Sunday, August 3, 2008

Cars: Maybellene

Chuck Berry: Maybellene


Is there a better car song than Maybellene? Chuck's crunchy chords keep cadence as he sings about his V8 Ford motivatin' over the hill towards Maybellene's Coup de Ville. No matter how many times I listen, I find myself rooting for the V8, as if I'm not quite sure of the ending - Berry sucks me in every time.

Alan Freed used to regularly stage shows at the Brooklyn Paramount, almost all of Rock's early pioneers played there. This was recorded for Alan Freed's Rock And Roll Dance Party Vol. 1 and my mom was part the audience when this song was recorded, I'd like to think somehow the notes reverberate through my DNA.

Maybellene is a permeation from another song, a traditional American fiddle tune called Ida Red that dates back to the 19th century. In 1938, Bob Wills recorded a modernized version.

Berry's piano player, Johnnie Johnson, claims that the both of them rewrote it on the order of Leonard Chess, the head of their label:

"It was an old fiddle tune called 'Ida Red.' I changed the music and re-arranged it, Chuck re-wrote the words, and the rest, as they say, was history. Leonard Chess asked me to come up to record it live. At that time, someone else already had a song out by the same name, so we had to change our version. We noticed a mascara box in the corner, so we changed the name to 'Maybellene.'"

Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys: Ida Red


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