The Chi-Lites are a Chicago-based smooth soul vocal quartet from the early 1970’s, one of the few from the period not to come from Memphis or Philadelphia. They were led by Eugene Record and scored eleven Top Ten R&B hits from 1969 to 1974.

The group formed in the late 1950’s when the Chanteurs (Record, Robert Squirrel Lester and Clarence Johnson) teamed up with Marshall Thompson and Creadel “Red” Jones of the Desideros to form the Hi-lites. Wishing to add a tribute to their home town of Chicago, they changed their name to “Marshall and the Chi-Lites” in 1964. Johnson left later that year and their name was subsequently shortened to The Chi-Lites.

Record was the group’s primary songwriter, though he frequently collaborated with others, such as Barbara Acklin.

Their major hits came in 1971 and 1972, “Have You Seen Her” and “Oh Girl”, the latter a #1 single on UltimateChi-LitesCoverFullthe Billboard Hot 100 on 27 May 1972. Other transatlantic chart hits followed, although the output became more fragmented as the group’s personnel came and went. Bass singer Jones left in 1973, and was replaced in quick succession by Stanley Anderson, Willie Kensey, and then Doc Roberson. Shortly thereafter, Eugene Record left, and David Scott and Danny Johnson entered. More personnel changes ensued, when Johnson was replaced by Vandy Hampton in 1977.

At that point, the group totally disintegrated, but re-formed in 1980, with the mid-1960s quartet of Record, Thompson, Jones, and Lester back together. Creadel Jones left for a second time in 1982, and the group would remain a trio. Record left again in 1988, and new lead Frank Reed joined to replace him. Singer Anthony Watson would also join the group at this time and the duty of lead vocals would alternate between them for several years. (Lester took over singing lead on “Oh Girl”, while Watson led on their other songs.) By then, the group also featured a female member.

In 1997, while returning home from a concert in Pennsylvania, the Chi-Lites were involved in a serious car crash which resulted in both Reed and Thompson’s wife Constance being ejected from the vehicle. Constance died from her injuries and Reed had to have a metal plate inserted in his back. “Hold On to Your Dreams” was included on the Help Wanted (Heroes are in Short Supply) album in her honor.

The group was inducted into the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 2000 and Record made an appearance with the group on stage to perform and accept the award.

Thompson was jailed in 2001 for selling police badges, and Reed returned temporarily to take his place. Upon Thompson’s return, Reed once again assumed the role of lead vocalist. This line-up of Thompson, Lester, Reed, and Thompson’s wife Tara Henderson on background vocals would remain until the death of Lester in 2010 from liver cancer.

Fred Simon of The Lost Generation joined the group to replace Lester and to perform bass vocals.

The group was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2005.

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