Like their West Coast contemporaries Sly and the Family Stone, The Chambers Brothers shattered racial and musical divides to forge an incendiary fusion of funk, gospel, blues, and psychedelia which reached its apex with the 11-minute psychedelic epic Time Has Come Today (1968).
The Chambers siblings – bassist George, guitarist Willie, harpist Lester, and guitarist Joe, all of whom contributed vocals – were born and raised in Lee County, Mississippi.
The product of an impoverished sharecropping family, the brothers first polished their vocal harmonies in the choir of their Baptist church, a collaboration which ended after George was drafted into the army in 1952.
Following his discharge, he relocated to Los Angeles, where the other Chambers brothers soon settled as well.
The foursome began performing gospel and folk throughout Southern California in 1954 but remained virtually unknown until appearing in New York City in 1965.
The addition of white drummer Brian Keenan not only made The Chambers Brothers an interracial group but pushed their music closer to rock & roll.
A well-received appearance at the Newport Folk Festival further enhanced their growing reputation, and they soon recorded their debut LP, People Get Ready.
The brothers stopped performing together in 1972 but reunited sporadically during the Seventies, appearing at benefits and peace and antinuke rallies. They also backed Maria Muldaur on her Gospel Nights LP and did commercials for Levi Strauss.
Joe and Willie remained in California doing session work, George sang gospel, Lester moved to New York in 1980 and formed a band with former Electric Flag bass player Harvey Brooks, but returned to Southern California to reunite with his brothers.