I had been contemplating on doing a version of Earhustle411’s “Whatever Happened To?” on the Chi-Lites, however in anticipation of the group’s upcoming TVOne’s “UnSung” scheduled for Wednesday, September 17, 2014, I am going to simply lay the platform down for one of the most talented groups to ever come out of Chicago. I most certainly have been and always will be a huge fan of The Chi-Lites.
With hits like; Have You Seen Her, Oh Girl and (For God’s Sake) Give More Power To The People, Stoned Out My Mind and Hot On A Thing, The Chi-Lites could have and has been the group whose standard set the pace that other groups strived to be like. Even through the group’s adversity over the years they are still going strong.
Formation of The Chi-Lites came about back in late 1950s when Marshall Thompson, Eugene Record, Robert “Squirrel” Lester, Clarence Johnson & Creadel “Red” Jones all teamed up together to become “The Hi-Lites”. While recording as The Hi-Lites, they did have a few singles recorded. What’s interesting is the group had been around nearly 10 years before they had a hit record. During that time it was not uncommon for a group to not have “hit” record right out the gate.
As groups often make changes and try to reinvent themselves The Hi-Lites were no different. In 1964 the group changed their name from the Hi-Lites to Marshall and the Chi-Lites. A pretty good idea right…considering the entire group was from Chicago. I’d say it was a good move because it was with this change that the group started to see things happen. In the process the group lost Clarence Johnson and changed their name once more to just simply The Chi-Lites. Slowly but surely it was becoming apparent that Eugene Record was the lead singer of the group.
It wasn’t until 1968 (subsequently the year I was born) that The Chi-Lites signed with Brunswick Records and they garnered their first hit the very next year, thus the group had finally arrived. Their song Give It Away had reached #10 on the charts. Even with the group’s first chart topping hit, there still was not any consistency with delivering more hits. Their next one would come until 1971. The train ride would be phenomenal for the group going forward but now without a detour on their way to stardom.
Needless to say, the Chi-Lites have weathered several storms in their existence, from members coming and going, a horrific automobile accident to which Marshall Thompson lost his wife Constance, the passing of Robert “Squirrel” Lester, Eugene Record and Frank Reed to Marshall Thompson being arrested for selling police badges and most recently suffering a stroke.
Call it what you want but I call it God’s grace. There is no way this group could have survived without God having His hand upon them and he still does. The music they created has stood the tests of time and continue to be relevent in and industry that has changed so drastically. It’s like we have come full circle and in the process even with Marshall Thompson being the lone surviving member of the “original” Chi-Lites, I know without a shadow of doubt that he’s going to see to it that not only will the legacy of the group continues on but should he perish.
The Chi-Lites will have proven that the best diamonds are the ones that were once a rough cut but when you truly put a hot fire to them, they emerge victoriously BEAUTIFUL.
THANK YOU Marshall Thompson for your vision, determination and most of all THANK YOU CHI-LITES FOR YOUR TIMELESS MUSIC!!