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Clio Express: A Conversation with Gene Chandler

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From 1962 to 1970 Gene Chandler put nineteen songs in the top forty, but he will always be known all over the world as the Duke of Earl, his first hit that topped the pop and R&B charts in 1962 and launched his career.   In 1957 Gene became a member of the Du-Kays, a rhythm and blues group with a strong rock and roll sound. After a stint in the Army and singing solo in the Army he returned to Chicago in 1960 and rejoined the Du-Kays. Their first professional recording session was late in 1960, at which time they recorded "The Girl is Evil ".

They recorded " Nite Owl " and " Duke of Earl " in 1961. "Nite Owl" was recorded first and out for distribution when they recorded the Duke, but the creation of the Duke of Earl was a bit more unusual.     The Du-Kays would warm up by singing do-do-do-do- in various tones and pitches. Gene started singing duke--duke--duke and from there added fellow member "Earl" Edward’s first name to complete the phrase. He then began composing the lyrics on the spot.

Calvin Carter, A&R man with VeeJay Records absolutely loved the tune and especially liked Gene’s singing style. Carter was more interested in Gene alone than in the whole group sound and felt Gene could top the charts easier as a solo artist.  In January of 1962 Eugene Dixon became Gene Chandler, taking his last name from actor Jeff Chandler because he thought it had a romantic ring. Under Gene Chandler he released solo records while still under contract with the Du-Kays as Gene Dixon. The " Duke of Earl " was finally released and it sold a million copies in little over one month.   A great conversation about the life of a tremendous hit making artist.

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