I was saddened to hear of the death of George “Pops” Chambers earlier this week. George was of course, part of the late 60’s and 70’s “soul” band, The Chambers Brothers. The news immediately brought this song to mind, and it’s been in and out of consciousness ever since.
Originally from Carthage, Mississippi, the Chambers Brothers first honed their skills as members of the choir in their Baptist church. This set up 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 settled there as well. As a foursome, they began performing gospel and folk throughout the Southern California region in 1954, but they more or less remained unknown until appearing in New York City in 1965.
Consisting of George (September 26, 1931 – October 12, 2019) 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. 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.
They were becoming more accepted in the folk community, but, like many on the folk circuit, were looking to electrify their music and develop a more 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. Shortly after appearing at Newport, the group released its debut album, People Get Ready.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Chambers_Brothers
The (radio) edit version of this track reached #11 in the fall of 1968 (I was all of 10 years old then!), spending a total of five weeks at that spot. There were actually two edited versions of the song produced, one runs 3:05 and the other 4:45. The original clocks in at over 11 minutes.
The song has been described as psychedelic rock, psychedelic soul and acid rock, and features a fuzz guitar twinned with a clean one. Various other effects were employed in its recording and production, including the alternate striking of two cow bells producing a “tick-tock” sound, warped throughout most of the song by reverb, echo and changes in tempo. It quotes several bars from “The Little Drummer Boy” at 5:40 in the long version.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_Has_Come_Today
So here’s an almost 15 minute live version for you. Enjoy!