The Chambers Brothers

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The Chambers Brothers
The band in 1970
The band in 1970
Background information
OriginLos Angeles, California
GenresPsychedelic soul[1][2]
Years active1954–1972, 1974–present
LabelsVault, Columbia, Avco, Roxbury
Past membersGeorge Chambers [deceased]
Joe Chambers
Lester Chambers
Willie Chambers
Brian Keenan [deceased]

The Chambers Brothers are an American psychedelic soul band, best known for their eleven-minute 1967 hit "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. Their music has been kept alive through frequent use in film soundtracks.

Early career[edit]

Originally from Carthage, Mississippi,[3] the Chambers Brothers first honed their skills as members of the choir in their Baptist church. This arrangement ended in 1952 when the eldest brother, George, was drafted into the Army. George relocated to Los Angeles after his discharge, and his brothers soon joined him. Beginning in 1954, the foursome played gospel and folk music throughout the Southern California region, but remained little known until 1965 when they began performing in New York City.[4]

Consisting of George (September 26, 1931 - October 12, 2019)[5] on washtub bass (later on Danelectro bass guitar), Lester (b. April 13, 1940) on harmonica, and Willie (b. March 3, 1938) and Joe (b. August 22, 1942) on guitar, the group 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.[6] Dane became a great supporter, performing and recording with the brothers. With the addition of Brian Keenan (January 28, 1943 – October 5, 1985) 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.[7]

They were becoming more accepted in the folk community, but, like many on the folk circuit, were looking to electrify their music and develop more of a rock and roll sound. 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.[7] Shortly after appearing at Newport, the group released its debut album, People Get Ready.

The group recorded "All Strung Out Over You" which was composed by Rudy Clark. It was released on Columbia 4-43957 on December 19, 1966.[8][9] It was rushed out by Columbia after the label had rejected an early version of "Time Has Come Today".[10] "All Strung Out Over You" became a regional hit for the group which gave them the opportunity to re-record "The Time Has Come Today".[11]

"Time Has Come Today"[edit]

The band scored its only major hit in the fall of 1968 with "Time Has Come Today", an 11-minute opus written by Joe and Willie Chambers and highlighted by echoing vocal effects and Keenan's drumming which gave the song a psychedelic feel. "Time Has Come Today" was edited for release as a single and spent five consecutive weeks in September–October at #11 on the Billboard Hot 100, just missing the Top Ten.

Later years[edit]

Later incarnations of the group included session guitarist Steve Hunter (known for his work with Alice Cooper) and session whiz Stephen Patt (Northwind),[citation needed] freeing the brothers up to become front men, not just instrumentalists.[citation needed][12] However, due to a succession of dishonest promoters and managers,[neutrality is disputed][citation needed] the group was unable to build on their success and eventually split up in 1972. An album recorded that same year for Columbia, Oh! My God, remains unreleased. They reformed and moved from Columbia to Avco Records and released Unbonded (1974) and Right Move (1975). In 1976 the brothers released 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[13] and would later become a deacon of his church. Keenan retired to Stamford, Connecticut where he set up his own recording studio,[13] and died of heart failure in 1985.[13]

Session Drummer Lee Szymborski, also from Stamford Connecticut, was hired by George Chambers to replace Brian Keenan in 1980, in Los Angeles, CA., and performed live with The Chambers Brothers at the Hollywood Bowl's Fourth Annual Survival Sunday Anti-Nuclear Benefit Concert, with Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Stephen Stills, Bonnie Rait, Graham Nash, Gary U.S. Bonds, Peter Yarrow, Kenny Rankin and others in Los Angeles, CA. on June 14, 1981. Lee Szymborski also performed live with The Chambers Brothers and Etta James for two shows at McCabe's Guitar Shop 3101 Pico Blvd. Santa Monica, CA. July 16, 1981.>ref< Source: Brucebase WIKI>ref<Source: SUBURBAN WEST TODAY July 18, through July 22,1981. >ref< Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer

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 Szymborski's departure. Later, L.A. session drummer Fabian Jolivet joined the band for a 1997 tour that ended with the full line up returning to the Ash Grove and playing a gospel set.

In 2006, guitarist Willie Chambers sat in with a group called Vince and the Invinceables at a benefit concert for Arthur Lee of the group Love and delivered an acclaimed performance.[14][15]

In 2015, Joe Chambers was appearing at venues such as Harold's Place on Pacific Ave. San Pedro as The Joe Chambers Experience.[16]

In 2016, Willie, Joe, and occasionally George, along with their nephew Jerry Warner on bass, Crazy Tomes on guitar, and LA drummer Jon McCracken, reformed as the Chambers Brothers to do shows in the Los Angeles area;[17][18] including the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, CA.[19]

George Chambers died October 12, 2019, at age 88.[20][21]

Joe Chambers collaborated with Marva Holiday, recording their version of "To Love Somebody".[22][23]

Summer of Soul[edit]

In 2021 the Chambers Brothers appeared in the Questlove music documentary "Summer of Soul," [24] about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival.[25]

Charted singles[edit]

Year Single Chart positions
US[26] US
1967 Uptown 126 - -
1968 Time Has Come Today 11 - -
I Can't Turn You Loose 37 - -
1968 Shout! - Part 1 83 - -
1969 Are You Ready 113 - -
1969 Wake Up 92 - -
1970 Love, Peace And Happiness 96 - -
1970 Let's Do It (Do It Together) 103 - -
1971 Funky 96 - -
1974 Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go 106 76 -
"—" denotes the single failed to chart

Billboard albums listing

  • 1967 The Time Has Come, Black Albums, #6; Pop Albums, #4
  • 1968 A New Time-A New Day, Black Albums, peaked at #24
  • 1968 A New Time-A New Day, Pop Albums, #16
  • 1970 Love, Peace and Happiness, Black Albums, #17; Pop Albums #58
  • 1970 The Chambers Brothers Greatest Hits (Vault), Pop Albums #193
  • 1971 New Generation, Black Albums #36; Pop Albums #145
  • 1972 The Chambers Brothers' Greatest Hits (Columbia), Pop Albums, #166
  • 1974 Unbonded, Pop Albums, #144[29]


Studio albums[edit]

Live albums[edit]

  • People Get Ready (1966)
  • Now! (1967)
  • Live in Concert on Mars (1976)
  • Live Fillmore West 65 (2004)[39]
  • Live (2005)[40]

Unreleased album[edit]

  • Oh, My God! (1972)[41]


  • Groovin' Time (1968)[42]
  • Chambers Brothers' Greatest Hits [Double Album] (1970)
  • Greatest Hits (1971)[43]
  • The Best of the Chambers Brothers [Double Album] (1973)
  • The Time Has Come / A New Time – A New Day [2 on 1 Album] (1975)[44]
  • Greatest Hits (1988)
  • Goin Uptown (1995)
  • Time Has Come: Best Of The Chambers Brothers (1996)
  • Time (1998)
  • Now/People Get Ready [2 on 1 CD] (1999)


  • Barbara Dane and The Chambers Brothers (1966)[45]
  • Mike Bloomfield: From His Head To His Heart To His Hands (incl. Tombstone Blues - Alternate Chambers Brothers Version, with Bob Dylan)
  • The Four Sides of Buzzy Linhart - Buzzy Linhart (1982, EP)[46]


  1. ^ Ankeny, Jason. "The Chambers Brothers". Allmusic.
  2. ^ Sodomsky, Sam (October 14, 2019). "The Chambers Brothers' George Chambers Dead at 88". Pitchfork.
  3. ^ Dane, Barbara (1965). "The Chamber Brothers Do That Real Thing" (PDF). Folkway Records.
  4. ^ allmusic The Chambers Brothers biography
  5. ^ "George 'Pops' Chambers, of Chambers Brothers, Dies". July 30, 2015. Retrieved October 14, 2019.
  6. ^ Reed, James. "In song and struggle, Barbara Dane a singular voice". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 28 May 2021.
  7. ^ a b Richie LINER NOTES FOR THE CHAMBERS BROTHERS' SHOUT! By Richie Unterberger
  8. ^ Catalog of Copyright Entries: Third series - Music, Current and Renewal Registrations, January-June, 1967 A Page 12
  9. ^ 45Cat - The Chambers Brothers - Discography, The Chambers Brothers, A: All Strung Out Over You, B: Falling In Love
  10. ^ Way Back Attack - THE CHAMBERS BROTHERS, Time Has Come Today
  11. ^ 98.7 WFGR, June 7, 2012 - “Time Has Come Today” by the Chambers Brothers – Classic Hit or Miss - Matt Hendricks
  13. ^ a b c Classic The Chambers Brothers
  14. ^ Mojo Music Review of the June 28, 2006 Arthur Lee Benefit Concert at the Whisky a Go Go
  15. ^ Whiskey-A-Go-Go, L.A., US June 28, 2006
  16. ^ Randon Lengths News, 01/08/2015 - Freda Rente’: The Compassionate Outsider
  17. ^ "Improv - Where Comedy Begins". Retrieved October 14, 2019.
  18. ^ "The Chambers Brothers Rocked The House". April 13, 2016. Retrieved October 14, 2019.
  19. ^ "An Evening With The Chambers Brothers". Retrieved October 14, 2019.
  20. ^ Brenner, Eric (October 12, 2019). "BREAKING NEWS: George Chambers of The Chambers Brothers Dead at 88 #GeorgeChambersRIP #RockMusician". Archived from the original on 2021-12-12. Retrieved December 8, 2020.
  21. ^ Chicago Tribune, Oct 14, 2019 - Chambers Brothers member George Chambers, who scored a hit with ‘Time Has Come Today,’ dies at 88 By Chris Willman
  22. ^ Nashville Music Guide, December 14, 2019 - R&B Legend Marva Holiday Featuring Joseph Chambers Release “To Love Somebody” - Sherryl Craig
  23. ^ Vinyl Chapters, December 4, 2019 - Marva Holiday feat Joseph Chambers: To Love Somebody – Single Review by Jamie Parmenter
  24. ^ npr, July 5, 2021 - Questlove Unearths The Long-Forgotten 'Summer Of Soul'[1]
  25. ^ Greene, Bryan (June 2017). "This Green and Pleasant Land". Poverty and Race Research Action Council.
  26. ^ "The Chamber Brothers: Billboard Hot 100". Billboard.[dead link]
  27. ^ "The Chamber Brothers: Top Hip-Hop/R&B Songs". Billboard.[dead link]
  28. ^ "The Chamber Brothers: Adult Contemporary Songs". Billboard.[dead link]
  29. ^ All Music The Chambers Brothers Billboard Albums
  30. ^ Discogs Chambers Brothers, The - The Time Has Come
  31. ^ Discogs Chambers Brothers, The - A New Time - A New Day
  32. ^ Allmusic The Chambers Brothers Shout!
  33. ^ Discogs [2] Chambers Brothers, The - Shout!]
  34. ^ Discogs Chambers Brothers, The - Love, Peace And Happiness / Live At Bill Graham's Fillmore East
  35. ^ Billboard Billboard New Releases July 1969
  36. ^ Discogs Chambers Brothers, The - New Generation
  37. ^ Discogs Chambers Brothers, The - Unbonded
  38. ^ Discogs Chambers Brothers, The - Right Move
  39. ^ Allmusic Live Fillmore West 65
  40. ^ Allmusic Live
  41. ^ Allmusic Oh My God!
  42. ^ Smithsonian Folkways Groovin' Time
  43. ^ Discogs Chambers Brothers, The - The Chambers Brothers' Greatest Hits
  44. ^ Discogs Chambers Brothers, The - The Time Has Come / A New Time - A New Day
  45. ^ "Barbara Dane discography". Retrieved October 14, 2019.
  46. ^ The Four Sides of Buzzy Linhart at AllMusic. Retrieved May 17, 2022.

External links[edit]