The Chambers Brothers were one of the best of the family-based R&B groups of the Sixties and they were a little unusual too. At their peak, the group consisted of four black brothers from Mississippi — and a white drummer. Along with contemporaries such as Sly and the Family Stone, the group helped integrate pop music.
The four brothers were born into a poor sharecropping family in Mississippi and – as was the case for so many – first grew to love music in their church choir. As they grew to adulthood they also learned to play instruments — Willie and Joe were guitarists, George played bass, and Lester took up the harp.
The brothers all eventually made their way to Los Angeles, where they performed gospel and folk music around the area for a number of years, but with minimal success. Relocating to New York in the early Sixties, they added white drummer Brian Keenan to the group and their music began to evolve into a fusion of funk and rock. They soon began to attract some attention.
The group issued their first album, 1965’s People Get Ready, and it did well enough to encourage them to continue. The next few years saw them exploring everything from soul to psychedelic sounds and they did well, even though none of their individual songs ever hit the top of the charts. They had solid hits with “I Can’t Turn You Loose,” and the lengthy piece “Time Has Come Today,” along with “Wake Up.” As the decade came to a close they recorded “Love, Peace and Happiness,” and although it was a good song and sold moderately well, it was the beginning of a downturn for the group.
Although they kept recording and performing for a while, they soon found that their popularity was diminishing and by 1972 had called it quits. They briefly reunited in 1975 but with little success, and eventually pursued other interests, one of them a family gospel-singing group that included their children.