|Single by Chuck Berry|
|from the album Chuck Berry Is on Top|
|B-side||"Wee Wee Hours"|
|Recorded||May 21, 1955, Universal Recording Studios, Chicago, Illinois|
|Genre||Rock and roll, rockabilly|
|Songwriter(s)||Chuck Berry, Russ Fratto, Alan Freed|
|Producer(s)||Leonard Chess, Phil Chess|
|Chuck Berry singles chronology|
30-second sample of Chuck Berry's "Maybellene"
"Maybellene" is a rock and roll song. It was written and recorded in 1955 by Chuck Berry, adapted in part from the Western swing fiddle tune "Ida Red". Berry's song told the story of a hot rod race and a broken romance, the lyrics describing a man driving a V8 Ford and chasing his unfaithful girlfriend in her Cadillac Coupe DeVille. It was released in July 1955 as a single by Chess Records, of Chicago, Illinois.Berry's first hit, "Maybellene" is considered a pioneering rock and roll song. Rolling Stone magazine wrote of it, "Rock & roll guitar starts here." The record was an early instance of the complete rock and roll package: youthful subject matter; a small, guitar-driven combo; clear diction; and an atmosphere of unrelenting excitement.
The song was a major hit with both black and white audiences, "reaching #1 on Billboard’s Rhythm and Blues chart and #5 on the Hot 100".It has received numerous honors and awards. Soon after its initial release, cover versions were recorded by several other artists. The title is misspelled "Maybelline" on several releases.
"Maybellene" adapted parts of the Western Swing song "Ida Red", as recorded by Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys in 1938.According to Berry, Wills's version, an uptempo dance number, was his favorite song to sing at racially integrated clubs ("salt and pepper clubs", as he called them). Encouraged by Muddy Waters, in 1955 Berry brought to Chess Records a recording of his version of Wills's song, which he had renamed "Ida May", and a blues song he wrote, "Wee Wee Hours", which he said was inspired by Big Joe Turner's "Wee Baby Blue". To Berry's surprise, Leonard Chess showed little interest in the blues material but was enthusiastic about the commercial possibilities in a "hillbilly song sung by a black man".
Chess wanted a bigger beat for the song and added a bass and a maracas player to Berry's trio at the recording session. He also thought the titles "Ida Red" and "Ida May" were "too rural".Spotting a mascara box on the floor of the studio, according to Berry's pianist Johnnie Johnson, Chess said, "Well, hell, let's name the damn thing Maybellene", altering the spelling to avoid a suit by the cosmetic company. The lyrics were rewritten, also at the direction of Chess. "The kids wanted the big beat, cars and young love," Chess recalled. "It was the trend and we jumped on it."
As Chess had predicted, the lyrics appealed to teenagers fascinated by cars, speed and sexuality. "Maybellene" was one of the first records to be a hit on the rhythm and blues, country and western, and pop charts. Featuring some inimitable Chuck Berry riffs, some blues-style picking on a guitar and Johnson's piano, which added a hummable rhythm to the steady backbeat, "Maybellene" was a pivotal song in the emergence of rock and roll. This exciting fusion of a rhythm-and-blues beat with a rural country style was the catalyst for the emergence of rock and roll in the mid-1950s.
When Berry first saw a copy of the record, he was surprised that two other individuals, including DJ Alan Freed had been given writing credit; that would entitle them to some of the royalties. After a court battle, Berry was able to regain full writing credit.
Recorded May 21, 1955
In the 1950s, some record companies assigned publishing credits to disc jockeys and others who helped to promote a record, a form of payola by means of composer royalties. For this reason, the disc jockey Alan Freed received credit as a co-writer of "Maybellene". Robert Christgau's October 1972 essay on Chuck Berry suggests this was the case for Freed's publishing credit. Leonard Chess, in Christgau's words, "flipped" for Berry's "Maybellene" and "forwarded it to Alan Freed." "Having mysteriously acquired 25 percent of the writer's credit," Christgau writes, "Freed played 'Maybellene' quite a lot, and it became one of the first nationwide rock and roll hits."
Russ Fratto, who had loaned money to Chess, also received credit.(Some Chess insiders have said that Chess owed money to Fratto, a printer and stationer, for producing record labels. Other accounts describe Fratto as "a record distributor.") The Freed and Fratto credits, which do not appear on the original Chess single (see the photograph above), were withdrawn in 1986. However, as of 2014, these credits still appear on some reissues of Berry's recordings.
The first edition of Charlie Gillett's The Sound of the City: The Rise of Rock and Roll in 1970 erroneously identifies Russ Fratto as a disc jockey and suggests that both Alan Freed and Fratto were present at the recording session in Chicago in May 1955.
Bruce Pegg's Brown Eyed Handsome Man on the life and recording career of Chuck Berry identifies Russ Fratto as the owner of Victory Stationery, a print shop next door to 4750 South Cottage Grove, the location of the first offices of Chess Records. Pegg identifies Victory Stationery's owner Russ Fratto as "4750's landlord."
In an interview with Patrick William Salvo for Rolling Stone published in November 1972, Chuck Berry told Salvo that Alan Freed "didn't sit down with me at all and write anything." "He [Freed] got that money solely for doing us some favors in those days," Berry told Salvo.
In 1955, the song, a 12-bar blues, peaked at number five on the Billboard pop chart and was number one on the R&B chart. 's year-end charts in 1955 ranked "Maybellene" number 3 on the Top R&B Records Retail Sales and Juke Box Plays charts.Billboard
The record sold one million copies by the end of 1955.
According to the Acoustic Music organization, "the song ushers in descending pentatonic double-stops, which becomes the essence of rock guitar".
In 1988, "Maybellene" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for its influence as a rock-and-roll record. 's list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame included "Maybellene" in its list of the "500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll" (also included are Berry's recordings of "Rock and Roll Music" and "Johnny B. Goode"). In 1999, National Public Radio included it in the "NPR 100", the one hundred most important American musical works of the 20th century, chosen by NPR music editors. "Maybellene" is currently ranked as the 98th greatest song of all time, as well as the second best song of 1955, by Acclaimed Music. The song is ranked number 18 on Rolling Stone
Columbia records released a version by Marty Robbins (21351) by the end of August 1955.His version was the number 13 "Most Played by Jockeys" in the country-and-western market by mid-October. and soon Columbia was touting it as one of its "Best Selling Folk Records". By November, it was noted that the record had "won considerable pop play". Other versions available in mid-October 1955 were by J. Long (Coral 61478), J. Lowe (Dot 15407), and R. Marterie (Mercury 70682) with the song listed as number 14 top selling in the nation.
Allmusic lists cover versions by more than 70 performers, including Elvis Presley, the Everly Brothers, John Hammond, Paul Simon (in a medley with "Kodachrome"), George Jones, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Bubba Sparks, Foghat, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Johnny Rivers and Chubby Checker.
In 1964, a cover version by Johnny Rivers reached number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100and number 9 on RPM magazine's Top 40 Singles chart.
Also in 1964, The Syndicats featuring guitarist Steve Howe who would later play for the band Yes, recorded and published their own cover version of the song.
Rock and roll is a genre of popular music that evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s. It originated from Black American music such as gospel, jump blues, jazz, boogie woogie, rhythm and blues, and country music. While rock and roll's formative elements can be heard in blues records from the 1920s, and in country records of the 1930s, the genre did not acquire its name until 1954.
Charles Edward Anderson Berry was an American singer, songwriter and guitarist, and one of the pioneers of rock and roll music. Nicknamed the "Father of Rock and Roll", Berry refined and developed rhythm and blues into the major elements that made rock and roll distinctive with songs such as "Maybellene" (1955), "Roll Over Beethoven" (1956), "Rock and Roll Music" (1957) and "Johnny B. Goode" (1958). Writing lyrics that focused on teen life and consumerism, and developing a music style that included guitar solos and showmanship, Berry was a major influence on subsequent rock music.
Johnnie Clyde Johnson was an American pianist who played jazz, blues and rock and roll. His work with Chuck Berry led to his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for breaking racial barriers in the military, as he was a Montford Point Marine - where the African-American unit endured racism and inspired social change while integrating the previously all-white Marine Corps during World War II.
Chess Records was an American record company established in 1950 in Chicago, specializing in blues and rhythm and blues. It was the successor to Aristocrat Records, founded in 1947. It expanded into soul music, gospel music, early rock and roll, and jazz and comedy recordings, released on the Chess and its subsidiary labels Checker and Argo/Cadet. The Chess catalogue is currently owned by Universal Music Group and managed by Geffen Records.
Johnny Rivers is an American musician, singer, songwriter, and record producer. His repertoire includes pop, folk, blues, and old-time rock 'n' roll. Rivers charted during the 1960s and 1970s but remains best known for a string of hit singles between 1964 and 1968, among them "Memphis", "Mountain of Love", "The Seventh Son", "Secret Agent Man", "Poor Side of Town", "Baby I Need Your Lovin'", and "Summer Rain".
"Johnny B. Goode" is a 1958 rock-and-roll song written and first recorded by Chuck Berry. The song was a major hit, peaking at number two on Billboard magazine's Hot R&B Sides chart and number eight on its Hot 100 chart.
The Sun Sessions is a compilation album by American singer Elvis Presley, containing songs he recorded at Sun Studios in 1954 and 1955. It was issued by RCA Records in 1976, and had been issued and charted as The Sun Collection in the UK the previous year. It features liner notes by Roy Carr of the New Musical Express. The Sun Sessions features most of the tracks Elvis recorded at Sun studio and were produced by Sam Phillips, the head of Sun Studios. Elvis began his singing career with Sun Records label in Memphis. The album reached number two on the Billboard Country Albums.
The origins of rock and roll are complex. Rock and roll emerged as a defined musical style in the United States in the early to mid-1950s. It derived most directly from the rhythm and blues music of the 1940s, which itself developed from earlier blues, the beat-heavy jump blues, boogie woogie, up-tempo jazz and swing music. It was also influenced by gospel, country and western, and traditional folk music. Rock and roll in turn provided the main basis for the music that, since the mid-1960s, has been generally known simply as rock music.
"Rock and Roll Music" is a song written and recorded by rock and roll pioneer Chuck Berry. It has been widely covered and is recognized as one of Berry's most popular and enduring compositions.
"Roll Over Beethoven" is a 1956 hit single written by Chuck Berry, originally released on Chess Records, with "Drifting Heart" as the B-side. The lyrics of the song mention rock and roll and the desire for rhythm and blues to replace classical music. The title of the song is an imperative directed at the composer Ludwig van Beethoven to roll over out of the way and make room for the rock and roll music that Berry was promoting. The song has been covered by many other artists, including the Beatles and the Electric Light Orchestra. Rolling Stone magazine ranked it number 97 on its list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".
Anthology is a two-disc compilation album by American rock and roll musician Chuck Berry released on July 27, 2000 by Chess Records. It duplicates in its entirety the previous anthology The Great Twenty-Eight ranked at #21 on the Rolling Stone 500 greatest all time albums list, as well as the entirety of the later Definitive Collection issued in 2006 as part of the Universal series. The album was later reissued and packaged in 2005 as part of the Universal Records Gold series, and simply retitled Gold. It charted at #110 in the UK Albums Chart.
Chuck Berry on Stage is the first live album by Chuck Berry, released in 1963 by Chess Records. Although promoted as a live album, it is a collection of previously released studio recordings with overdubbed audience sounds to simulate a live recording. One track on the album labelled "Surfin' USA", is "Sweet Little Sixteen", originally released in 1958, the melody of which was used in The Beach Boys' 1963 hit "Surfin' USA". Chuck's cover of Willie Dixon's "I Just Want To Make Love To You" was later re-recorded and released on the very rare Chess LP CH60032 Chuck Berry in 1975.
Chuck Berry Twist is the first compilation album by Chuck Berry, released by Chess Records in February 1962, during Berry's imprisonment. The title was an attempt to capitalize on a new dance craze, the Twist, introduced by Chubby Checker in 1960, even though none of the songs musically conformed to the Twist style. The album was reissued a year later with a new title, More Chuck Berry. An album with that title was released in the UK by Pye International Records in 1964, featuring the same cover but a completely different track listing.
Chuck Berry's Golden Decade is a compilation of music by Chuck Berry, released in three volumes in 1967, 1973, and 1974. Covering the decade from 1955 to 1964, each volume consists of a two-LP set of 24 songs recorded by Berry. The first volume reached number 72 on Billboard's Pop Albums chart. The second volume peaked at number 110. The third volume, which included only two hit singles among its tracks, did not chart.
"Let It Rock" is a song written and recorded by rock and roll pioneer Chuck Berry. Chess Records released it as single, which reached number 64 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart in February 1960. Chess later added it to Berry's album Rockin' at the Hops (1960). In 1963, Pye Records released it as a single in the UK, where it reached number six.
"Lonely Teardrops" is a song written by Berry Gordy Jr., Gwen Gordy and Roquel "Billy" Davis, first recorded and released as a single in 1958 by R&B singer Jackie Wilson on the Brunswick label. It is a 1999 Grammy Hall of Fame Inductee. The recording became an across-the-board national Top 10 Pop smash, a # 1 hit on the R&B charts, and is ranked #315 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It is ranked as the 57th biggest U.S. hit of 1959. "Lonely Teardrops" is also listed on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's list of "The 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll".
"Ida Red" is an American traditional song of unknown origins that was made famous in the upbeat 1938 version by Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. Wills' Ida Red served as the primary inspiration for Chuck Berry's first big hit Maybellene. It is chiefly identified by variations of the chorus:
The Chess Box is a compact disc box set compilation by Chuck Berry. It is one in a series of box sets issued by MCA/Chess in the late 1980s. The Chuck Berry set is the most prominent of these, having won a Grammy Award for Best Historical Album in 1989. Berry's Chess Box was reissued on vinyl in 1990.
"Wee Wee Hours" is a song written and recorded by Chuck Berry in 1955. Originally released as the B-side of his first single, "Maybellene", it went on to become a hit, reaching number 10 in the Billboard R&B chart.
Mr. Jackson, who wrote the Freed biography, said that two members of the virtuoso group the Moonglows told him that Mr. Freed had no involvement with their big hit Sincerely yet took a writing credit for it and received the royalties. Maybelline .... Mr. Berry went to court eventually and succeeded in having Mr. Freed's name removed as co-writer.