Friday, May 3, 2013

The Chi-Lites

 This smooth-as silk vocal group is responsible for some truly top shelf harmonic soul in the realm of All Things Rockin'. Originally a quintet formed in Chicago, Illinois in 1959, they were Marshall Thompson, Creadel "Red" Jones, Robert Lester, Clarence Johnson and group leader singer/songwriter extraordinaire, Eugene Record. At first calling themselves  The Hi-Lites, after releasing a handful of singles on local labels they changed their name in 1964 to Marshall And The Chi-Lites in homage to their hometown. By the end of that year The name was shortened to simply The Chi-Lites. It was during this period that Record emerged as the principal vocalist and composer for the group.
After signing with Brunswick Records in 1968, the group scored their first major hit the following year with "Give It Away" hitting #10 on the U.S. RnB charts. Their next top 10 hit was 1971's "Are You My Woman". It was the next single release that gave the group their first crossover hit going to #26 on Billboard's pop charts and to #4 on the RnB charts. The song was "(For God's Sake) Give More Power To The People".

"(For God's Sake) Give More Power To The People" was a bottom-heavy up-tempo funk romp featuring alternating lead vocals in a fashion similar to Sly And The Family Stone's "Dance To The Music". It would turn out however, that love ballads would be the type of song that would keep the group at the top of the charts subsequently. Their first trip to the top o the charts would be with one such ballad , 1971's "Have You Seen Her", a heart-tugging song written by Eugene Record and songstress Barbara Acklin. It went to #1 on the RnB charts and proved to be one of The Chi-Lites' signature songs.       

The following year brought more success to the group when the follow-up to "Have You Seen Her", a Eugene Record composition titled "Oh Girl" became not only another crossover hit but a #1 release on both the pop and RnB charts.
This period would prove to be the peak of the group's success. A combination of personnel changes that left them at different times a quartet and a trio along with financial problems undergone by Brunswick Records resulted in a lack of promotion and inconsistent recorded output. Consequently Record left the group to sign with Warner Brothers Records as a solo artist. The group left Brunswick and signed with Mercury Records but produced no hits with the label.
In 1980 the group signed to the Chi-Sound label and released their first hit in decades with "Hot On A Thing Called Love" reaching #15 RnB in 1982. The following year they left Chi-Sound and signed with Larc Records. This was the label that carried the group's final hit, the top 10 "Bottom's Up".
Of the original group's line-up, three are no longer with us. Creadel "Red" Jones passed away August 25, 1994. Eugene Record died on July 22, 2005 after a long battle with cancer. Robert Lester, also a victim of cancer, died January 21, 2010.
The Chi-lites with surviving original member Marshall Thompson are still active on the oldies package circuit. The group was inducted into The Rhythm And Blues Foundation Hall Of Fame in 2000 and into The Vocal Group Hall Of Fame in 2005.

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