The Chi-Lites Biography

Formed in Chicago in 1960 and originally called the Hi-Lites, the group featured Eugene Record (23 December 1940, Chicago, Illinois, USA, d. 22 July 2005, Chicago, Illinois, USA), Robert Lester (b. 1942, McComb, Mississippi, USA), Creadel Jones (b. 1939, St. Louis, Missouri, USA) and Marshall Thompson (b. April 1941, Chicago, Illinois, USA). Imbued with the tradition of doo-wop and street corner harmony, Record and Lester came together with Clarence Johnson in the Chanteurs, who issued a single on Renee Records in 1959. The trio then teamed with Marshall Thompson and Creadel ‘Red’ Jones, refugees from another local group, the Desideros. The resultant combination was dubbed the Hi-Lites and a series of releases followed. ‘I’m So Jealous’ from late 1964 introduced the group’s new name, Marshall And The Chi-Lites, the amended prefix celebrating their ‘Windy City’ origins. Johnson left the group later that year and with the release of ‘You Did That To Me’, the quartet became simply the Chi-Lites. Further singles confirmed a growing reputation while their arrival at Brunswick Records in 1968 pitched them alongside the cream of Chicago’s soul hierarchy. Record formed a songwriting partnership with Barbara Acklin, a combination responsible for many of his group’s finest moments. ‘Give It Away’ (1969) became the Chi-Lites’ first US national hit, and introduced a string of often contrasting releases.

Although equally self-assured on up-tempo songs, the group became noted for its slower, often sentimental performances. The wistful ‘Have You Seen Her’ (1971), which reached number 3 on both sides of the Atlantic, highlighted Record’s emotive falsetto, and later singles, including the US number 1 ‘Oh Girl’ (1972) and ‘Homely Girl’ (1974), continued this style. Although American pop success eluded the Chi-Lites’ later work, in the UK they hit the Top 5 with ‘It’s Time For Love’ (1975) and ‘You Don’t Have To Go’ (1976). Their continuity was maintained despite several line-up changes. Creadel Jones left the group in 1973, but his successor, Stanley Anderson, was latterly replaced by Willie Kensey. Doc Roberson subsequently took the place of Kensey. The crucial change came in 1976 when Eugene Record left for a short-lived solo career. David Scott and Danny Johnson replaced him but the original quartet of Record, Jones, Lester and Thompson re-formed in 1980. Record set up the Chi-Sound label at the same time, bringing in Gene Chandler as a vice-president. The title track of Bottoms Up (1983) became a Top 10 soul single but further releases failed to sustain that success. The group continued as a trio on Creadel Jones’ retirement, but by the end of the decade Record once again left (replaced by Anthony Watson), leaving Thompson with the Chi-Lites’ name. The group remain a popular draw on the oldies circuit.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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