Chuck Berry's Only Number One Hit - "My Ding-a-Ling" - Was Recorded 40 Years Ago Today

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Chuck Berry's only number one hit -- the novelty track "My Ding-a-Ling" -- was recorded 40 years ago today in Coventry, England.
What can be said about Chuck Berry's "My Ding-a-Ling" that hasn't already been said? It's a naughty crowd-pleaser that contains more double entendres than there are silver bells on a Christmas tree.

But the song holds some intriguing designations, besides that fact that it was utilized brilliantly during an episode of The Simpsons. The tune is a staple in Berry's live performances. Audiences adore singing the chorus. And to wit: "My Ding-a-Ling" happens to be Berry's only song to go to number one on the Billboard charts.

You read that right. Even though Berry created music so universally known that it was blasted into space as an example of human culture, "My Ding-a-Ling" was Berry's only number one hit on Billboard's Hot 100 charts.

The version of "My Ding-a-Ling" that actually went to number one happened to be recorded in Coventry, England, on this day in 1972. Berry was headlining the Lanchester Arts Festival, a performance that later was released as The London Chuck Berry Sessions.

Although the tune was released on July 1972, it didn't actually make its way up the charts until October of that same year. Boston disc jockey Jim Connors is credited with "discovering the song," which according to official biography was not a one-time occurrence.

Even though "My Ding-a-Ling" isn't as direct in its vulgarity as other songs out there, it still caused a stir in the oh-so-innocent 1970s. British morals crusader Mary Whitehouse, for instance, took aim at the song in the 1970s.

But while "My Ding-a-Ling's" success may perturb purists who believe something more accessible -- like "Johnny B. Goode" or "Roll Over Beethoven" -- was Berry's biggest hit, it's undeniable that it has made an impact within the music world. Perhaps music critic extraordinaire Robert Christgau put it best:

Even "My Ding-a-Ling," a fourth-grade wee-wee joke that used to mortify true believers at college concerts, permitted a lot of twelve-year-olds new insight into the moribund concept of "dirty" when it hit the airwaves.

The song changed again when an oldies crowd became as children to shout along with Uncle Chuck the night he received his gold record at Madison Square Garden.

To partly echo Jamie Lees' article from last year about the need to see Chuck Berry right now, it really doesn't matter whether "My Ding-a-Ling" was a second coming of a "Day in the Life." It's Chuck Berry. And from Berry's own words, maybe the song has a deeper meaning than anybody imagined.

"It happens to be a song of togetherness," Berry said during a 1972 performance. "If it wasn't for togetherness, I wouldn't be here. And, uh, none of the rest of you would be here either."

Maybe that quote is really all that needs to be said about "My Ding-a-Ling." Enjoy:




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3 comments
nocalls
nocalls

Actually It has only one double entendre that is repeated over and over to make sure you get it.

Earl Lee
Earl Lee

I have to have the only band in the st louis area that has this song on their SET LIST!!

Xmo2rep
Xmo2rep

Interesting story but unfortunately it mis-states Chuck's Billboard success. In 1955 Chuck had the #1 billboard R& B with "Maybelline". It was not until 1958 that B-Bd changed its system to include ALL songs (before they had separate categories for Jukebox plays, DJ plays and records sold and R & B would be merged with "pop" songs. In  most annals of tops songs CB is given #1 and #5 (and 3 others in the top 75) for 58.  In 57 he had #s 6 & 7.  In 1956 he had Four of the top 70. So My D-A-Ling may be "wink wink, nudge, nudge" fun to point out but it actually muddies the unbelievable impact our Local Hero had upon the music industry especially anything with a "back beat, you can't lose it". Sadly, Nancy and I saw Chuck at Jimmy's on Delmar in 1984(5?) with a huge cover charge and 3 drink minimum.  Chuck's daughter and her group played warm-up. They were good, thank the Lord, because CB did not show up until long after they finished their extended set.  He was ripped...began playing Johnny B' Good and could not remember the lyrics ("help me out here!" He yelled to the crowd.)  15 minutes or so later he left and it was a miracle there was not a riot.  Glad to say in 2004 we got a chance to see him at Wolf-trap National Park for the Arts outside DC where he, Little Richard, and Jerry Lee Lewis brought the house down.  Fabulous evening I will long remember. (Little Richard asked all the "full-figured mamas to come onto the stage and show all these skinny-assed suburbanites what rhythm was all about".....on to the stage appeared at least 65 plus sizes and I swear the entire ampitheatre began to rock & roll.  Jerry Lee had arthritis and could not get on top of the piano but he did play it backwards. And Chuck?  He duckwalked with the pages of the calendar turning backwards.

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