It's wouldn't be wrong to say that Chuck Berry had a bit of a lull on the charts once the 60's began. Between 1955 and 1960, Berry had twenty songs on the Billboard charts. Between 1960 and 1972, more than twice the time, Berry only had ten songs reach the charts. Though, he did finally get his only #1 with the godawful "My Ding-a-Ling."
In 1966, Chuck Berry left Chess Records for Mercury Records where he recorded five albums, including a live record and a not bad attempt at blues and psychedelia, "Concerto In B Goode." Those records are largely forgotten as is his first single for Mercury, "Club Nitty Gritty," released in 1966.
"Club Nitty Gritty" did not chart. I was obsessed with this track for years. The 45 was an elusive piece of wax, selling anywhere from $40-$100. You could find it as a "new bonus track" on the "Chuck Berry's Greatest Hits" record on Mercury. That's a $5 record everywhere you go, but that's because the songs were all rerecorded and most copies were electronically reprocessed for stereo. So, it's basically crap and not even worth the $5...except for "Club Nitty Gritty."
I finally snagged an original copy of the single just this week. It was in fantastic shape and it was reasonably priced. I gave it a few spins and each time, it got me more worked up.
This record is truly badass.
It's just barely over two minutes long, but it's got a real filthy riff and a real funky groove. It almost sounds as if the band sat down, hit record and just let her rip for one take. And while it doesn't quite come close to the genius of Berry's legendary songs of the 50's, it is still my favorite Chuck Berry record.
So, if you feel like playing, can you think of a song by a legendary artist or band, one with many releases under their belt, that slipped under the radar, but you consider one of the greatest? I guess there are no rules here other than, it should be a single and not some deep album cut.
In the meantime, give a listen to "Club Nitty Gritty."