It’s time for us to welcome Ernest P. Worrell’s good buddy Vern for his annual appearance…. as in the Vernal Equinox. And since it just happens to be a Monday… not only is Spring in the air, but also the cheerful sounds of another sleepy earworm that’s been woken up from its long winter’s nap deep down in the weatherproof depths of the Dusty Vinyl Archive! DJ Scratchy’s ready to warm things up by chipping the ice off another frozen classic while the Sponkies are busy on this beautiful day playing hopscotch and leapfrog, which of course is never a good idea for unicorns…
We interrupt your regularly scheduled earworm to report the sad news that rock and roll pioneer Chuck Berry passed away over the weekend at the age of 90. Elvis may have been the king of the genre, but Chuck was undoubtedly its father… becoming one of the first rock and roll musicians to dominate the charts in the late 50’s with a guitar sound that was years ahead of its time…
It’s hard to believe that in his legendary career, Chuck Berry only managed to have one of his songs reach the coveted top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It had to be Chuck’s signature tune “Johnny B. Goode,” right….. er, no… it wasn’t. Johnny’s name may have been in lights, but they were the tacky holiday lights of #8. Then it must have been “No Particular Place To Go”….. er, #10. “School Day”…. #3. “Sweet Little Sixteen” made it all the way up to…. the runner up spot. What does a rock god have to do to get a #1 hit!?!?
It’s quite possible you already know where this is going, because it’s one of those strange but true bits of trivia that says as much about the music business and its customer base as it does about Chuck Berry’s talents. It wasn’t until 1972, 17 years after he burst onto the scene and a full decade after his prime, that Chuck finally got to enjoy the view from the top. And the song that achieved this success was about as far from the sound and tone of Berry’s best known hits that put him in the Hall of Fame. Not to mention…….. it was a bit embarrassing….
Ladies and gentlemen…. the late Chuck Berry’s only #1 hit song, “My Ding-A-Ling!”
Yes, the man who almost single-handedly invented rock and roll’s most successful song of his career was a cover of a novelty song chock full of intentional penis innuendo. This is the live version of the song, which is what I remember being played on oldies radio back in my day, and is far and away the best version due to Chuck’s interplay with the audience. Sure enough, it was THE hit and was recorded at the Lanchester Arts Festival in Coventry, England. A Boston disc jockey named Jim Connors helped turn the live recording into the smash hit it became…
For some reason, this song seems to have fallen out of favor in the oldies format… even here in St. Louis where Chuck hails from and is much beloved (Even if he did set up cameras in the women’s restrooms at his restaurant, which we’ve never let him live down). In an era where every other song on the radio contains a blatant reference to sex (and the other half are all shitty Adele songs), I’m not sure why a song about a toy ding-a-ling would be considered songa-non-playa these days. Maybe Chuck was just upset that his classic catalogue of rock and roll staples got upstaged by a glorified playground chant about a boy playing with himself. That’s too bad, because as corny and seemingly unbefitting a legend as “My Ding-A-Ling” may be… it’s actually a pretty cool song and a fun listen!
Well that’s my earworm for this fun day
I sure hope you’ll return next Monday
I’ll have another song for you all to sing
That’ll make you wanna kick me in my ding-a-ling!