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 would start to venture outside the gospel circuit, playing at coffeehouses that also booked folk acts.
They played at places like The Ash Grove which was one of Los Angeles's most popular folk clubs and 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 on stage with the brothers onstage and recording with them. She also took them on tour with her. It was she who got in touch with Pete Seeger and helped to arrange putting the Chambers Brothers on the bill of the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.
One of their songs "I Got It" from their show appeared on Newport Folk Festival 1965 compilation LP that 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 in roll. Guitarist Joe Chambers recalled some happenings at the Newport festival and mentioned in a May 1994 Goldmine article that people were jumping and 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 afterwards they 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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