Bill Champlin in 2015
|Birth name||William Bradford Champlin|
May 21, 1947|
Oakland, California, United States
|Genres||Rock, blues, R&B|
|Instruments||Vocals, keyboards, guitar|
William Bradford "Bill" Champlin (born May 21, 1947) is an American singer, musician, arranger, producer, and songwriter. His performance work is principally associated with the bands Chicago and the Sons of Champlin. He has won multiple Grammy Awards for songwriting.
As a child, Champlin demonstrated a talent for piano, and eventually picked up the guitar after being inspired by Elvis Presley. He started a band, The Opposite Six, while at Tamalpais High School, in Mill Valley, California and went on to study music in college, but was encouraged by a professor to drop out of school and pursue music professionally.
Tenure with Chicago
In 1978 the day after Chicago guitarist Terry Kath died, Champlin received a call from someone connected to the group, suggesting that he audition to take Kath's place. Champlin turned down the offer, saying he could not fill that role. But in 1981, he collaborated with Chicago's drummer, Danny Seraphine, singing some backgrounds with Peter Cetera on a non-Chicago project.
Seraphine and Champlin co-wrote a few songs, and Champlin was invited to sing one song ("Sonny Think Twice") as a guest vocalist on what would eventually become Chicago 16. Champlin suggested to Seraphine that David Foster might be a good choice as a producer for Chicago at that time.
Seraphine began a campaign to get Champlin into the group and in 1981 he joined.
In the meantime, he was the musical director for the television show Fridays and was featured singing several songs on 16, including "Bad Advice" and "Follow Me."
In 1988 Champlin's voice appeared prominently on several major hit singles: "Look Away", "I Don't Wanna Live Without Your Love", and "You're Not Alone" from Chicago 19. That year he also sang the theme to the television show In the Heat of the Night.
In 1990 Champlin wrote, produced, and sang lead on "Hearts in Trouble", a song for the movie soundtrack of Days of Thunder. Originally a solo song, the producers of the movie decided, for marketing purposes, that it be released under the name of Chicago; so the band's horn section added a brass arrangement to the track and subsequently it was released as a single. In the summer of 1990, Chicago launched their Hearts in Trouble Tour.
By the early 1990s, Chicago released (Chicago Twenty 1, featuring the Champlin-sung hit "Chasin' the Wind"), and the band recorded Stone of Sisyphus, a project that remained unreleased until June 17, 2008, fifteen years after it was recorded. Champlin sings on the tracks "Mah-Jong", "Cry for The Lost", "The Show Must Go On", and "Plaid."
Champlin made major contributions to Chicago's big-band tribute Night & Day Big Band in 1995, and to both editions of their Christmas album (Chicago XXV: The Christmas Album, re-released with additional tracks as What's It Gonna Be, Santa?) and he co-wrote four of the songs on the band's 2006 album Chicago XXX.
In 2009 Chicago and Champlin announced he would be departing from the group, which he did mid tour as Chicago were on summer tour with Earth, Wind & Fire. Chicago's management released a statement saying "Bill Champlin is no longer in Chicago. He was a long time band member and we wish him all the best as he embarks on his new solo project, for which he's worked long and hard." Meanwhile, Champlin's publicist released a statement saying, "After 28 years with Chicago, singer-songwriter-keyboardist Bill Champlin is parting ways with the classic jazz/rock band to focus once again on his solo career."
The Sons of Champlin and Solo Career
The Opposite Six, Champlin's band from high school, had changed their name to the Sons of Champlin and had recorded a number of well-reviewed (although not commercially successful) albums (including Loosen Up Naturally and Circle Filled With Love) by 1977, when 30-year-old Champlin moved to Los Angeles. During the 1969–1970 period, Champlin was uncertain of the future of the Sons of Champlin, so he joined with Jerry Miller of Moby Grape in The Rhythm Dukes, following the departure of Don Stevenson. The band achieved a significant degree of acclaim as an opening act for many popular performers of that time, and recorded one album, ultimately released in 2005 "Flashback".
In LA he began extensive studio session work. He was especially in demand for his singing, appearing on hundreds of recordings throughout the 1970s and 1980s. The National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) awarded Champlin the Most Valuable Player peer award for male background vocalists in 1980.
Champlin won a Grammy Award for Best Rhythm and Blues Song in 1980 for co-writing the hit song "After The Love Has Gone" with Jay Graydon and David Foster (which was made popular by Earth, Wind & Fire) and a second Grammy Award for Best Rhythm and Blues Song in 1983 for co-writing the song "Turn Your Love Around" with Jay Graydon and Steve Lukather (which was made popular by George Benson).
In 1979, Champlin was approached by the then-widely successful band REO Speedwagon to add background vocals on some of their songs appearing on their album Nine Lives; which was the last album in which REO Speedwagon had a predominantly hard-rock edge.
This work allowed Champlin to become acquainted with other in-demand session men such as Jay Graydon, David Foster, Steve Lukather (of Toto). Among other artists that he worked with were Al Jarreau, George Duke, Boz Scaggs, Elton John, The Tubes, Lee Ritenour, Amy Grant, and Nicky Trebek. He also appeared on Barry Manilow's 1982 EP, Oh, Julie! and was a featured background vocalist on Manilow's Here Comes the Night
In 1991, he provided backing vocals for Kim Carnes' album Checkin' Out the Ghosts (released only in Japan); in 1997, Champlin revived the Sons of Champlin and continued to play with them between tours with Chicago. Throughout the 1990s he released several solo albums and toured Europe and Japan in support of his live solo album "Mayday". In 2009 Champlin collaborated with the Italian-American composer, arranger, and producer Manuel De Peppe and in 2011, Champlin played the Hammond B3 organ on the songs "Moon Cry" and "Mississippi Creek" by Curt Campbell and the Eclectic Beast Band.
He and wife, singer/songwriter Tamara Champlin, were part of the Scandinavian tour headlined by Leon Russell that also featured Joe Williams & Peter Friestedt. Champlin teamed up with conductor Lars Erik Gudim and the Norwegian Radio Orchestra (KORK) in Oslo, Norway for a special performance that aired December 27, 2011 on NRK TV in Norway. In 2014-2017 he performed several acoustic shows with Tamara Champlin in the US, Europe, Japan, South & Central America where they joined the Rock Pack Tour, guested with California Transit Authority featuring Danny Seraphine, played concerts to benefit Eddie Tuduri's Rhythmic Arts Project with the Pockets. They entertained with other indie artists for the Lone Wolf Entertainment Foundation  and rejoined the re-formed Sons of Champlin for a series of shows in the Northwest. In 2017, he and Tamara were part of the Ambrosia & Friends Tour.
David Foster produced two solo albums for Champlin: Single (1978) and Runaway (1981). Both albums sold poorly due to lack of adequate promotion by his record company, although the latter album did include a pair of minor hits on the Billboard Hot 100 ("Sara" and "Tonight, Tonight"). In the 1990s, Champlin released five more solo albums: No Wasted Moments, Burn Down the Night, Through It All, He Started to Sing, and Mayday. The last was a live recording of songs from his career, and included musicians Greg Mathieson, Jerry Lopez, Eddie Garcia, Tom Saviano and Rochon Westmoreland.
In September 2008, Champlin released No Place Left To Fall and a companion DVD in Japan on JVC/Victor. The record was produced by Champlin and Mark Eddinger, and featured musicians Bruce Gaitsch, George Hawkins, Jr., Billy Ward, Tamara Champlin, Will Champlin, and Eddinger, with guest appearances by Steve Lukather, Peter Cetera, Michael English, Jerry Lopez and enlisted such songwriting/player greats as Jay Graydon, Andreas Carlsson, Diane Warren, Michael Caruso, Tom Saviano and Dennis Matkosky. The record was released in Europe by Zinc Music in December 2008 and in the U.S. by DreamMakers Music in August 2009.
Bill Champlin resides in Los Angeles, California, has two sisters, Mimi Champlin and Sally Champlin; three children: Bradford Raymond Champlin (deceased), Amy Jo Kelly (from his first marriage), Will Champlin, and five grandchildren. Champlin has been married since 1982 to his second wife, singer-songwriter Tamara Champlin , who was a backup and session singer in Houston, then later in Los Angeles. Bill and Tamara's child, Will Champlin, graduated from the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts and is pursuing a career as a musician. Will appeared as a contestant on Season 5 of NBC's reality TV singing competition The Voice finishing in 3rd place.