Chuck Willis

Chuck Willis was an R&B singer/songwriter in the 50's who came up with some good songs before he died young.

He was born in Atlanta in 1928. At age 22 he recorded a song titled My Story and after it rose to number two on the R&B charts he began to draw notice around Atlanta and the surrounding region. Willis became lead singer for a group known as the Red McAllister Band.

One of those who took notice was well-connected Atlanta disc jockey "Daddy" Sears, who introduced Chuck to to some recording executives at Columbia Records. Willis signed with their Okeh subsidiary, and managed to put five records on the R&B charts in the ensuing years. He moved on to Atlantic in 1956, where pop success awaited him.

One minor hit record that was recorded by Willis caught on as a dance tune and inspired the Stroll, a popular dance for a time during the 50's. Willis took to performing on stage in a costume that included a turban and picked up various nicknames, including the King of the Stroll and the Sheik of the Stroll. The first of his top forty pop hits on Atlantic was C.C. Rider, a record that topped the R&B chart and crossed over to pop in 1957, where it just missed the top ten. His follow-up hit nearly a year later was Betty and Dupree.

Chuck Willis was becoming more well known nationally and he recorded what would be a two-sided hit, What Am I Living For and Hang Up My Rock And Roll Shoes. In the Spring of 1958 he had surgery in Atlanta for peritonitis, which he did not survive. The ironically titled double-sided hit became very popular in the month following his death, and What Am I Living For became the only top ten pop hit of his career. Willis died shortly after his thirtieth birthday but he had enough talent and had been around long enough to make his mark on the 50's music scene.

Most Recent Update: May 1, 2006

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