The Chambers Brothers

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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]
Lee Szymborski

The Chambers Brothers are an American psychedelic soul band, best known for their eleven-minute 1967 psychedelic soul hit "Time Has Come Today". The group were 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. There were four brothers, though other musicians were also in the group.

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 bass guitar Danelectro and Gibson Thunderbird), 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] When Dane spotted the brothers there, she knew they would be perfect to do these freedom songs that people wanted to hear then.[7] 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.[8] 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.[9]

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.[9] 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.[10][11] It was rushed out by Columbia after the label had rejected an early version of "Time Has Come Today".[12] "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".[13]

"Time Has Come Today"[edit]

Ad for a 1968 Chambers Brothers concert in Seattle.

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) An album recorded in 1972 for Columbia, Oh! My God, has remained unreleased until October 28, 2022, when it was finally made available through multiple digital platforms.[14] Although the group disbanded in 1972, 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[15] and would later become a deacon of his church. Keenan retired to Stamford, Connecticut where he set up his own recording studio,[15] and died of heart failure in 1985[15]

American 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 Raitt, 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. [16][17][18] Lee Szymborski left The Chambers Brothers and joined the critically acclaimed Louisiana Cajun group; "The Savery Brothers" in San Diego, CA.; also playing recording sessions notably with Legendary Country Music Artists Merle Haggard, Doug Kershaw, Johnny Paycheck, Asleep at the Wheel, and Juice Newton. Lee Szymborski currently records and performs in Las Vegas, Nevada.

In 2006, guitarist Willie Chambers sat in with a group called Vince and the Invincibles at a benefit concert for Arthur Lee of the group Love and delivered an acclaimed performance.[19][20]

In 2015, Joe Chambers was appearing at venues such as Harold's Place on Pacific Ave. San Pedro as The Joe Chambers Experience.[21]

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;[22][23] including the Grammy Museum at L.A. Live.[24]

George Chambers died October 12, 2019, at age 88.[25][26]

Joe Chambers collaborated with Marva Holiday, recording their version of "To Love Somebody".[27][28]

Summer of Soul[edit]

In 2021 the Chambers Brothers appeared in the Questlove music documentary "Summer of Soul,"[29] about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival.[30]


In 1970, there was some confusion whether The Chambers Brothers were still with their label, Columbia. The source was an article in the March 28, 1970 issue of Record World. Apparently, singer Judd Hamilton was at a party for an American International Records signing and there was confusion about the Chambers Brothers signing to the label and whether or not Hamilton was a member of the group. The next issue of Record World, (April 4) clarified that The Chambers Brothers were not with the American International label and were still with Columbia Records. It also stated that Hamilton was not a member of The Chambers Brothers.[31][32]

There was another error, this time by Cashbox magazine, in the April 18 issue. Cliff Chambers who had his own label Cyclone Records and composed “Finders Keepers” and “Somebody Ought to Write a Book” was credited with being a member of The Chambers Brothers while he was signing a contract with Kent Records.[33] The error was picked up and Cashbox wrote in the May 9 issue (Cliff Chambers Not Ex-Chambers) that the group's manager, Charles H. LaMarr said that Cliff Chambers was never a member of the group and that the Chambers' included Joseph Chambers, George Chambers, Willie Chambers and Brian Keenan.[34]

John Castellano joined the band as a guitarist, touring with them during 1971 and 1972. This came about as a result of the brothers finding out that Castellano's mother made the clothes that Jimi Hendrix wore. They headed out to Bath Avenue, in Brooklyn to have the clothes fitted and heard Castellano playing on guitar. Eventually Castellano came on board.[35]


Studio albums[edit]

  • The Time Has Come (1967)[36] – US Pop Albums No. 4, US Black Albums No. 6[37]
  • A New Time – A New Day (1968)[38] – US Pop Albums No. 16, US Black Albums No. 24[37]
  • Feelin' the Blues (7/1969)[39]
  • New Generation (1971)[40] – US Pop Albums No. 145, US Black Albums No. 36[37]
  • Unbonded (1974)[41] – US Pop Albums No. 144[37]
  • Right Move (1975)[42]

Live albums[edit]

Unreleased album[edit]

  • Oh, My God! (1972)[48] – released on multiple digital platforms on October 28, 2022


  • Groovin' Time (1968)[49]
  • Chambers Brothers' Greatest Hits [Double Album] (1970) – US Pop Albums No. 193[37]
  • Greatest Hits (1971)[50] – US Pop Albums No. 166[37]
  • The Best of the Chambers Brothers [Double Album] (1973)
  • The Time Has Come / A New Time – A New Day [2 on 1 Album] (1975)[51]
  • 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)[52][53]
  • 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 LinhartBuzzy Linhart (1982, EP)[54]

Charted singles[edit]

List of charted singles, with selected chart positions
Year Title Chart positions

1967 "Uptown" 126
1968 "Time Has Come Today" 11
"I Can't Turn You Loose" 37
"Shout! – Part 1" 83
1969 "Are You Ready" 113
"Wake Up" 92
1970 "Love, Peace and Happiness" 96
"Let's Do It (Do It Together)" 103
1971 "Funky" 96 40
1974 "Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go" 106 76
"—" denotes the single failed to chart


  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. ^ Classic Rock, August 02, 2022 - The Chambers Brothers and the acid classic that psychedelicised black American folk music By Jo Kendall
  8. ^ Luhrssen, David; Larson, Michael (2017-02-24). Encyclopedia of Classic Rock. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-4408-3514-8.
  9. ^ a b Richie Liner Notes for The Chambers Brothers' Shout! By Richie Unterberger
  10. ^ Catalog of Copyright Entries: Third series - Music, Current and Renewal Registrations, January-June, 1967 A Page 12
  11. ^ 45Cat - The Chambers Brothers - Discography, The Chambers Brothers, A: All Strung Out Over You, B: Falling In Love
  12. ^ Way Back Attack - THE CHAMBERS BROTHERS, Time Has Come Today
  13. ^ 98.7 WFGR, June 7, 2012 - “Time Has Come Today” by the Chambers Brothers – Classic Hit or Miss - Matt Hendricks
  14. ^ "The Chambers Brothers – Oh My God (2022, File)". Discogs.
  15. ^ a b c Classic The Chambers Brothers
  16. ^ Bruce base Wiki
  17. ^ Suburban West Today July 18 through July 22, 1981
  18. ^ Cleveland Plain Dealer
  19. ^ Mojo Music Review of the June 28, 2006 Arthur Lee Benefit Concert at the Whisky a Go Go
  20. ^ Whiskey-A-Go-Go, L.A., US June 28, 2006
  21. ^ Randon Lengths News, 01/08/2015 - Freda Rente’: The Compassionate Outsider
  22. ^ "Improv - Where Comedy Begins". Retrieved October 14, 2019.
  23. ^ "The Chambers Brothers Rocked The House". April 13, 2016. Retrieved October 14, 2019.
  24. ^ "An Evening With The Chambers Brothers". Retrieved October 14, 2019.
  25. ^ Brenner, Eric (October 12, 2019). "Breaking News: George Chambers of The Chambers Brothers Dead at 88 #GeorgeChambersRIP #RockMusician". YouTube. Archived from the original on 2021-12-12. Retrieved December 8, 2020.
  26. ^ 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
  27. ^ Nashville Music Guide, December 14, 2019 - R&B Legend Marva Holiday Featuring Joseph Chambers Release “To Love Somebody” - Sherryl Craig
  28. ^ Vinyl Chapters, December 4, 2019 - Marva Holiday feat Joseph Chambers: To Love Somebody – Single Review by Jamie Parmenter
  29. ^ npr, July 5, 2021 - Questlove Unearths The Long-Forgotten 'Summer Of Soul'[1]
  30. ^ Greene, Bryan (June 2017). "This Green and Pleasant Land". Poverty and Race Research Action Council.
  31. ^ Record World, March 28, 1970 - Page 36 Chambers Diversify
  32. ^ Record World, April 4, 1970 - Page 36 Chambers on Col
  33. ^ Cash Box, April 18, 1970 - Page 35 CHAMBER MUSIC
  34. ^ Cashbox, May 9, 1970 - Page 9 Cliff Chambers Not Ex-Chambers
  35. ^ New York Times, May 8, 2015 - CHARACTER STUDY, At Castellano's House of Music, Instruments to Sell and Stories to Hear By Corey Kilgannon
  36. ^ Discogs Chambers Brothers, The - The Time Has Come
  37. ^ a b c d e f g "The Chambers Brothers: Billboard Albums". AllMusic. Archived from the original on January 26, 2012. Retrieved September 15, 2023.
  38. ^ Discogs Chambers Brothers, The - A New Time - A New Day
  39. ^ Billboard Billboard New Releases July 1969
  40. ^ Discogs Chambers Brothers, The - New Generation
  41. ^ Discogs Chambers Brothers, The - Unbonded
  42. ^ Discogs Chambers Brothers, The - Right Move
  43. ^ Allmusic The Chambers Brothers Shout!
  44. ^ Discogs [2] Chambers Brothers, The - Shout!]
  45. ^ Discogs Chambers Brothers, The - Love, Peace And Happiness / Live At Bill Graham's Fillmore East
  46. ^ Allmusic Live Fillmore West 65
  47. ^ Allmusic Live
  48. ^ Allmusic Oh My God!
  49. ^ Smithsonian Folkways Groovin' Time
  50. ^ Discogs Chambers Brothers, The - The Chambers Brothers' Greatest Hits
  51. ^ Discogs Chambers Brothers, The - The Time Has Come / A New Time - A New Day
  52. ^ "Barbara Dane discography". Retrieved October 14, 2019.
  53. ^ "Barbara Dane and the Chambers Brothers". Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. Retrieved 2023-11-29.
  54. ^ The Four Sides of Buzzy Linhart at AllMusic. Retrieved May 17, 2022.
  55. ^ "The Chamber Brothers: Billboard Hot 100". Billboard. Retrieved September 15, 2023.
  56. ^ "The Chamber Brothers: Top Hip-Hop/R&B Songs". Billboard. Retrieved September 15, 2023.

External links[edit]