Although he’ll always be most remembered for “Duke Of Earl,” Gene Chandler was much more than a one-hit wonder. Over a long and successful career he had countless records that hit the charts even if they might not have quite reached the heights of his number-one seller.
Born Eugene Dixon in Chicago, his singing career began to come together in the late 1950s but his membership in a doo-wop group called the Dukays was interrupted by his Army service. He resumed singing after his return in 1960 and the Dukays began hitting the recording studio. After a couple of tries the group was stalled, but was then offered the chance to record a hot new song– but there was a catch. The record company wanted to promote it as a solo.
Since Eugene Dixon was already selling records under his own name as part of the Dukays, the record was issued with his new stage name – Gene Chandler – and the rest is history. “Duke Of Earl” shot to the top of the charts and became one of the biggest pop songs of all time.
Chandler continued his solo career for many years after that, and even though none of his records reached the popularity of his big song, he regularly hit the charts with many. Some of his best included “Nothing Can Stop Me,” “Rainbow,” and “Just Be True.” Along the way he became one of the mainstays of the Chicago R&B scene, along with Jerry Butler and Curtis Mayfield. In fact, Mayfield became a collaborator on many successful songs.
By the 1980s he’d begun to wind down but did keep performing from time to time as part of Oldies tours. His biggest hit, “Duke Of Earl,” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002. As for Chandler himself, it’s been reported in recent years that he can still be found occasionally performing in Vegas.