Obituaries: Chas Chandler
Thursday 18 July 1996
Few Sixties stars were able to make the jump from pop to business. They lacked the discipline and know-how. But when Chandler quit The Animals and swapped his caftan for a suit, he swiftly became one of the most respected and successful managers and producers of the rock age.
He discovered Jimi Hendrix, but it was his energy and commitment that helped turn a shy young American backing guitarist into a dynamic performer and a rock legend. Their mutual regard was based on trust and friendship. When their partnership eventually broke down, Chandler found it a bitter blow. But just before Hendrix died in September 1970, he called upon his old manager once more for help and guidance. Chas Chandler was a man that anxious artists knew they could trust.
He was born Bryan Chandler in Heaton, near Newcastle in 1938. After leaving school his first job was as a turner in the Tyneside shipyards. The first brush with with music came when he took up playing a homemade guitar. He later switched to bass and was in the Alan Price Trio when singer Eric Burdon joined the band in 1962.
Renamed The Animals, they quickly became one of Britain's most dynamic R&B groups. From Newcastle's Club A Go Go, they came to London in 1964, when they had a massive hit with "House of the Rising Sun". Many more followed, among them "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" (1964) and "We've Got To Get Out Of This Place" (1965), but disillusioned by their lack of financial reward and exhausted by touring, The Animals broke up in late 1966. Said Chandler: "We toured non-stop for three years, doing 300 gigs a year and we hardly got a penny. But our manager Mike Jeffery did all right. 25 per cent of the gross of 300 gigs a year, that was good money."
During the Animals' last US tour Chandler was advised by Keith Richards' girlfriend, Linda Keith, to see an up-coming guitarist, Jimmy James, who was playing with the Blue Flames at the Cafe Wha in New York's Greenwich Village.
Chandler was especially impressed by Jimmy James's performance of the Tim Rose song "Hey Joe", offered to be his manager and invited him to London. James asked Chandler if he could introduce him to Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, and that clinched the deal.
Chandler had already decided to stop playing himself. "I was never that good on bass guitar," he confessed. He brought his new find, now renamed Jimi Hendrix, to London in September 1966, and recruited Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding to form Hendrix's new group The Experience. He also formed a partnership with The Animals' manager Mike Jeffery to look after Hendrix's business affairs for the next two years.
Chandler eventually produced all Hendrix's hit singles including "Hey Joe", "Purple Haze", and "The Wind Cries Mary" and his first two albums, Are You Experienced and Axis: bold as love.
He first presented The Experience at a series of London showcase gigs where Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney were among the stars who flocked to see Hendrix kitted out in Afro hairstyle and military uniform.
When The Experience played with The Walker Brothers at the Finsbury Park Astoria in London, Hendrix and Chandler debated how they could liven up their act.
The journalist Keith Altham said that as Pete Townshend smashed up his guitar, it was a pity Hendrix couldn't set his on fire: "Chas immediately ordered his roadie Gerry Stickells to get some lighter fuel. Jimi only ever set fire to his guitar three times but it made history."
In 1968 Chandler quit as Hendrix's manager half way through the Electric Ladyland album sessions, fed up with endless re-recording and the surfeit of hangers-on in the studio. He fell out with Jeffery over the way Hendrix's career was being handled, and in 1969 returned to London to his Swedish wife Lotta, who was expecting their first child. Shortly afterwards he set up Montgrow Productions with Robert Stigwood.
Their aim was to find and develop new talent but Stigwood didn't share Chandler's enthusiasm for his next discovery, the Wolverhampton band Slade, and pulled out, leaving Chas Chandler as their sole manager. He paid off their previous management with pounds 100 and encouraged the adoption of a skinhead look, with cropped hair and bovver boots. Slade's lead singer Noddy Holder said that the band "worshipped" Chandler for the way he had transformed their fortunes.
Under his guidance they became of the most prolific hit makers of the 1970s - their singles included "Coz I Luv You" (1971) and "We've Got to Get Out of this Place" (1972) - though they failed to gain American success. In 1979 he withdrew from management and formed his own record label Barn Productions. At the same time he separated from his first wife, and left London to retire to Newcastle, where he married his second wife, Madeleine Stringer, a former Newcastle beauty queen.
In 1983 he became part of the re-formed Animals, and had to relearn the bass guitar. It was not a happy experience. The group spent most of the time arguing and at one point Chandler was seen grabbing Eric Burdon by the scruff of the neck.
In recent years he helped local bands in the North East to record their own music, and he also set up in business with architect and saxophonist Nigel Stranger. They established Park Arena Ltd, which developed the 10,500- seater Newcastle Arena, the largest sports and entertainment venue in the north-east. It opened last year after nine years work, and has already featured artists such as Neil Diamond, David Bowie and Pulp.
A big-built man who liked to drink and smoke, he had, said Keith Altham "enormous drive and self-belief. It was that enthusiasm that helped both Jimi Hendrix and Slade become stars. He'd just tell everyone: 'They are the best in the world!'"
Bryan "Chas" Chandler, bass player, manager and record producer: born Newcastle upon Tyne 18 December 1938; married twice (two sons, two daughters); died Newcastle 17 July 1996.
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