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Chester French: No “Family Affair”

The New Now

I have to admit, when I first heard the name Chester French I immediately thought of Family Affair, not the Sly & The Family Stone classic hit, but the '60s sitcom featuring a butler named Mr. French. As I recall, on the show Mr. French was always addressed as "Mr. French," but if the bearded British gentleman portrayed by Sebastian Cabot indeed had a first name, Chester would be appropriate. Yet my Internet research revealed that my hunch was wrong. On Family Affair, Mr. French did indeed have a first name and it wasn't Chester, but the equally stylish Giles. What's all this inconsequential TV trivia doing in a blog about new music, you ask? Bear with me, there is a music connection coming, but before we get into Chester French, may I point out that Tim Curry, none other than Mr. "Sweet Transvestite" from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, played Mr. French in the Family Affair revival, which aired from 2002-2003 on the WB. Pretty impressive, huh?

Even more impressive is the freakish coincidence that Chester French frontman D.A. Wallach looks like he could be the grown-up version of Family Affair actor Johnny Whitaker, the redheaded kid that played Jody Harris on the '60s sitcom. Take a look at the photos and marvel at their likenesses. Alas, Internet research proves that my theory ends with that vague resemblance, because Wallach looks to be a young man and Whitaker is pushing 50. That is, unless Whitaker was subject to some Lost-like time travel and then entered the witness protection program only to re-emerge as D.A. Wallach, singer of the hot new duo, Chester French. I'd like to believe that's true, but I don't suppose I'll find too many believers.

For you non-believers, I'll now rely some facts about Chester French. The band reportedly took its name not from a character on Family Affair, but from sculptor Daniel Chester French, whose works include the Lincoln Memorial, you know, that huge statue that was in the background at the recent concert to celebrate our new President. Wallach's partner in Chester French is Maxwell Drummey, who may have been named after either Maxwell Smart, the character that Don Adams portrayed in the '60s sitcom Get Smart or the Beatles' song  "Maxwell's Silver Hammer," but we can't verify either. I can tell you that Wallach and Drummey met in 2003 while both were freshman at Harvard and initially launched Chester French as a quintet. Eventually, however, the band's ranks were slimmed down to Wallach and Drummey. Although the band's influences include European synth-pop and '60s lounge music, it found an unlikely fan base with highly influential hip-hop artists, including Kanye West and the Neptunes/N.E.R.D. member Pharrell Williams. The latter ended up signing the duo to his Star Trak imprint, whose name, incidentally, was likely inspired by '60s TV show Star Trek.

The band's first release on Star Trak, the She Loves Everybody EP, was issued in late 2008 in a package that looked incredibly like a condom wrapper. In fact, Rolling Stone even called the song "an ode to safe sex," which is just fine by me, because I'm all for safe sex. However, in the video clip, the band engages in some seemingly unsafe and unprotected contact with a fine-looking female. Check out the official video for that track below and see if you agree.

As usual, Who's Next is almost always ahead of the curve and was there went Chester French made its debut as a duo (backed by sidemen) at South By Southwest in 2008. The band's full-length debut album is expected to be released in Spring. In the meantime, check out the band's exclusive performance of "I'm Not Over You," shot during SXSW 2008, and watch their interview as well. You might find it odd, but there's no mention of Family Affair in either one. 

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