The Chambers Brothers first honed their skills as members of the choir in their Baptist church. This set up ended in 1952 when older brother George was drafted into the army. After his discharge George moved to Los Angeles. The other Chambers 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.
In the early 1960s, these four brothers from Mississippi, Joe and Willie on guitar, Lester on harmonica, and George on washtub bass, started to venture outside the gospel circuit, playing at coffeehouses that booked folk acts. They played at places like The Ash Grove, one of Los Angeles's most popular folk clubs. It became a favorite haunt of theirs 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. She 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, they were looking to electrify their music and become more rock and roll. Guitarist 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. Now having gone electric George would trade in his washtub bass for a Danelectro bass guitar.
Shortly after this, the group recorded its debut album People Get Ready.
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