Marshall Thompson remembers Dick Clark as the man "who could pick a hit record." Thompson, 69, the only remaining original member of the Chicago R&B vocal group "The Chi-Lites" remembers "American Bandstand" like it was yesterday.
"We first did the show right after "Soul Train" with Don Cornelius (who died earlier this year) to perform "Oh Girl," Thompson said in an interview with ABC News. The minute "The Chi-Lites" hit the studio Clark said to Thompson, "you've got a smash." It was. The song hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in May 1972. Thompson saw Dick Clark as "a magical man," who "will be sorely missed."
The Chi-Lites formed in their hometown of Chicago in 1959. They were originally called "The Hi-Lites," but Marshall Thompson along with Creadel "Red" Jones, Eugene Record, Robert Lester and Clarence Johnson added a "C" for Chicago in 1964. They have some of the greatest soul tracks of all time but were best known for classics like "Have You Seen Her", "Stoned Out Of My Mind" and a selection of top ten hits that will have you remembering a different time. Cornelius and Clark gave them the stage.
In just a few months, soul and pop music aficionados have lost two of the greatest star makers of all time. "First let's talk about Don Cornelius," says Thompson, who was very close to the so-called King of Soul Train. "Don was a very good friend of the "Chi-Lites" back in 1965. He was actually the first person in media to give us our first break on local television in Chicago. We performed at least twice a month on his local Soul Train program. We were very happy when we found out the program was going to go national. That really boosted the start of our career and our records sales," said Thompson. He feels indebted to Cornelius "forever" and the same goes for Clark.
The group met Dick Clark in 1971 and they became fast friends. "He invited us on American Bandstand in 1971, 72, 73, and 74. Those appearances exposed us to the pop audience and took our career to a whole other level! He is sadly missed and a true legend."
The "Chi-Lites" are still making a good living today because of the exposure on "American Bandstand," says Thompson. While the "Chi-lites" continue to perform, the songs that made them famous have another life.
In New York to participate in the contest for ITV-Uk's "The Nation's Favourite Number One Single" for Beyonce's "Crazy in Love." Thompson came dressed as dapper as you would expect. The man owns 300 handmade suits and for this occasion sported a green tie with rhinestone studs and a pair of green shoes to round out the look. He tells the story of how his songs have stood the test of time.
Exhibit A: "Crazy in Love." It's built off the powerful horn riff from 'Are You My Woman?' by 'The Chi-Lites." Beyonce and JayZ loved the song and definitely have a thing for the "Chi-Lites" music. "That's How Long I Love You," off the "Chi-lite" record "Toby" (1974) features on the Jay-Z's single "Dec 4th" found on "The Black Album."
Adam Harrison Levy, producer and director for the ITV project, said that "Marshall Thompson is a vestige of the past updated for the present." When he interviewed Thompson for the project he said that Thompson told him that when "The Chi-Lites" first put out "Are You My Woman" it didn't catch on. "They loved it but it didn't take off. So many years later it went beyond expectations and updated their entire act and all the young people went wild for them." Levy says it was a process of rejuvenation for the group. "The Chil-Lites" were before their time. It took 43 years for the times to catch up with their song."
"The Chi-Lites" are currently recording with Marshall Thompsons' record label Marance Records distributed by Sumthing Distribution. Check out their website here.