World’s Worst Songs: Chuck Berry’s “My Ding-a-Ling”

Detail from the cover of “The London Chuck Berry Sessions,” 1972

Forty years ago this fall, Chuck Berry’s career was in renaissance. His last hits of any consequence had come in 1964, but in 1972 he benefited from the ongoing rediscovery of blues and rock pioneers by young British stars. The London Chuck Berry Sessions paired him with Ian McLagen and Kenney Jones of the Faces for a side of studio recordings, and with members of the Average White Band for a live set on the other. The album became his lone top-10 album in the States, but not because American record buyers wanted to thank Berry for songs like “Maybelline” and “Johnny B. Goode.” They wanted “My Ding-a-Ling.”

“My Ding-a-Ling” was first cut by Dave Bartholomew in 1952; Berry had recorded a version of it as “My Tambourine” in 1968. On the live side of The London Chuck Berry Sessions, the song runs 11:33. The mind boggles, because even edited to 4:18 for the single, it ‘s interminable. Its success (which can be laid at the door of Boston radio personality Jim Connors, if Wikipedia has it right) may have been inevitable, however, because dick jokes never go out of style.

They are not always considered fit for broadcast, though. Some radio stations refused to play “My Ding-a-Ling.” Top 40 giant WLS in Chicago didn’t, although I don’t know whether it was because of the lyrics or simply because they believed it was one of the World’s Worst Songs.

Chuck Berry’s roll call of hits is incredible: “Johnny B. Goode,” “Sweet Little Sixteen,” “Rock and Roll Music,” “Maybelline,” and “Roll Over Beethoven” to name a few. Yet only “My Ding-a-Ling” reached #1 in Billboard, with a two-week run beginning on October 21, 1972. If you seek convincing evidence for the nonexistence of God, there it is.

  • Link Crawford

    I have disagreed with so many of your worst-song posts…but, man, did you pick a foul one here. The song is bad, the sophomoric humor is annoying and the fact that it’s his only #1 is just cruel. Yuk. Of course, I grew up with this single, because my dad had bought it.

  • Guy Smiley

    There’s no arguing this one… Total agreement.

  • sfa3

    Undoubtedly one of the stupidest songs to ever hit #1, which of course is saying a lot considering we also have “Ice Ice Baby” and “Ring My Bell” to contend with. With lyrics that seem like they were written by kindergartners hiding behind the cafeteria during recess and snickering about how naughty they were, this is such an absolute blight on the great career of a legendary Rock & Roll pioneer like Berry. Even though I was all of 8 years old when this song came out, I was already too old for it. Kudos to anyone who can sit through the entire 11-minute version without wanting to get on a plane in order to fly to wherever Chuck Berry lives and punch his lights out.

  • Bob

    “Ring My Bell” rocks! (ring-a-ling-a-ling)