George “Pops” Chambers, singer and bassist for the influential Sixties psych-soul outfit the Chambers Brothers, died Friday, October 12th. He was 88.
The musician’s death was announced on the Chambers Brothers’ Facebook page with a short note that read, “To all our fans, friends and loved ones, I was informed this morning at about 5:00 am, that my brother George, known as ‘Pops’ Chambers has passed. We thank you for all your years of Love Peace and Happiness.”
No details on the cause of death were given. George’s brother and bandmate, Lester Chambers, did not immediately return Rolling Stone‘s request for comment.
The Chambers Brothers were active in the late Sixties through the mid-Seventies and are best known for their 11-minute song, “Time Has Come Today.” A shortened version of the track was first released as a single in 1966, but it wasn’t until late 1967/early 1968 that an abridged version of the song became a surprise sleeper hit, peaking at Number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it sat for five weeks.
George Chambers and his brothers — Lester, Joe and Willie — got their start in music as members of the choir at their Baptist church while growing up in Mississippi. After a stint in the army, George relocated to Los Angeles in the mid-Fifties, and his brothers soon followed.
The quartet spent several years touring around Southern California as a gospel outfit, but by the Sixties they were running in folk circles and even earned a slot at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. Eventually, the Chambers Brothers added Brian Keenan on drums, making them one of just a handful of interracial groups at the time.
The Chambers Brothers soon began to incorporate electric instruments into their sound and eventually signed a deal with Columbia. While the first version of “Time Has Come Today” was a flop, the group scored a regional hit with “All Strung Out Over You,” which allowed them to record a new version of “Time” in 1967.
Over the next 10 years, the Chambers Brothers were staples of the Los Angeles psych and rock scene, releasing an array of studio albums and live albums, including their 1970 classic, Feelin’ the Blues.
The Chambers Brothers stopped recording in 1975 and although they split soon after, each member continued to play music. George, for his part, returned to gospel music and later became deacon of his church. The Chambers Brothers would also reunite periodically over the years to perform live.