Remember when that gal was gonna take on the industry?
A Letter from Lester Chambers
FROM: LESTER CHAMBERS
DATE: June 30, 2000
TO: Courtney Love
Dear Ms. Love,
Just read your article "Courtney Love Does the Math" and I would like to
make you aware of my plight as a recording artist. My brothers and I
recorded over 30 albums as THE CHAMBERS BROTHERS from 1960-1977.
In 1972, we were dropped from Columbia Records after recording 6 albums
with them and until 1994 did not receive a penny in royalties because
were still paying on our last album, "OH MY GOD," which showed on the
books as costing over $60,000 for 5 days in the recording studio in
1972. Did you ever read a book called "HIT MEN"? The first 125 pages
deals with Clive Davis' embezzlement of artists funds on Columbia. Need
I say more.
Not only did we not get royalties, even though our hit song "TIME HAS
COME TODAY" has been used in over 30 films (COMNG HOME, PLATOON,
CASUALTIES OF WAR, ETC.) and television shows (right now ABC is using
it as their promo for next season's shows), but Columbia never paid into
our pension fund with AFTRA. We joined AFTRA in 1965, when we were the
house band on "SHINDIG" and as of 1994 had only 1 year vested into our
pension. Of course, we didn't get any medical insurance, either.
In 1994, along with Sam Moore (SAM & DAVE), Jackie Wilson's estate,
Carl Gardner (COASTERS), Bill Pinkney (DRIFTERS), Curtis Mayfield, etc., we
are suing all of the major record companies for pension embezzlement.
It has been 6 years and these companies drag us along, stalling in
releasing any documents. At last count, my wife researched that
CHAMBERS BROTHERS product is on over 125 compilation albums that we have never
received any licensing fees from.
Besides the 6 albums we did on Columbia, we recorded 5 albums with Vault
(now owned and currently on the Internet from licensing agreements from
RHINO RECORDS), 5 with Vanguard (also on the net), 2 with Folkways
(also on the net) and 2 with Proverb and 2 with Avco Embassy, THAT WE NEVER
RECEIVED A PENNY IN ROYALTIES FROM ANY OF THESE COMPANIES!!!! We have
been getting screwed for over thirty years and now with our product on
the Internet, we are getting screwed again!!! Last month, Carl Gardner
(Coasters), Bill Pinkney (Drifters) who, by the way, will be celebrating
his 75th birthday in August, Tony Silvester (Main Ingredient) and myself
filed a lawsuit against MP3.com.
We would greatly appreciate any involvement from you regarding fighting
these pirates. By the way I noticed you used the word "sharecroppers"
several times in this article. Before escaping rural Mississippi in
1953, my father at 75, along with my 13 brothers and sisters were dirt,
poor sharecroppers on land owned by the head of the local KKK. We grew
up learning to sing gospel tunes, while picking cotton in the fields.
(Source: 2007 Punmaster's MusicWire
Everybody go over and hear what Carl Wilson says about the weaponization of music
Thirty years ago this year, a friend of mine was imprisoned, tortured, and later publicly executed. The story actually gets worse from there. I am reminded of this quite often lately given current events. So for my own personal reasons, and especially because we find ourselves in this day and age, some moral outrage is welcome. I'm glad Carl had a lot to say. More especially because this has been a very difficult paragraph to write.
The internet can be so strange. This article "The Hashbury is the Capital of the Hippies" (NY Times magazine, 1967
) is posted in entirety at a place appropriately called Ugly Flashbacks (a site which otherwise is entirely in Russian, I think).
Not much to report first hand from my side as I only ventured across the Bay into that world a few times, and my short time in the Haight Ashbury was much earlier (1963) long after what was left of the beatniks had straggled over from North Beach (where the original Anxious Asp was located and whose jukebox played Shirley Ellis's "Nitty Gritty"
many, many times each evening) into the Haight's crappy lowrent apartments, I mean historic Victorian lofts of such breathtaking vintage that even the woolen carpets had decayed from age, with wainscotting heavily layered by many coats of paint, and high ceilings that dispelled any chance of heat.
And the walks in the park then could be good, because that year the sun would come out at least once in awhile, and stumbling across a statue of Vivaldi in a hidden glade was cause for wonder, or more wondrous yet the discovery of the solarium, which was dazzling dressed out in many coats of super-gloss white enamel though sometimes too brilliant in the direct sun, and which occasionally made me laugh (especially when thinking of the one caricatured by Heinrich Kley
I wasn't anywhere near the Haight Ashbury. And in 1967, my connection with music was tenuous, but the underground radio station poured generously for me each night. There were just a few trips to record stores for me, and hearing the new imported lp by a guy named Jimi Hendrix. I didn't hear that on the radio or not just yet. I was lured into the back room of The Store by a friend teasing and asking me, "Are you experienced?"
So I clinked through the wooden beaded curtain into the sanctum sanctorum where he played that whole Experience album, newly arrived from England and pressed on a different sort of vinyl you could tell by the heft and feel, and both sides, on a turntable. There was a jukebox in that room, too, but needing repair the machine only lit up when it was plugged in -- so he plugged it in, and that was our version of a light show I guess. The music was unusual, and unique enough that I knew I needed to be more comfortable for an extended listen, and so sank farther back into the battered itchy mohair chair and listened all the way through. And he flipped the disc over and played the other side and had to go out and wait on customers and such. I realized I was already running a bit late to make it all the way to campus for class, so I left. And though I didn't rush out anywhere to buy the record, I did stop back in a few days to inquire if he had it handy, which he didn't, as the record was so precious to him he didn't want to risk leaving it at the store or carrying it in on a regular basis. (So I heard it on the radio after that).
The Store (a most generic name for the time) was a for-profit place of unique ephemera, semi-antiques, cultural artifacts, kitsch, and collectibles on Telegraph that as I recall a guy from the mime troupe (and Diggers) named Peter (Berg) was running. Because he is famous for starting the free stores, you see, The Store isn't mentioned too much in the more official versions and literature that is currently handed down and received, or maybe I'll hedge and suggest perhaps I'm not remembering correctly myself. (And I kind of doubt the latter, as I know the lady who said she told him he should be doing something like that, and as she was busy and struggling at the time, she was a bit miffed she had given that notion away; but this digression has a happy ending because she has gone on to open such a mercantile herself).
Anyway, it wasn't he, that big bear of a man with beads over wooly turtleneck (who sometimes was tardy depositing money into the bank and so people who sold him the kooky trinkets suffered through the indignity of a rubber check drawn on his account, but to be fair he tried to pay most people in cash from the register) who played the Jimi Hendrix record for me. But a handsome, well-groomed fellow I knew from Los Angeles who was in the area to study the fine art of printing and bookmaking who has since gone on to fashion for the true effete many books of poetry and art, some of which you might recognize.
So 1967 was like that, although this is just what I'm remembering at the moment.
Thinking about it, one of the few high points that year that in any way involved music was most tangential. As I waited for a bus on San Pablo, Chris Strachwitz offered me a lift towards home, dropping me off at my bus stop by an ice cream parlor which distracted me from standing at the uncovered bus bench in the patter of rain. Usually passengers would walk across the parking lot and huddle under the benign overhang of the ice cream parlor roof directly in front of the big glass plate windows. But that day, I entered and had a double cone while waiting for my connecting route. And my bus transfer was still valid though a bit folded and worse for wear, and even a bit soggy from insistent raindrops, when I handed it to the always cranky driver regularly assigned to that lousy route.
And, really, the funniest thing about the whole year was to hear a story from the guy in Hashbury, who used to wear thin white gloves when he handled rare records. He was stopped in Berkeley near a demonstration and the police made him empty his pockets. He was obliged to explain to them how it was he had those delicate white gloves in his possession.