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Sons of Champlin

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The Sons of Champlin started in 1965 in Marin County, California rising from the wreckage of the Opposite Six, a locally popular R&B band from the pre-Beatle era. "Six" members Bill Champlin and Tim Cain added Terry Haggerty and the first of a series of drummers and bass players, and the new band was named for the "front" man, Bill Champlin.

For a couple of years the Sons played as a five-piece, working the college and high school dance circuit, and the various clubs and bars in the Bay Area. The playlist was mostly covers, some R&B such as "Midnight Hour," some commercial pop such as "Shades of Gray."

The Sons' first record release, on Trident Records, was a single called "Sing Me A Rainbow," and it got a little local a.m. airplay. In 1967 the Sons of Champlin became a became a seven piece band adding a trumpet, and more importantly, Geoff Palmer on keyboards, alto sax, and vibraphone. By this time the San Francisco scene included the Fillmore and Avalon ballrooms and as the Sons joined that rock circuit, they earned a reputation as a group of R&B and jazz musicians far above the caliber of the electrified folk-rockers who formed the core of the scene.

Not only did the Sons boast a horn section, their arrangements were far ahead of any in rock music, and set the Sons apart from the guitar- dominated bands playing the San Francisco ballrooms.

Bill Champlin started as a "pop singer" who discovered rhythm and blues in high school. By the age of fourteen he had written a blues tune which remained a staple of Sons' performances, "Beggin' You Baby." After winning all the music awards at Tamalpais High School, he took up music as a profession with the Opposite Six. As he began writing tunes for the Sons in 1967 his writing began to show signs of growing into something unusual, and deeper than most R&B themes of love and loss. Bill's blues-influenced guitar playing and Hammond organ kept the backgrounds close to the R&B roots, while the lyrics explored new territory. Bill has earned two songwriting Grammies, in 1979 and 1981.

As the son of a jazz guitarist, Terry Haggerty brought second-generation skills to the job, at a time when most rockers had just moved beyond folk music. Terry's technical skills allowed him to define musical "Terry-tory" that other San Francisco guitarists could only envy, and he is still mentioned by these other guitarists as the most advanced and influential player of that era.

Geoff Palmer is another second-generation musician, raised in Chicago and the son of entertainers. A natural left-hander and utility infielder, he covers a lot of ground on the keyboards with bass lines and chords, plays horn parts on alto and baritone saxes, as well as vibes and even bass, depending on what the arrangement called for. More than a technician, Palmer is an innovative soloist on whatever instrument he happens to be holding.

Bass player David Schallock did not join the Sons until 1972, but he was one of the old gang who played in some of the "other" bands in Marin County in the '60s. Dave and a fellow member of his old band the Pullice, Bruce Walford, sat in the producer's chairs for the Sons' first album, "Loosen Up Naturally."

James Preston joined the Sons in 1972, fresh from a local Marin band, "Beefy Red." In addition to his years as the backbone of the Sons, James has played sideman gigs with tough R&B acts such as Dr. John, Lydia Pense and Cold Blood, and Bobby McFerrin.

Philosophical themes, horns, and R&B and jazz tempos set the Sons apart from the rest the bands of the sixties. Because nearly every other major San Francisco band signed a big record deal before the Sons did in 1968, they have sometimes been referred to as a "second wave" San Francisco band, although the Sons predate most of the fixtures in that scene. Between 1968 and 1977 the Sons of Champlin released seven albums. Despite developing a fanatic fan base in a number of regions the national breakthrough never arrived, and in 1977 the members dispersed to other projects.

The fans have never gone away, and for this reason, it's about time the Sons played for them again. In this age of techno-pop and digital music, the world is about to find that it has finally caught up with the human sound of the Sons of Champlin.

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