After leaving school, he worked as a turner in the Tyneside shipyards. Having originally learned to play the guitar, he became the bass player with The Alan Price Trio in 1962. After Eric Burdon joined the band, the Alan Price Trio was renamed The Animals and became one of the most successful R&B bands ever.
The hulking bassist (Chandler stood six-foot-four) was on all of the Animals’ recordings from their first sides in 1963 through late 1966, when the nucleus of the original group disbanded.
Chandler’s bass lines were rarely given critical attention but some, including the opening riff of the group’s 1965 hit “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” and “It’s my life” subsequently received praise. Chandler was also the most prominent of the group’s backing vocalists and did occasional songwriting with Burdon. In 1966, despite commercial success, Chandler became disillusioned with the lack of money, recalling that, “We toured non-stop for three years, doing 300 gigs a year and we hardly got a penny.”
However during his final tour with The Animals, Chandler was advised by Keith Richards’ girlfriend, Linda Keith, to go 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 his “Yes” clinched the deal. His move across the Atlantic was made possible with the help of Animals manager Michael Jeffery, who suggested that he revert to his actual name Jimi Hendrix, and later suggested naming the band the Jimi Hendrix Experience. In Britain, Chandler recruited bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell as the other members of the Experience.
His enthusiasm fueled Hendrix during the early days. While engineers such as Eddie Kramer, George Chkiantz, and Gary Kellgren were also important to capturing the Experience’s sound in the studio, Chandler was invaluable in helping to select and refine the material. Also he, unlike many producers, had been on the other side of the glass booth; his previous experience in the studio as a member of a top group no doubt helped earn Hendrix’s respect and prepare both of them for the challenge of making the best records possible.
He was also instrumental in introducing Hendrix to Eric Clapton. It was through this introduction that Hendrix was given the opportunity to play with Clapton and Cream on stage. It was Chandler’s idea for Hendrix to set his guitar on fire, which made national news when this idea was used at a concert at the Finsbury Astoria Theatre and subsequently at the Monterey Pop festival. Hendrix’s sound engineer Eddie Kramer later recalled that Chandler was very hands on with the first two Hendrix albums, adding that “he was his mentor and I think it was very necessary.”
Increasingly frustrated at Hendrix’s hectic lifestyle and progressively more time-consuming dallying in the studio, however, Chandler ended his association with the Experience in the middle of the Electric Lady land sessions in 1968, claiming they were self-indulgent. He left management services in the hands of Jeffery in the following year.
Chandler’s role in Hendrix’s career is soften underestimated by biographers, particularly those who insist on viewing Hendrix as a genius manipulated by virtually everyone around him. Chandler risked almost all of his resources to launch Hendrix’s career, funding the “Hey Joe” session before Hendrix had a contract, letting Hendrix live in his flat when the pair arrived in London, and even letting the guitarist use the flat for rehearsal at the outset.
Chandler kick-started Hendrix’s songwriting by insisting that Jimi write the B-side to “Hey Joe,” although Hendrix had written little or no songs previously and wanted to do a cover tune (Chandler also wanted to make sure Hendrix got some publishing royalties). Partially as a result of the books in Chandler’s apartment, particularly the science fiction ones, Hendrix’s lyrics took on a poetic and cosmic influence. Most importantly, Chandler was able, at least at first, to keep the Experience focused and productive in the studio. Had he been able to continue working with the group as he had in 1966 and 1967, there’s reason to believe that Hendrix’s final records, and indeed final years of his life, would have been more coherent and productive as well.
During the two year Hendrix era, Chandler also did a little production for the Soft Machine, another group in the Jeffery/Chandler stable. He produced the A-side of their first single (1967’s “Love Makes Sweet Music”) and co-produced their debut album in 1968 with Tom Wilson; Soft Machine bassist Kevin Ayers went on record with his dissatisfaction with that record’s production, although he targeted Wilson for most of the blame.
But Chandler’s major financial coup would be as producer, and eventually manager, of Slade, the glammy British hard rock group that was perennially on the British charts in the ’70s. Chandler had found the group after forming a production company with rock entrepreneur Robert Stigwood, who allowed Chandler to buy the management rights to the band for 5,000 pounds in 1972.
Chandler then managed and produced Slade for twelve years, during which they achieved six number one chart hits in the UK.
He then went on to manage and produce the English rock band Slade for twelve years. During this time, Chandler bought and ran IBC Studios, which he renamed Portland Recording Studios, after the studio address of 35 Portland Place, London and ran it for four years until he sold it to Don Arden.
In 1977, Chandler played and recorded with The Animals during a brief reunion and he joined them again for a further revival in 1983, at which point he sold his business interests, in order to concentrate on being a musician. During the early 1990s, he helped finance the development of Newcastle Arena, a ten-thousand seat sports and entertainment venue that opened in 1995.
Chandler died while undergoing tests related to an aortic aneurysm at Newcastle General Hospital on 17 July 1996, only days after performing his final solo show. He was 57.
When Jimi Hendrix set fire to his guitar, Chas Chandler was ready with the lighter fuel. When Slade were desperate for a new image, Chandler dressed the band up as skinheads.
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.