and record it
LESTER-CHAMBERS: "Time' was such a hit with our audiences &
we refused to stop singing it so the producer took us to Hollywood out of Clive
Davis's control and we recorded it on one track.
LESTER-CHAMBERS: We played a
lot of dates with Santana. Its wonderful about his recent success.
You had problems with Clive Davis???...... the media portrays him as being such
a friend to the Black artist?
April: It's great that you didn't just do what
earthjuice: They constantly show him hugging and kissing all
over people like Whitney Houston and Luther Vandross
LESTER-CHAMBERS: Clive Davis is such a
phony. Don't get me started with him. Believe me he only likes us cuz we make
him big $$. Did you ever read a good book on the record industry called "Hit
Men". The first 125 pages deals with his embezzling of the artists funds on
Columbia and how the feds brought him up on 6 counts of
earthjuice: The author of that book is Fredrick Damien (I
LESTER-CHAMBERS: Read this book. It also tells how all the labels
screwed us and had "roasts" boasting about never paying their artists a penny of
royalties. This book sure answered a lot of questions about what happened to us
3 months before his fall.
earthjuice: I have a copy of the book, I read it
several years ago and it's fascinating
April: I have never read it but I will as soon as I can get a
LESTER-CHAMBERS: Imagine our predicament, we were not doing the
"acceptable" black act like the Impressions, Temptations, etc. so we were a
problem and refused to put our instruments down and we also had the courage to
buy a home in Stamford, Conn, that had no blacks.
April: must have been viewed
as militant troublemakers
earthjuice: Breaking down stereotypes.......that is
something that our people have forgotten how to do
LESTER-CHAMBERS: our career
really suffered from our refusal to do what the white man said we could
BLACK ROCK (an "oxymoron"?)
earthjuice: Switching gears
for a moment, .........did you ever have any association with other Black
rockers like, Arthur Lee or Jimi Hendrix?
LESTER-CHAMBERS: Great! I thought I
was going to have to give you a history lesson on who ran the record industry in
the early days.
April: were you considered more acceptable because of your
style of music?
LESTER-CHAMBERS: We knew Arthur Lee from our early Whisky -a
-Go -Go days. We then Met Jimi in New York right before he left for Europe. We
bonded instantly and my brother Willie was good friends and hung out all the
time. There is a CD from Jimi jamming at a Club called the Scene in New York
that I am on as the harmonica player with Jim Morrison.
everyone. God bless you Lester. Hope you get paid.
earthjuice: Miles Davis, Santana?
LESTER-CHAMBERS: I have some
great stories about my Aries friend, Miles. He & I were close friends in New
York. He called me Wally.
earthjuice: Miles is da Man, his 75th birthday is
coming up soon
earthjuice: What's on the horizon for
you now Lester?
April: Mr Chambers I have thoroughly enjoyed this chat. Thank you for your
time. Goodnight everyone
earthjuice: Lester, you get all the props in the
world from me...
earthjuice: I remember "sneaking down the dial" to the white
radio stations to listen to your music
earthjuice: and wondering why it wasn't
being played down at the other end of the dial
earthjuice: This session has
been most enlightening and when it gets posted on the web I think that many
folks will be quite surprised by some of the things that you had to say here
LESTER-CHAMBERS: Well folks. I played a club last night in Hollywood,
so I am kinda burned out, but it was nice chatting with you all. Let's do it
earthjuice: I have heard some of your recent material, it's VERY FUNKY stuff, people need to check you out when you do club dates and festivals
earthjuice: Many people think of the Chambers Bros and think ... "Uncle
Tom".....just like Hendrix
earthjuice: (they ain't gonna think that no
earthjuice: Yall laid down the
REAL DEAL and when people read this transcript, many folks will have a far
different impression of you than they had before
LESTER-CHAMBERS: Thanks for
LESTER-CHAMBERS: Good! I was hoping some old hippie fans would
have joined us but most of our fans were white.
LESTER-CHAMBERS: I don't even
think any of our songs were played on soul stations that is why were are not
listed in any books on soul singers.
earthjuice: here is something I have
learned... People who take risks, break down stereotypes, etc are the real
heroes of our society
earthjuice: those who dare to be different, those who
have the courage to do what is right, and those who go along with the crowd are
the actual Uncle Toms
LESTER-CHAMBERS: Our career sure suffered from our
defiance of the power.
LESTER-CHAMBERS: Everyone credits "Sly for what doors
we opened for black artists.
LESTER-CHAMBERS: Check out www.bluepower.com. A
writer reviewed our show last night in Hollywood.
LESTER-CHAMBERS: It was
glowing. Michele Phillips(Mamas & Papas) was there. We talked about the
earthjuice: nice review
LESTER-CHAMBERS: Well, goodnight. We will talk
tomorrow. I remember a festival (Devonshire Downs here in L.A) where he rode to
the festival in a limo with Jimi & Tah Mahal. 3 black men in a limo when
they pulled in the fairgrounds they witnessed the police openly hitting white
fans who were trying to knock the fencing down.
LESTER-CHAMBERS: I was the
only one really scared because it reminded me of how blacks in the south were
treated by the police. Jimi was raised in Seatle and Tah in New
earthjuice: We shall Lester.....thank you so much for taking
the time to talk with us
CLICK HERE TO PICK UP LESTER'S NEW CD