Last week I wrote about the Magnificent Men, and their hit “Peace of Mind.” One of the songs that the band included on their 1967 album “The Magnificent Men Live” was a cover of Gene Chandler’s 1964 hit “Just Be True.” It was one of those times when a great cover version of a song inspired me to seek out the original.
Gene Chandler was one of the leading lights in the Chicago soul music scene. His contemporaries in that scene included Curtis Mayfield, the Impressions, Jerry Butler, The Dells, The Esquires, Major Lance, Tyrone Davis, Barbara Acklin, Billy Stewart, Betty Everett, the Chi-Lites, and many others. In 1962, Chandler scored an enormous hit when Vee-Jay Records released the immortal “Duke of Earl.” The single sold a million copies in just over a month, and held down the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for three consecutive weeks.
“Duke of Earl” was a transcendent single, and Chandler took to performing in a top hat, cape, monocle, and cane, in essence becoming the Duke of Earl. The success of the single was such that surpassing it was nearly impossible. The best that Chandler could do for the rest of the decade, and it was pretty damn good, was“Just Be True” on Constellation Records. The single, a collaboration between Chandler, his manager Carl Davis, and Curtis Mayfield, hit the Top 20 in 1964.
Gene Chandler never did top the success of “Duke of Earl,” though he continued to have hits throughout the ’60s, and scored his second biggest hit with “Groovy Situation” in 1970. He also had some success during the disco era with songs like “Get Down,” and “Rainbow 80.” Chandler remains prominent on the oldies scene to this day.
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