Industry Rule #4080: “Record Company People Are Shady” [A True Story]

The Chamber Brothers

Industry Rule #4080: “Record Company People Are Shady” [A True Story]

Q-Tip said it in 1991 on Low End Theory, but Lester Chambers had been living it since 1967.  Chambers, now an inductee of the West Coast Blues Hall of Fame, is finally speaking up, and what he has to say is nothing short of a wake-up call for all musicians.  Clive Davis, Columbia Records, and the Publishing world are all growing to be under a scrutinized eye with each day Chambers vocally expresses the way the industry has left him with little money to live, having worked in the commercial music world since the age of 30.

The Chamber Brothers

Chambers’ story picked up momentum after he posted a photo online, detailing the following:

I am the former lead singer of a 60’s band.  I performed before thousands at Atlanta Pop 2, Miami Pop, Newport Pop, Atlantic Pop.  I did not squander my money on drugs or a fancy home.  I went from 1967-1994 before I saw my first royalty check.  The music giants I recorded with only paid me for 7 of my albums.  I have NEVER seen a penny in royalties from my other 10 albums I recorded.  Our hit song was licensed to over 100 films, TV & commercials without our permission.  One major TV network used our song for a national commercial and my payment was $625.00 dollars.  I am now 72, trying to live on $1200 a month.  Sweet Relief, a music charity is taking donations for me.  Only the 1 of artists can afford to sue.  I am the 99%

Lester Chambers was once part of the famed Columbia Records’ group The Chamber Brothers.  Having made it into the industry as four brothers from Mississippi, all of them sang and played instruments; Lester sang lead and played the harmonica, brothers Joe and Willie on guitar, and George on washtub bass [before switching to Danelectro bass guitar].  They started as folk, and electrified into rock-n-roll, soul, funk, and beyond.

After recording their first album, they signed to Columbia Records under the one and only Clive Davis.  “Time Has Come Today” and “All Strung Out Over You” became their most popular hits [below].  With 8 albums and 6 singles hitting the Top Charts, Lester Chambers’ account of having never received pay until 1994 is startling.  Not because it’s unbelievable, but because it means he received absolutely no royalty payment throughout the time he recorded and up to 20 years following.


As troublesome as it seems, Chambers is one of many Black artists–especially from his era– who have endured such hardships from billionaire estates of record labels.  As reported, Lester’s troubles have worsened over the years, which led to his most recent viral campaign for justice:

In 2002 his wife, Lola Chambers, testified before the California Senate hearings on Label Accounting Practices that “Time Has Come Today” earned the group under $250 in royalties for the European market over 16 years. She said that Columbia Records told them that “there were no overseas sales to report because The Chambers Brothers records were never licensed to an overseas distributor”. But she later discovered copies on eBay of numerous foreign pressings of their records on Columbia foreign affiliate labels for which they were not compensated.

In 2003, the home of Lola and Lester Chambers was broken in to and their record collection, consisting of over sixty Chambers Brothers albums and over one hundred singles, was stolen. Lola Chambers had spent twenty five years collecting Chambers Brothers records at various venues to leave these for their sons. Lester Chambers developed a number of medical problems that went untreated because he lacked insurance. He later became homeless, sleeping in a rehearsal hall in Novato, California, until Yoko Ono paid to rent a home for him and his son Dylan.

Now, utilizing the platform the internet allows, Lester Chambers has publicly and vocally lashed out about his mistreatment.  On his Facebook Page he’s received a small, but growing group of people willing to help, but the struggle–as of now– still continues.  He’s linked with Sweet Relief–an organization dedicated to relieving musicians in need– to allow him the allocation of donation funds in a safe and practical manner.

Rule #4080 has spoken testament to many artists, particularly those of African descent from the Blues, Jazz, Soul, and Funk eras.  Even some of our very own legendary rappers fell through hardship because of this same reason.  Now is time for artists to become more educated about finances, publishing, and royalty before they sign deals and hand over their precious talent for others to cultivate a living.  Let’s take this as a lesson learned, help those who are in need, and most importantly devise a plan for this to be avoided for all musicians in the future.  But who’s willing to do work?

Live Civil

Follow Us On Twitter and Facebook

25 Comments

  • Ron Grant
    March 19, 2012

    Thank you for doing this post/article. It’s messed up to think that such a legendary figure in music has to suffer this way. It truly is time for artists to be more educated on the business side of the industry, and that includes areas like publishing, licensing, the way music is financed, how to pay employees, how to set up business entities, etc. Being a musician these days almost has to be treated like any other job: true, you should love what you do, but you wanna get compensated properly for what you do and for your craft. After all, this IS a business at the end of the day.

  • Pingback: The Music Business Revisionist
    March 20, 2012
    • Adelie
      February 13, 2014

      Free info like this is an apple from the tree of knledeogw. Sinful?

  • last minute
    May 31, 2019

    excellent issues altogether, you simply gained a logo new reader. What could you suggest in regards to your submit that you just made some days ago? Any certain?

  • warungqq99
    June 1, 2019

    Hi there. I discovered your web site via Google while looking for a related matter, your website came up. It appears great. I have bookmarked it in my google bookmarks to come back then.

  • jadwal Pelni
    June 1, 2019

    Hello there. I discovered your web site via Google while looking for a related subject, your website got here up. It seems good. I’ve bookmarked it in my google bookmarks to visit then.

  • hkpools data
    June 1, 2019

    Awesome write-up. I’m a regular visitor of your blog and appreciate you taking the time to maintain the nice site. I’ll be a regular visitor for a long time.

  • Awesome post. I am a normal visitor of your blog and appreciate you taking the time to maintain the excellent site. I’ll be a frequent visitor for a long time.

  • gamefly free trial
    June 1, 2019

    I’m not sure where you’re getting your info, but good
    topic. I needs to spend some time learning more or understanding more.
    Thanks for excellent info I was looking for this info for
    my mission.

  • Hi there. I found your blog via Google while looking for a similar matter, your web site came up. It appears to be great. I’ve bookmarked it in my google bookmarks to come back then.

  • rental motor di jogja
    June 1, 2019

    Hiya, I am really glad I have found this information. Nowadays bloggers publish only about gossip and web stuff and this is really annoying. A good blog with interesting content, this is what I need. Thanks for making this website, and I’ll be visiting again. Do you do newsletters by email?

  • contoh surat penawaran
    June 1, 2019

    Awesome write-up. I am a regular visitor of your site and appreciate you taking the time to maintain the excellent site. I will be a regular visitor for a really long time.

  • kursi cafe minimalis
    June 1, 2019

    Awesome write-up. I am a normal visitor of your blog and appreciate you taking the time to maintain the nice site. I will be a frequent visitor for a really long time.

  • naija mp3
    June 1, 2019

    Thank you for every other fantastic article. Where else could anybody get that kind of information in such an ideal approach of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I am on the look for such info.

  • mbahalex.com
    June 1, 2019

    Awesome post. I am a regular visitor of your site and appreciate you taking the time to maintain the nice site. I’ll be a frequent visitor for a long time.

  • Awesome write-up. I am a regular visitor of your website and appreciate you taking the time to maintain the nice site. I will be a regular visitor for a long time.

  • http://165.22.65.193/
    June 1, 2019

    Awesome post. I am a regular visitor of your website and appreciate you taking the time to maintain the excellent site. I’ll be a regular visitor for a really long time.

  • csgo smurf accounts
    June 1, 2019

    I have been absent for a while, but now I remember why I used to love this website. Thank you, I’ll try and check back more often. How frequently you update your web site?

  • Hey there. I found your site by means of Google while looking for a similar matter, your website got here up. It seems great. I’ve bookmarked it in my google bookmarks to come back then.

  • www.dash86.net
    June 1, 2019

    Hiya, I’m really glad I have found this information. Today bloggers publish just about gossip and net stuff and this is really annoying. A good site with interesting content, that’s what I need. Thanks for making this web-site, and I will be visiting again. Do you do newsletters by email?

  • www.dash86.net
    June 1, 2019

    Hey there. I discovered your web site by way of Google while searching for a comparable topic, your site got here up. It seems to be great. I have bookmarked it in my google bookmarks to come back then.

  • Jasa SEO
    June 1, 2019

    Awesome write-up. I’m a regular visitor of your site and appreciate you taking the time to maintain the excellent site. I will be a regular visitor for a long time.

Post a Comment