b. Harold Chuck Willis, 31st January 1928, Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.
d. 10th April 1958, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.
Harold ‘Chuck’ Willis is an R&B, Blues and singer/songwriter.
He is probably best remembered for the hits ‘C. C. Rider’ and ‘What Am I Living For’, along with being known as ‘The King of the Stroll’, earning the nickname from a dance of the same name.
Both songs reached number one on the Billboard R&B chart.
Chuck was born in Georgia in 1928.
He came to the attention of the deejay Zenas 'Daddy' Sears, who took him to the Columbia imprint in 1951, after witnessing Chuck winning a talent contest in his home town.
Sears was to become Chuck’s manager.
Chuck recorded one side for the main Columbia imprint, before releasing material on Columbia’s subsidiary O-Keh.
i've been treated wrong too long b/w don't deceive me - 1953 / what's your name? b/w you're still my baby - 1953
In 1953, he released the singles ' Don't Deceive Me' b/w 'I've Been Treated Wrong Too Long' and 'What's Your Name?' b/w 'You're Still My Baby'.
After a successful stay at O-Keh, Chuck switched labels to Atlantic Records in 1956.
At Atlantic he had almost instant success with the song ‘It's Too Late (She's Gone)’.
This single was followed by further releases, including ‘Juanita’ and ‘Love Me Cherry’.
wails the blues - 1958 / the king of the stroll - 1958
In 1957, he achieved his biggest success with the number one hit ‘C.C. Rider’, which also sold well on the mainstream charts.
‘C.C. Rider’ was a re-working of a song by Ma Rainey, also in Atlanta several years previously.
The song laid the foundations for the popular dance, ‘The Stroll’.
A follow up single entitled ‘Betty and Dupree’, based upon the dance craze, also sold well.
Another Chuck Willis song ‘Going to the River’, reached No.4 on the R&B chart.
It was a song penned by Fats Domino.
Chuck suffered from stomach ulcers during his career and in 1958 was admitted to hospital in Chicago.
Sadly, Chuck died during surgery in hospital from peritonitis, age 30, whilst at the height of his career.
i remember chuck willis - 1962
His final single had just been released, namely, ‘What Am I Living For?’ b/w ‘Hang Up My Rock & Roll Shoes’.
The song sold over one million copies, was the top R&B disc of 1958, and was awarded a gold disc.
There were several cover versions of his songs over the following years.
His song ‘It's Too Late (She's Gone)’ was covered by Otis Redding, Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly and the Crickets, Derek and the Dominos and the Jerry Garcia Band.
Elvis Presley also covered ‘I Feel So Bad’ and ‘C. C. Rider’ (also covered by Chris Clark).
Ruth Brown and Conway Twitty covered ‘Oh What a Dream’.
The bluesman Chick Willis was Chuck's cousin. Chick passed away in 2013.
Chuck Willis Wails The Blues (Epic Records 1958)
The King Of The Stroll (Atlantic Records 1958)
I Remember Chuck Willis (Atlantic Records 1962)