MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- Joe Chambers would be the first to tell anyone about the importance of relationships. His successful career is proof positive, and he also admits that hard work and creativity are just as important.
His bio is impressive — a musician, songwriter, entrepreneur and internationally-known preservationist of musical history. Chambers is the main man at The Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in downtown Nashville, which is recognized as the one and only museum in the world that honors the talented musicians who actually played on the greatest recordings of all time.
Located on the first floor of the historic Municipal Auditorium, the museum has approximately 60,000 square feet of museum and event space and is chock full of artifacts and instruments that pay tribute to the sounds of Nashville, Detroit, Muscle Shoals, Los Angeles, Memphis and New York.
One music maker that Chambers is most-proud of owning is an old piano that he purchased for $200 from CBS Records, the same piano where Billy Sherrill and co-writers worked out arrangements for monumental hits such as “Almost Persuaded,” “The Most Beautiful Girl,” and “Stand By Your Man.” And the list goes on and on. More information about the museum is available at www.musicianshalloffame.com/museum. The museum will be featured in an upcoming episode of the hit television series "Nashville."
Born and reared in Columbus, Ga., Chambers became hooked on music early in his life; started a band at age 14 and performed as lead guitarist. The band played Top 40, or as they called it “Blue Eyed Soul Music” that featured the Motown genre. They enjoyed regional success in South Georgia, but in 1972 things began to change after they won the National Battle of the Bands Contest in Greenville, S.C.
Chambers and his friends were wowed by the turn of events, but still questions remained; who to talk with about a record deal; how to network through an industry that is known for being tough to get into. And there were many more questions.
While they were not a country music band, one member –Drew Parden—had a family connection to the personal manager of Harold Jenkins, better known as Conway Twitty.
Chambers remembered, “We made an appointment to see Conway on a Monday morning. We drove from Georgia to Nashville on Sunday evening with only a few dollars in our pockets. Well, Conway’s plans got changed and he had to cancel our meeting. Not knowing what to do next, we decided to call the Nashville Chamber of Commerce and learn as much as we could about the famous Music Row on 16th Avenue.
“While driving around, we spotted a sign for CBS Records, owners of Capitol and Epic. We boldly walked into the building and asked who we needed to see in order to share a tape of our music. Sitting in the office was a man, whom we did not know, reading Billboard Magazine.
“The receptionist said that I could leave the tape and CBS would get back to me if there was further interest. In other words, don’t call us, we will call you.
“I explained that we only had the one tape, and that I could not leave it. A member of our band said something about being a distant cousin to Billy Sherrill. The man stood up and said that he was Billy Sherrill. He took us upstairs, listened to our tape and asked if we would like to cut a demo for him; saying that he would shop us around with other music people. We could hardly speak.”
The band came up empty handed by never getting a record deal, but Chambers was encouraged by Sherrill to continue his songwriting and even mentored Chambers while introducing the aspiring songwriter to other movers and shakers in Music City, USA.
His first success came when he penned a song, “Look What the Dog Drug In,” which was recorded on an album by Johnny Paycheck. Later, Chambers wrote a song that was recorded by Ricky Van Shelton. “Somebody Lied” reached No.1 on the country music charts.
For someone who does not personally know Joe Chambers, that person probably is familiar with his retail marquee: Chambers Guitar, a local fixture for three decades. However, that era is soon coming to an end.
Chambers explained, “With the proposed bridge at Broad and Memorial in Murfreesboro and with the mode of retail changing because of the Internet, we will be closing the brick and mortar store after the Christmas season.”