The Story of Detroit’s Chambers Brothers & The REAL ‘Crack Commandments’

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Within months of B.J. and Larry’s return to Detroit, the Chambers Brothers drug organization was expanding at a meteoric rate. While at the organization’s previous peak, it owned and operated a half-dozen manufacturing and sales locations, by the mid-Fall of 1985, the number was exceeding well into double figures. Old time connections like Perry Coleman, Big Terry Colbert and others, could no longer handle B.J. and Larry’s supply demands, so B.J. went directly to their source, Sam “Doc” Curry and Art Derrick, a tandem that were the biggest wholesale suppliers of pure Colombian cocaine in the whole Detroit area.

The pairing might have appeared odd at first glance – Curry was black, slick and well-manicured and Derrick, white, slovenly middle-aged with the aura and look of a used car salesman – but their overwhelming success moving mass amounts of drugs more than made up for any aesthetic shortcomings they might have exhibited. Derrick, who has since passed away of a drug overdose after doing a 10 year federal prison sentence, once estimated that he and Curry were bringing in $100,000 profit per day in profit for close to three years.

Using an introduction by Perry Coleman, B.J. and Larry and Curry and Derrick consummate a lucrative partnership. In a series of interviews before his death, Derrick, who was known on the street as “AD” and lived in a mansion in Harper Woods, declared the pair of siblings were by far his operation’s biggest customer. Where for a short while prior to B.J. fleeing south for his 10 month sabbatical from the drug game, the Chambers Brothers organization was one of the city’s largest street distributors of cocaine, for a majority of the late-1980s, it was the largest by far.

Although Larry respected his brother B.J. and the way he did business and would never forget the fact that he gave him his start in the drug world in the first place, he didn’t agree with the way he ran his crew. It was clear from very early on in their business relationship that the two brothers had two very different and distinct styles of leadership. B.J.’s command was loose, non-authoritative and very employee-friendly. Larry’s demeanor as a boss was strict, highly-organized and designed to strike fear in every single one of his subordinates.

While B.J. might take his crew on an all-expense paid for trip down to Florida or out to Las Vegas and was prone to impromptu jaunts to nearby amusement parks like Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio and Kings Island in Cincinnati, Larry could often be seen putting his crew through rigorous physical training and constant drilling on security procedures out in front of his places of business. In some ways the two styles and their leaders worked well together, in other ways they butted heads.

The more comfortable Larry became in the narcotics business, the further he distanced his day-to-day operations from those of his little brother. The newspapers, television newscasts and police might have painted them to the public as one single entity, but in reality by early 1986, B.J. and Larry were running two separate organizations, that while loosely connected by sheer convenience, were in essence, competing against the other in the ultimate game of sibling oneupsmanship.

“They pushed each other and motivated one another to grow the business,” De Fauw said of the two siblings. “Larry got to town and adapted to his surroundings very quickly. He had new ideas and influenced B.J. to think about shaking up the original business model. The further they pushed the envelope though, the easier they became to combat in that our marching orders increased and so did our budget. Once Larry got in the picture, they really put themselves front and center on everybody’s radar. I mean it was impossible to ignore them and what they were doing.”

After a little under a year overseeing the operations of a handful of crack houses, Larry desired to expand – and in a major way. He wanted to carve out his own niche in the local underworld, separate from that of the one B.J. originally created for the family three years earlier and the one he was currently helping improve upon. Larry fancied himself a gangland innovator. He had big plans and big dreams. The drug empire his younger brother had built was a good start, but he still wanted more.

That’s where the nest egg of cash he had built in prison came in. Larry took that $50,000 nest egg and along with some money he had stashed away in his first few months of dealing crack, he bought himself an entire apartment building. He intended on turning the apartment complex into a 24 hour emporium of vice the likes of the Motor city hadn’t seen since the racket-filled Prohibition era and in a lot of ways mirrored the business tactics once employed by his mother at her Marianna watering hole.

Scouting several locations for where to build his flagship drug superstore, in early-March 1986 Larry finally decided to purchase The Broadmoor, a four story horseshoe-shaped complex at 1350 East Grand Boulevard that was constructed as luxury living quarters for the city’s elite back in the 1920s but that had since become a victim of extreme urban decay and housed a variety of down on their luck, low-income residents. The outward appearance of the red brick building meant little to Larry. He knew that the clientele he intended on attracting would care considerably more about the services they were being provided inside than the manner in which the property was decorated and maintained.

Like a seizing rebel force in war, Larry and his crew invaded and took over the whole block. Owners of neighboring residences were forced to relinquish their homes in order for them to be used as stash spots or security posts. Those who resided within the Broadmoor itself were strong-armed into letting their apartments be used for the production and sale of crack cocaine. Apartment owners were enticed with reduction in rent and cash bonuses for the more availability they allowed their residences to be occupied by Larry’s staff of workers.

The building’s longtime manager, David Havard had his pay doubled to look the other way, do little to no work and keep his mouth shut. Havard’s live-in girlfriend, Patricia Middleton, was hired on by Larry to help calculate his weekly payroll and act as a general den mother, looking after the building’s general wellbeing and manning the stove in the back room eatery.

Quickly gaining the added street moniker, “Rambo,” for his militant-like ferocity in running his crew at the Broadmoor, Larry structured his one of a kind business like a corporation. As soon as a customer entered the building on the first floor, they were greeted by an employee who escorted them alas a host or hostess at a restaurant, to their desired location. For instance, different sized rocks of cocaine were sold out of different floors with the most expensive drugs being found in the “penthouse” or top floor, which served as a VIP area of sorts.

In the back part of the first floor, Larry set up a pawn shop and a makeshift bar and grill. The second floor housed a lounge, complete with couches, card tables, and a big screen television, where customers were encouraged to indulge in the fruits of their purchase right there on the premises. The third and fourth floors were slightly higher class, with powdered cocaine being sold and the quality of the furnishings being a smidge better (leather couches and recliners, cable TV, a close-circuit feed for all the major professional boxing matches of the day). The third and fourth floors also featured a selection of prostitutes supplied by Larry and a number of rooms squared off specifically for them to ply their trade.

Like any manager of any successful business, Larry was compulsive when it came to customer service. He instructed all of his employees to treat everyone who sought to purchase drugs from them, whether they were the dirtiest junkie or the most snazzy, well-dressed kingpin, with the utmost respect, courtesy and kindness. Throughout his busiest days, which normally came on the weekends, he would send around free shouts of tequila and offer special “two for the price of one” deals. Even those employees who worked as security staff and toted submachine guns were told to be personable, friendly and as non-threatening as possible when dealing with customers, police or any potential troublemakers.

The $75,000 expenditure Larry put out to buy the building, eventually dubbed simply, “The Boulevard”, was soon paying astronomical dividends. Once up and running at maximum strength – a process that took less than a month – the full-service house of hedonism was pumping out close to $100,000 a day of cash profit. Taking advantage of his newfound riches, Larry moved from his brother’s house to a nicer residence that he bought on Buffalo Street near the intersection of Six Mile and Mound and then to one on Albion, that looked from the outside to be a modest two-story abode, but was in fact outfitted with opulent furnishings and accessories in nearly every inch of space provided inside away from public view. Eventually, he would purchase multiple pieces of real estate, both across the city of Detroit and overseas in Jamaica, and a trove of jewelry, cars, furs and a slew of recreational entertainment toys.

He still ran a few scattered crack houses on the side however Larry consolidated the majority of his entire operation under the roof of the Boulevard. B.J, Willie, and David began joking one day that their brother should shell out some money to a local television station and shoot a commercial advertising the fact that you can find anything you want all under one roof at the Boulevard. Allegedly Larry chimed in and said he would call it “Marlow’s One-Stop.”

If you were diligent and well-intentioned, working for Larry was a pleasure, far from the thankless and often times hazardous work environment experienced by most in the lower regions of the drug trade. Larry was a heavy believer in the concept of meritocracy and incentive-based employment.

Every worker under Larry had a quota to meet for whatever the job was they were assigned and those who exceeded their quota were rewarded with cash bonuses. Extra money was always offered and promptly delivered to workers who clocked overtime on their shifts, brought in new customers and/or other employees and helped with any menial chores that needed to be done around his sale locations.

Those who showed loyalty to Larry’s organization were looked after and compensated tremendously well. Larry’s employees were showered with perks and fringe benefits galore. Food, lodging, child day care, laundry service and legal counsel fees were all provided expense free to those under Larry’s command

Posted on a wall in every one of Larry’s crack houses, including a larger-sized, laminated version in the front hall of the Boulevard, was a typed-written list of rules and fines for all of his workers that came to be known as “The Crack Commandments”. The list of regulations was strictly adhered to and enforced and told you everything you needed to know about Larry’s meticulous and ardent nature as a commander and chief.

Please Read

With hard work and dedication you will be rich within 12 months

Your success in this organization will depend on how well you follow instructions

Employees will be graded and promoted according to their work and conduct

If you are planning on getting rich forget about your girlfriend and family and expect to have very little time for parties and concerts

You are “on call” 24 hours a day

No chains or gaudy jewelry are to be worn while working

All money must be picked-up from ALL of the houses before 6am

You are never to ride with drugs and money at the same time

Drop offs should be done in segments (do not ride with all the drugs in your car at the same time)

If you recommend a worker who ends up stealing from the organization you are responsible for paying for the loss out of your own pocket

Fines

Stealing Money or Drugs – $300

Fighting – $100

Neglecting ones duties – $100

Getting high on the job – $300

Failing to follow instructions – $100

Talking out of school (revealing secrets about the organization to outsiders) – $500

Playing loud music during drop offs and pick-ups – $50

Bringing outsiders (unauthorized personnel) into your place of work – $500

If you are caught riding by yourself (pick-ups and drop offs must be done in pairs) – $100

Stopping for personal affair while “riding dirty” – $400

Lying – $500

Intentionally causing confusion amongst the staff – $200

Speeding while making drop off and picks-ups – $100

It is rumored that slain rap legend, Christopher “Notorious B.I.G” Wallace’s drug game anthem, “The 10 Crack Commandments” was inspired by Larry Chambers himself, at that time almost a decade removed from his heyday on the streets. The story goes that Wallace was told of the Chambers brothers exploits in the Motor City underworld, specifically Larry’s sheet of rules he posted on the walls of all of his crack houses around the area, by one of his friends from Detroit and that he wrote the future classic in homage to Larry’s ingenuity.

The dream had been achieved. Larry was the king of crack. And accordingly, he was treated like a god. His arrival at the Boulevard was treated as if an international head of state was arriving for a public appearance. Prior to getting out of his car, Larry’s men made sure all nearby streets and alleyways underwent security sweeps. Flanked by bodyguards and his top lieutenant, Rod Byrd, a sharp-minded college grad who he met taking classes at Wayne State, Larry strutted from his Mercedes-Benz into his ever-busy cathedral of sin and made his rounds, half inspecting the premises for breach of protocol by his staff and half glad-handing and schmoozing with his diverse clientele. As soon as word that Larry was in the building started to spread, kids from around the neighborhood scurried to the Boulevard and directly to his feet, eager to be the beneficiary of one of Marlow Chambers’ famous $100 handshakes or possibly even better yet be offered a job working in his organization.

Besides the Boulevard, Larry oversaw operations of close to 50 of the gang’s 150 crack houses spread across the city. The real Nino Brown was born

2 COMMENTS

  1. This was a very interesting story. The Chambers Brothers successively became major kingpin drug dealers they were books and served long jail sentences I meant BJ a couple years ago. Very smart young man.

  2. I love this article about the Chambers Brothers because they might be related to me. My dad James Chambers was from Hope, Arkansas. It doesn’t matter that they have committed crimes, I would like to at least get to know if we were related somehow. I will pray for them, everybody makes mistakes. They had the intellect to run a business a big business that shows you they had qualifications to do other work, but like the article said it just didn’t pan out. It is sad that that is the face of many, many of our young men today. Qualified but nobody will hire. I hope they have repented so that God can bless them.

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