-- Brett Champlin --
Brett played rhythm guitar and sang lead or backup vocals on most songs. He occasionally switched to bass when Bob played slide or lead guitar. He wrote or co-wrote much of the band's original material.
Before the band:
Brett started learning guitar at age 13 when he bought an old guitar from a neighbor and taught himself to play "Rumble" by Link Wray as did most of his contemporaries. The first record he bought was a Buddy Holly EP and he learned to play and sing a couple of those songs. When his family moved to Oakland, California in 1963, he took folk guitar lessons at UC Berkeley. He played saxophone and sang in a high school rock band called "The Lonely Rebels".
Brett started at Southern Illinois University in the Fall of 1964 and formed a folk trio, "The Pebbles", with Alan Dillard and Nancy Jo Zacha to perform in the freshman talent show that year. They took their name from a Pebble Beach tee-shirt Brett was wearing when they formed. They won a few campus competitions before drifting apart as they became more involved in their studies and campus activities.
He formed a folk duo with Jim Moody called the "Moody Two" shortly after that. Eventually they added two female singers, Brett's younger sister Jackie, and Gail Reilley, and with the addition of Fred Wiley on bass, they changed the name of the group to "Moody & Co.". Moody & Co. won the big talent show on campus (Theta Xi) that year and took second place the next. They performed in several local dinner clubs and were a featured group in a television special called "Illinois Sings" in 1966.
More or less at the same time, Brett had formed a rock and roll band to play at parties, high school dances, campus events and pretty much for anyone that asked them. That group was called "Om", the Hindu term for, among other things, all sound. The first version of "Om" was Brett singing lead and playing guitar, John "Jake" Byrum, who went on to become a Hollywood writer/director/producer on bass, Ron Steen on guitar, and Jay Gervitch on drums with miscellaneous occasional other players. As often happens with college groups, the lineup changed from year to year or even semester to semester as did the playlist. They played mainly contemporary hits, older R&B, and Chicago blues. One version of the group went by "Om Again", and in one, they played only songs that started with "I'm" in the title which they changed to "Om", as in "Om A Man", Om Cryin'", etc.
Brett took a semester off and returned to find that Bucky Harmon (playing bass) and Robbie Stokes (playing lead guitar), two friends who had just graduated high school had been playing as "Om" along with Jerry Goodman, a violinist, who later went on to play and record with "Flock" and "Mahavishnu Orchestra" and as a solo artist. They had also recruited a new drummer, Steve Sweigart, formerly with a group called Hearts of Darkness.
After an unfortunate incident (see Farm Bust Blues, The Real Story on the Stories page) which left Bucky unable to perform with the group, Brett and Robbie recruited Bob Laughton who they both knew as a versatile and talented musician who had played in several groups as varied as bluegrass (Dusty Roads Boys) to Chicago blues (Nite Owls, aka the Nickel Bag). This band, still known as "Om" began playing at every opportunity. They became the "house band" at a new music venue, The Hippodrome" which had recently been opened by a house painter and would-be entrepreneur recently transplanted from San Francisco. They began to write their own songs and to rehearse in earnest to prepare for a trip to the West Coast.
After the band:
Brett decided to return to school and try to finish his degree. He found that he could learn computer programming at SIU's Vocational Technical Institute and took classes there for a year. He dropped out again to travel to Europe for a year with a girlfriend. They flew to Ireland and traveled from there to Manchester, Bergen, Copenhagen, and Amsterdam then flew to Athens. As these things go, they broke up after spending a month on the island of Ios and she flew home, but Brett kept traveling. First to Istanbul, through Iran, and to Afghanistan where he stayed for a couple months in Kabul. There he chanced to meet a Frenchman who happened to know an old friend from school, Annie Williams, living in Paris and playing in the French band, Mormose. So he headed to Paris. In his travels, he made his way playing folk songs in small clubs and occasionally busking.
Eventually he came back to the states and after visiting family around the country, made his way to Chicago where he started plans to form a new band with Jon Stocklin (Nite Owls, Rotary Connection) but the plans fell apart when Jon broke his hand in a bar fight. Brett worked various odd jobs for a while and started a book store with a girlfriend who he later married. They had two sons while Brett worked for a time as a manager of a book store, medical technician, paramedic and then as a programmer.
He went back to school and got his degree in Computer Science and later an MBA. He continued to work as a programmer, then systems analyst and IT manager, process analyst, process architect, manager and management consultant at a F100 company before retiring from corporate life. He taught computer science and graduate management courses at Roosevelt University for 20 years and at the University of Chicago for 7 years. He is active in professional associations and was a popular speaker at conferences internationally .
He still plays guitar, blues harp and sings at blues jams at local blues clubs in the Chicago Area.
In 1980, Brett produced demo 45's for two rock Chicago groups
- the Marquis (2) and Strange Circuits.
Brett's sons Justin and Devin...
Robbie Bob Steve Stories