For Chambers brother, time has come to return to SF spotlight 

Lester Chambers, who sang lead and played cowbell on the Chambers Brothers’ pivotal 1968 hit “Time Has Come Today,” is ready to be in the spotlight again.

The 71-year-old wouldn’t have said that a little more than a year ago, when various ailments, particularly “everything that causes high blood pressure,” had him incapacitated and living out of his car and recording studio in the North Bay.

Today, he says, “Every day is fantastic. I feel as good as I look,” thanks to the proper medicine, a good doctor and a stable home with his son Dylan in Petaluma.

He’s celebrating  his recovery with a special, one-time-only “Salute to Stax” at Yoshi’s on Thursday, at which he’ll be joined by a horn section and his old friend, songwriter-guitarist Steve Cropper, famed for co-writing “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” with Otis Redding.

That tune — along with “In the Midnight Hour,” “Knock on Wood,” “Soul Man,” “Hold On, I’m Comin’” and more songs made famous on the iconic R&B label  — will be in the show, which also will feature a set by Chambers and son Dylan, 25, who has been singing onstage with his dad since he was a little boy.

Cropper, busy playing with Booker T. and the MGs and the Blues Brothers Band these days, will be in The City for just one day to lend his support at the show, which will also raise money for the cash-strapped Chambers.

“I am looking so forward to it,” says Cropper over the phone. “It’s been forever since I’ve played with Lester.”  

He and Chambers got to know each other in the ’60s, when their groups often played at the same rock festivals. Later, they reconnected in the ’70s in South Central Los Angeles at the Greater Mount Zion Baptist Church, where the Chambers Brothers first sang after they moved west from Mississippi.  

Chambers doesn’t like to dwell on darker times, such as his family’s background as sharecroppers, or how some of his brothers are earning royalties from their huge song, and he isn’t.

He will admit that, in the music business, he has seen “horrible disrespect from one character to another — and that can extend to families.” Still, he says, “They’re my brothers, I love them.”

Through the years, he has stayed busy with music, living in various parts of the country, maintaining a solo career and recording albums, including a new one now in progress.

Somewhat surprisingly, he’s in favor of current music.

“About 90 percent of it I love,” Chambers says. “But I don’t like the rap music where they degrade women, though.”

Dylan, a sculptor as well as singer, chimes in, “Music should be uplifting.”

None of the original Chambers Brothers had a formal education in music, with Lester calling his talent “a gift from God — he gave it to my whole family. What you learn in church you never could learn in music school,” he says, noting that spirituality was what got him through difficult periods.

He’s looking forward to seeing his son have the same kind of success he had, with “better caretaking.”

As for a performance reunion with his brothers, he isn’t ruling it out entirely. He says, “I think it could still happen. We’re all still alive — anything’s possible.”



A Salute to Stax

Featuring the Lester Chambers’ Blues Review (plus horns) and Steve Cropper

  • Where: Yoshi’s, 1330 Fillmore St., San Francisco
  • When: 8 and 10 p.m. Thursday
  • Tickets: $18 to $25
  • Contact: (415) 655-5600,

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Leslie Katz

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