Saturday, February 07, 2015

Chuck Berry Maybellene & Show # 546

When Chuck Berry released his first single Maybellene on Chess Records in July of 1955, North America (and the rest of the world for that matter) was a very different place. Colour TV was still a relatively new thing and not many people owned one. The culture was also a very different place, there was no such thing as a Compact Disc, computers were large over-sized contraptions, the internet was not even in existence yet, America was dominated by fast car counterculture and it was in a state of transition.

After playing in local bands in St. Louis, Missouri most notably the Johnnie Johnson Trio, Chuck Berry had a chance meeting with one of his musical influences when he took a trip to Chicago. Chuck met Muddy Waters who in turn suggested he go see Leonard Chess. After recording a demo tape, the song “Ida May” was seen as potential commercial hit at the time. The song was loosely based on the song “Ida Red” which was one of the many songs Berry had played prior to this and was best known at the time for being recorded by Bob Willis & His Texas Playboys in 1938. This song had roots in country as well as featuring Berry’s R&B dynamics. This was something that set Chuck Berry apart from others in those early days in the mid fifties, he mixed elements of country and western music with blues that appealed to audiences. The song’s lyrics were adjusted and its title was changed to “Maybellene”. Its title was rumoured to have come from either a discarded mascara box laying on the floor of Chess studios or from a cartoon cow that Berry remembered from a third grade reader. Regardless, “Maybellene” became a sensation being played across radio stations in the US and jukeboxes alike. It also charted on the rhythm & blues and pop charts of the day. Maybellene sold one million copies by the end of 1955.

The B-side of this single “Wee Wee Hours” was a blues track that showcased a slower blues groove with smooth vocals provided by Chuck Berry and piano work by Johnnie Johnson. It should also be noted that although this bluesier track was released on this single for Chess Records who were known for their blues recordings, Leonard Chess was more interested in the fast paced A-side “Maybellene”. The single tapped into the popular culture at the time as it moved along with a locomotive rhythm doused in country and western and blues influences. The lyrics told the story of a young man chasing his unfaithful girlfriend around in his V8 Ford. This song helped to lay the foundation of rock n’ roll music, Berry is one of the pioneers in this sound. Just as new technology was on the rise and would soon be featured in every living room in America, Chuck Berry helped to start and establish the wild beat of rock n’ roll music that would influence music for decades of the future generations to come.

Saturday Night Play List:

1. Chuck Berry - Reelin' And Rockin' (Alternate Version) (Five Classic Albums Plus Bonus Singles And Rare Tracks - 2012)
2. Chuck Berry - Thirty Days (To Come Back Home) (Thirty Days/Together - 1955)
3. Otis Redding - Satisfaction (Otis Blue - 1965)
3. T-Bone Walker - You’re My Best Poker Hand (Midnight Blues - 2014)
4. Robert Petway - Catfish Blues (Catfish Blues/Ride 'Em On Down - 1941)
5. Robert Johnson - Me And The Devil Blues (King Of The Delta Blues Singers - 1961)
6. Muddy Waters - Big Leg Woman (Folk Singer - 1965)
7. Andre Williams - I Still Love You (Jailhouse Blues/I Still Love You - 1958)
8. Joe Weaver & His Blue Note Orchestra - Cool As A Cucumber (Going Back To Chicago/Cool As A Cucumber - 1956)
9. Joe Tex - You Said A Bad Word (I Gotcha - 1972)
10. D'Angelo And His Vanguard - 1000 Deaths (Black Messiah - 2014)
11. Prince - Partyup (Dirty Mind - 1980)
12. Tricky - Black Steel (Maxinquaye - 1995)
13. Clancy Eccles - Bangarang Crash (Bangarang Crash/Deacon Don - 1968)
14. Charlie Parker - K.C. Blues (The Essential Charlie Parker - 1992)
15. Matana Roberts - Was The Sacred Day (Coin Coin Chapter Two:  Mississippi Moonchile - 2013)
16. Jelly Roll Morton - Winin' Boy Blues (Winin' Boy Blues/Honky Tonk Music - 1938)
17. The Marvelettes - Locking Up My Heart (Locking Up My Heart/Forever - 1963)
18. The Gories - Charm Bag (House Rockin' - 1989)
19. Death - You’re A Prisoner (... For The Whole World To See - 2009)
20. Staff Benda Bilili - Je T'aime (Tres Tres Fort - 2009)
21. Chuck Berry - Viva Viva Rock and Roll (San Francisco Dues - 1971)
22. Chuck Berry - Johnny B. Goode (Alternate Take 2 & 3) (Johnny B. Goode:  His Complete Chess Recordings - 2008)
23. Chuck Berry - I Wanna Be Your Driver (Chuck Berry In London - 1965)

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for February 7. Or subscribe to Revolution Rock as a Podcast.

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