Upon Chuck's release from prison, he married and settled down to a regular job spending his evenings playing guitar and singing with the Johnny Johnson Trio. He got his lucky break when he met the mighty Muddy Waters, who introduced him at Chess Records.
The song Maybellene, was Chuck Berry's first single release in 1955. It was an adaptation of the traditional American fiddle song Ida Red, the origins of which are unknown. The earliest known recording of Ida Red is by Fiddlin' Powers & Family, 1924.
The story in the song is about a man in a Ford V8, chasing his unfaithful girlfriend in a Cadillac Coupe DeVille. Fast cars and broken hearts were popular themes for songs in the 1950's! Chuck called the song Ida May, originally.
The boss at Chess Records thought that both Ida Red and Ida May as titles, sounded too rural to appeal to young people and so the name Maybellene was picked for Chuck's debut release.
The lyrics were changed slightly as well in order to appeal to the record buying teenagers, who had a fascination with cars, speed and sexuality. The Chess man was right, the youngsters loved it. The exciting fusion of a country song, a rhythm & blues beat with some electrifying guitar riffs, set the standard for all Rock n Roll from that point on. Music was never the same again!Chuck Berry remains a showman, still performing to appreciative crowds. His 'Duck Walk' on stage whilst playing his guitar, is his trademark! He has had many awards and accolades piled upon him over the years and has inspired many of the giants of popular music from the 1950's, right up until today.
A quote from the Rock n Roll Hall Of Fame, reads: "While no individual can be said to have invented rock and roll, Chuck Berry comes the closest of any single figure to being the one who put all the essential pieces together. It was his particular genius to graft country & western guitar licks onto a rhythm & blues chassis in his very first single, "Maybellene."
John Lennon once said: "If you tried to give Rock n Roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry."
In the 1950's it was fairly common for co-composer credit to be given to disc jockeys who contributed to the breaking of a record. This practice was called Payola. The Legendary DJ, Alan Freed and Russ Fratto, who had been lending money to Chess Records were credited with co-writing Maybellene but the credits were withdrawn in 1986.
Maybellene has been covered by many artists, including, Elvis Presley, Simon and Garfunkel, George Jones, Carl Perkins and Gerry & The Pacemakers. One of the most recent covers, in 2011, was by Blues Guitarist Johnny Winters, who died a few weeks ago.