Chuck Willis

Not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Eligible since: 1976 (The 1977 Induction Ceremony)

Nominated in: 1986   1987   1988   1989   1990   2011   

Previously Considered? Yes  what's this?

Inducted into Rock Hall Projected in 2022 (ranked #27 in the Influences - Rock Era category) .

Essential Songs (?)WikipediaAmazon MP3YouTube
C.C. Rider (1957)
Hang Up My Rock and Roll Shoes (1958)

Chuck Willis @ Wikipedia

Chuck Willis Videos

Will Chuck Willis be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?
"Musical excellence is the essential qualification for induction."


15 comments so far (post your own)

Now that we're inducting Wanda Jackson as an Early Influence, maybe we could do the same thing with Chuck Willis... a multiple-nominee who's yet to get his honors. And hey, HE actually was making records before Elvis! Could happen.

Posted by Philip on Thursday, 01.29.09 @ 19:15pm

Chuck Willis’ voice wasn’t as sanctified as Ray Charles’, flamboyant as James Brown’s or as golden as Clyde McPhatter’s. But Willis’ everyman voice was skillful enough to bridge everything from jump blues all the way through soul. He could grab you with his ballads. He could get you dancing with his rhythm and blues. He could do it all, he could do it well and he could leave you wanting more. And that’s exactly what he did when he hung up his rock and roll shoes on 10 April 1958 at the way too young age of 30. Willis died from, of all things, peritonitis. Willis suffered from severe stomach ulcers, and he simply refused surgery way too long, and after he finally let them remove seventy percent of his stomach, his recovery went wrong and he died. What a shame.

But while he was alive, he racked up the hits. First, while recording for Okeh, “My Story” hit #2 R&B in 1952, his cover of Fats Domino’s “Going To The River” hit #4 R&B in 1953, “Don’t Deceive Me” followed at #6 R&B (covered later by James Brown and Solomon Burke), “You’re Still My Baby” hit #4 R&B in 1954 (later covered by Otis Redding and Ike & Tina Turner), and “I Feel So Bad” followed at #8 R&B (later covered by Elvis Presley among many others). That year, he penned the #1 R&B hit “Oh What A Dream” for Ruth Brown.

Chuck Willis eventually went over to the house that Ruth Brown built, Atlantic, where his “It’s Too Late” hit #3 R&B in 1956 (later covered by Eric Clapton with Derek & The Dominoes, as well as by Buddy Holly, Otis Redding, Roy Orbison and many others), “Juanita” followed at #7 R&B, and then his cover of the old standard “C.C. Rider” hit #1 R&B and crossed over to #12 pop in 1957, for which he took the title “King of the Stroll”, a dance craze at the time. Another cover of an old standard, “Betty And Dupree”, hit #15 R&B in 1958. After his death, the double-sided single “What Am I Living For” backed with “Hang Up My Rock And Roll Shoes” hit #1 R&B and crossed over to #9 pop (later covered by Jerry Lee Lewis). He had two more posthumous hits in 1958, “My Life” (#12 R&B) and Keep A-Drivin’ (#19 R&B).

But even after death at such a young age, his legacy of songs thrived. I’ve already listed James Brown, Solomon Burke, Otis Redding, Ike & Tina Turner, Elvis Presley, Ruth Brown, Eric Clapton, Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis as recording Willis’ songs. Other R&RHoF inductees include the Dells who covered “Close Your Eyes” and Wanda Jackson who covered “Let Me Explain”. There are many, many other artists who have covered Willis’ song. For just one example, even someone as outside of rock and roll as Dean Martin covered Willis’ “The Door Is Still Open To My Heart”.

It’s small wonder he’s been nominated four times. It’s incredible he hasn’t been inducted yet. He certainly deserves the honor.

Posted by Charles Crossley Jr on Monday, 04.27.09 @ 21:50pm

I can't believe you only give him a 5% chance for a guy who has been nominated 5 times.

Posted by Brian on Tuesday, 06.16.09 @ 22:21pm

I can't believe you only give him a 5% chance for a guy who has been nominated 5 times.

Posted by Brian on Tuesday, 06.16.09 @ 22:21pm

5% chance? it's just like chuck belongs to group of Jessica Simpson, Kelis, Jonas Brothers, etc.

Posted by akeem on Tuesday, 06.16.09 @ 23:07pm


Chuck Willis

One of the few artists to be successful in the early 50's before rock's crossover into white America and to maintain that popularity into late 50's where he ignited the first rock 'n' roll dance craze when his re-working of the blues "C.C. Rider" led to his title of "King Of The Stroll". Equally known for his prolific songwriting ability, penning hits for multiple artists including more than a dozen R&R HOF'ers who have recorded his compositions. In 1958 bleeding ulcers claimed his life at age 30. One of the most multi-talented stars of his era, Willis got nominated each of the first five years of the Hall's existence without making the cut but hasn't been considered since, which is a crime.

In the early 70's the term singer/songwriter came into vogue to describe a style of rock that was built upon carefully crafted songs written by non-flamboyant artists than the kind who always grabbed headlines. In truth, the term should've stretched back to at least 1951 when Chuck Willis first appeared on the scene doing that very thing and achieving enormous success with it, not only for himself but for others who took his compositions up the charts. As a performer Willis was one of only a handful of artists, the other five are all in the Hall Of Fame, who was huge in the early 50's rock's scene when it was entirely confined to the black community and then was able to make the transition as a star to the latter 50's rock 'n' roll era when an entirely new white audience discovered the music and crossed it over into the so-called mainstream. It was during this later period when he launched the first rock 'n' roll dance craze, the stroll, with his recording of "C.C. Rider" shortly before his untimely death at the age of 30. During his short lifetime however he notched ten Top Ten R&B Hits for himself along with numerous Top Ten smashes for other artists, making him one of the first performers who wrote material specifically for competitors, establishing a trend that many of rock's most acclaimed artist/songwriters would follow. In all over a dozen Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Famers have recorded Willis's songs. Perhaps the most singularly talented artist of 50's rock lore yet to be inducted.

Qualifications: 7 - Solid Choice

Posted by Roy on Wednesday, 09.29.10 @ 03:06am

In his signature turban, Chuck Willis (1928-1958), an earthy singer and songwriter from Atlanta, has influenced every generation from Elvis Presley to Kanye West. Willis earned his sobriquet “The King of the Stroll” in 1957, for the popular teen-age line-dance that was directly inspired by his #1 R&B adaptation of Ma Rainey’s “C.C. Rider,” a folk-blues standard. (It was white Toronto doo-wop group the Diamonds who actually scored the pop hit later on in ’57, “The Stroll.”) A natural born shouter and smooth ballad singer, Willis first made the R&B charts with a two-year string of Top 10 hits on Columbia’s OKeh Records ‘race music’ label, starting in 1952. The last of these, “I Feel So Bad” was an Elvis favorite cut by him in 1961. When Willis hooked up with Atlantic Records and in-house arranger-conductor Jesse Stone, it was the perfect match. The result was a litany of R&B/pop crossover hits, rock and roll at its finest from 1956 to ’58. “It’s Too Late” (covered by everyone from Buddy Holly and Otis Redding, to Derek and the Dominos) and “Juanita” both featured the backing vocals of the Cookies (pre-Raelettes). After “C.C. Rider” hit #1, Willis enjoyed great success with another folk-blues, “Betty And Dupree.” His next two hits are in the rock pantheon: “What Am I Living For” (immortalized by Ray Charles, the Animals and many more) and “Hang Up My Rock and Roll Shoes” (ditto by Jerry Lee Lewis, the Band and countless others). If not for his death too soon in 1958 at age 30 (from peritonitis), who knows how far Chuck Willis’ star would have risen.

Posted by Roy on Wednesday, 09.29.10 @ 03:14am

Having spent a good part of yesterday enveloping myself in researching Chuck Willis' music, I gotta say, he would be a decent fit for either Early Influence or Performer. His earlier styles of R&B sound much more proto-like. Reminiscent of older jive style records in some regards, and a bit like Louis Jordan.

That said, his later records were definitely more of rock'n'roll style, as they took on a style similar to that of Clyde McPhatter era Drifters.

It'd be nice to see him get in as a Performer, but it wouldn't be a huge crime if he got in as an Early Influence either. Certainly not as much as Wanda Jackson getting in as an Early Influence.

Posted by Philip on Monday, 11.22.10 @ 08:40am

Wikipedia says Chuck Willis will be inducted this year into the Rock Hall in the Early Influence category.

Posted by Roy on Monday, 01.17.11 @ 04:14am

Chuck Willis is also listed as an Early Influence inductee on the complete list of Rock Hall inductees on Wikipedia.

When the hell are they going to make this announcement if it is indeed true?

Posted by Roy on Monday, 01.17.11 @ 05:47am

I think their going to pull a Wanda on us in the future.

Posted by Roy on Saturday, 01.29.11 @ 07:35am

Well they didn't induct him as an early influence, which is good as I'd rather see him get in as a performer. All that being said, I'd rather see him get in as an early influence than not at all (and he actually has a somewhat legit case for this category, unlike Wanda Jackson).

Posted by Tahvo Parvianen on Thursday, 03.24.11 @ 14:46pm

Should be in for Early Influence.

Posted by Robert on Tuesday, 11.15.11 @ 11:08am

So why did Wanda Jackson and Freddie King get the early influence treatment, but not Chuck Willis?

Posted by Roy on Wednesday, 12.7.11 @ 06:40am

What exactly is keeping Chuck Willis out of the Hall? His style encompassed jump blues, early soul, rhythm & blues, and even some traditional pop. He was a highly prolific songwriter and wrote for several other performers in addition to performing his own works. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he continued having commercial success after the mainstream emergence of rock 'n roll and still had a presence on the charts before his untimely death.

Posted by Zach on Wednesday, 10.30.13 @ 17:53pm

chuck should have been in years ago both as a songwriter and performer.he packed a lot of good music into his short life

Posted by tradlinsky on Friday, 05.26.17 @ 16:08pm

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