Born and raised near Philadelphia to a musical family, Joe Chambers heard not only the rock and roll of Louis Jordan and Slim Gaillard, but the classical of Vivaldi, Wagner, Beethoven and Mahler. Drums came early. I think an instrument picks you. I used to play on post and pans when I was little. I was setting them up like a kit at four years of age, so the instincts were there.
More taken with Lester Young and Lionel Hampton than Little Richard, Chambers nonetheless soon joined a band playing all the R&B hits of the day. We played 'house rock,' horn players walking the bar like Big Jay McNeely and Tiny Bradshaw. But then I started hearing esoteric jazz like Miles Davis, and that grabbed me. When I heard that at age 13, immediately I was hooked.
Chambers' parents also played a big role in his musical vision, and prompted him to learn more. The level of music that they listened to compared to today was just incredible, in terms of popular culture. Bebop is the most revolutionary period in American music. I call it the era when drummers freed themselves, from Jo Jones to Kenny Clarke to Max Roach.
Preachers used to preach against jazz. Then the people stopped dancing, killing the big bands. Bebop moved jazz from folkoric to a more cult-oriented and intellectual sound. That's why R&B came in. There was a need for more proletarian music. Bebop became cult music. It was a revolutionary time. I witnessed all of that.