Maybellene / Wee Wee Hours - Chuck Berry and His Combo
Produced by Leonard and Phil Chess
Released 23rd July 1955
US R&B Chart #1
US Hot 100 Chart #5
(Written by Chuck Berry)
B-Side: Wee Wee Hours
(Written by Chuck Berry)
61 years ago on this very day, 23rd July 1955, Chess Records of Chicago released the debut single of Charles Edward Anderson Berry, best known to us as Chuck Berry.
Berry had arrived in Chicago in May 1955 and had met Muddy Waters who suggested he contact Leonard Chess as someone who might help him develop his musical career. Before long he found himself among the very talented roster of Chess Records.
Chuck Berry had thought that his Blues music would be of great interest to Chess but it was actually an old hillbilly fiddle song called Ida Red that Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys had made famous back in 1938 and was part of Berry's repertoire that caught his attention.
Chuck Berry had renamed the song Ida May but Chess thought that was still 'too rurual' and suggested Maybellene (to avoid a possible court case by naming it Maybelline after the cosmetic company).
He beefed up the song by adding bass and maracas to the tune. The band that recorded the song was Johnnie Johnson on piano, Jerome Green (from Bo Diddley's band) on the maracas, Jasper Thomas on the drums and Willie Dixon on the bass.
The song was recorded on the 21st May 1955 and within two months it was out on the street and by September it was a crossover hit record.
Now get this: the record sold one million copies by the end of 1955! Can you believe that? His first single, not only was it a hit but a million seller (there weren't too many of those around back then!).
We look back on this song now and see that it was one of the very first Rock and Roll artists by a Black Artist to achieve major success in both Black and White markets. It is considered to be one of the Most Pioneering Rock and Roll Singles of All Time.
In 1988 "Maybellene" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for its influence as a rock-and-roll record.In 1988 "Maybellene" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for its influence as a rock-and-roll record. 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's list of "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".
Let The Day Begin...Let The Day Start!