Gene ChandlerGene Chandler (born Eugene Drake Dixon on July 6, 1937) is an American singer, songwriter, music producer and record label executive. Nicknamed "The Duke of Earl" or simply "The Duke", he is best known for his most successful songs "Duke of Earl" and "Groovy Situation" and his association with The Dukays, the Impressions and Curtis Mayfield.
Chandler is a Grammy Hall Of Fame inductee and a winner of both the National Association of Television and Radio Announcers' (NATRA) "Producer of the Year" Award and the Rhythm and Blues Foundation's Pioneer Award. He is also one of a just a few singers to achieve chart successes spanning the doo-wop, rhythm and blues, soul, and disco musical eras, with some Top 40 pop and R&B chart hits between 1961 and 1986. Chandler was inducted as a performer into the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame on August 24, 2014. In 2016, he became a "Double Inductee" into the R&B Hall of Fame, having received a Special Induction as an R&B Music Pioneer.
Early yearsGene Chandler was born Eugene Drake Dixon in Chicago, Illinois, on July 6, 1937. He attended Englewood High School on Chicago's south side. He began performing during the early 1950s with the band The Gaytones. In 1957, he joined The Dukays, with James Lowe, Shirley Jones, Earl Edwards and Ben Broyles, soon becoming their lead singer. After his draft into the U.S. Army he returned to Chicago in 1960 and rejoined the Dukays.
CareerThe Dukays were offered a recording contract by Nat Records and recorded a single with producers Carl Davis and Bill "Bunky" Sheppard, "The Girl Is a Devil" (1961). This was followed with a session in August 1961 that resulted in four sides, most notably "Nite Owl" and "Duke of Earl". Nat Records chose to release "Nite Owl" and it became a sizeable R&B success at the end of 1961. Meanwhile, Davis and Sheppard shopped the "Duke of Earl" recording to Vee-Jay Records company, which released it in 1962 by Dixon as a solo artist with the name "Gene Chandler".
"Duke of Earl" sold a million copies in a little more than a month, and was awarded a gold disc by the RIAA. After spending three weeks at number one on the Billboard charts, Chandler purchased a cape, monocle, cane, and top hat and advertised himself as "The Duke of Earl". Chandler can be seen in the full outfit singing "Duke of Earl" in the 1962 movie Don't Knock the Twist, featuring Chubby Checker. His concerts became popular and he performed encores, usually "Rainbow", one of his collaborations with Curtis Mayfield. This song was recorded by Chandler three times during his career, becoming a hit each time.
Chandler left Vee Jay in the autumn of 1963 and recorded for another Chicago company, Constellation Records. After Constellation went bankrupt in 1966, he was contracted first to Chess Records and then Brunswick Records. For a time, Chess and Brunswick alternated in releasing Chandler's recordings. He had Top 20 popular music hits with Constellation with the songs "Just Be True" (1964) and "Nothing Can Stop Me" (1965), both songs written by Curtis Mayfield and produced by Carl Davis.
Other successes included "What Now", "Rainbow", "I Fooled You This Time", "Think Nothing About It"', "A Man's Temptation", "To Be a Lover", "Rainbow '65" (recorded live at Chicago's Regal Theater), "Bless Our Love", and "You Can't Hurt Me No More." Chandler also had success with his cover version of James Brown's "There Was A Time" and "You Threw A Lucky Punch", which was released as an "answer" song to Mary Wells's Motown hit "You Beat Me To The Punch".
After a number of years performing concerts, Chandler decided to become more involved with the production of music, forming his own production company and record brands, Bamboo and Mister Chand. He produced a major hit with "Groovy Situation", issued by Mercury Records (1970), which scored No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 8 on the Billboard R&B chart, becoming his second greatest success after "Duke Of Earl". "Groovy Situation" sold more than a million copies and received a gold disc awarded by the R.I.A.A. in November 1970.
Earlier, he produced "Backfield In Motion" for Mel and Tim on Bamboo, which scored No. 3 on the R&B chart and reached the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, and followed up with "Good Guys Only Win In The Movies" for the duo (No. 17 R&B, No. 45 popular music). These successes earned him The National Association of Television and Radio Announcers' Producer of the Year Award in 1970, against competition from other nominees including Kenneth Gamble & Leon Huff and Norman Whitfield.
Later that year, Chandler recorded the album Gene and Jerry: One on One, with another major Chicago artist, Jerry Butler. He also sang with The Impressions and Curtis Mayfield on the live album Curtis in Chicago (1973). Chandler sang on Arthur Louis's album, Knocking on Heaven's Door (1974) alongside Eric Clapton. A spell with Curtis Mayfield's brand, Curtom, resulted in four self-produced singles during the mid-1970s, but none charted.
In the late 1970s, he found new success with disco-style music, creating hits with his former producer, Carl Davis, including "Get Down" (1978) and later "When You're #1" and "Does She Have A Friend?". During this time, he was named Executive Vice President of Chi Sound Records, managed by Davis, and worked with reggae singer Johnny Nash. In the late 1970s, an interest in older musicians inspired disc jockey Wolfman Jack to organize a tour including vintage acts such as Chandler.
"Duke of Earl" was sampled by Cypress Hill on the song "Hand on the Pump" from their album Cypress Hill (1991), and Chandler's song "Hallelujah, I Love Her So" was sampled on their album Black Sunday (1993). In 1997, Chandler was inducted as a Pioneer Award honoree into the Rhythm and Blues Foundation.
He also had a big Northern Soul hit in the UK with "There Was a Time".
In 1988, "Duke of Earl" was included on the soundtrack of Hairspray. "Groovy Situation" appeared on Anchorman: Music from the Motion Picture (2004). In 2002, "Duke Of Earl" was inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame. "Duke Of Earl" has also been selected by The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll .
His son, Defrantz Forrest, currently sings with the Motown group The Originals.
In 2016, Gene Chandler was honored in his hometown of Chicago by having a street named after him, for his industry accomplishments, many hit records, and his civic and philanthropic efforts in the interest of the City of Chicago and its people.
Solo releases and collaborations: