The Chi-Lites members have changed but the music remains

Written by corres2

Before anyone knew who he was, Marshall Thompson would sneak into Chicago’s Regal Theater only to be thrown out time and time again.

But he persisted, and finally landed a job as the the theater’s house drummer.

“And one day, when her drummer didn’t show up, Gladys Knight asked me to play the drums for her,” Thompson recalls. “I couldn’t believe it, but there I was!’

That was just the start of his musical career. In 1959, the Chicago-born Thompson went on to form a vocal group known as the “Hi-Lights.”

However, after releasing several singles on local labels the troupe changed its name in 1964 to “Marshall & The Chi-Lites” because of a conflict of names with another local group.

In 1969, the newly-named “Chi-Lites” were signed to Brunswick Records where they would soon become international superstars with such hits as “Have You Seen Her,” “Give It Away,” “Are You My Woman,” and many, many more.

“All my life I was surrounded by music,” Thompson says, “especially my dad, who performed with greats like Louis Armstrong. He was the one who inspired my love of writing and performing music, and playing live for audiences.”

And on Jan. 22, Thompson will be sharing that love once again when he joins others musical luminaries such as Darlene Love, Little Anthony, Frankie Avalon and others for the Jerry Blavat and Friends show at the Kimmel Cultural Campus’ Verizon Hall.

Looking back on a career that has lasted over half a century, Thompson, who now lives in Las Vegas, discussed many of the highlights that have dotted his career – like the recent star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

“I would certainly say that was one of the all-time highlights of my career,” says Thompson, who is the last original member of the famed R&B and Soul group. “I think through all these years we’ve stayed in people’s hearts with our music. We take them back to the music they grew up with and stir those happy memories.”

And another, he adds, “would be in 2004 when the Chi-Lites received a Grammy for our work on Beyonce’s ‘Crazy In Love,’ which won the Best R&B Song Award.”

Over the years, Thompson insists all the various members of the Chi-Lites have gotten along very well. “And I always gave them their space and let them do what they wanted to do. I never held them back.

“For instance, one day Eugene Record, who was the group’s songwriter, came to me and said he wanted to go solo so that he could sing gospel. Well, I couldn’t say no. How could I? I would have nothing but bad luck if I tried.

“I was not going to go against God, so I told Eugene to do what he had to do and I would do what I had to do.”

And so Thompson has been leading a life that has brought him great pleasure. “I have no regrets. I wanted to make music and so I have. All my dreams have come true!”

For more information on the Jerry Blavat and Friends show at the Kimmel Cultural Campus’ Verizon Hall, visit kimmelculturalcampus.org

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