Charlie Gracie is a very good singer from Philadelphia who had one huge hit in the 50's. He has a lot of talent, but was underrated when he was in his prime.
He was born Charles Anthony Graci in Philadelphia in 1936. He learned to play a guitar and appeared on the Paul Whiteman TV show at age 14, where he won some nice prizes such as his family's first refrigerator.
Charlie tried various types of music and recorded for some labels that included Cadillac and 20th Century in the early 50's. He did country boogie, or jump blues, or what came close to rockabilly music. He began to make appearances on the televison show Bandstand, which later became American Bandstand, and eventually he became a regular.
There was a song that had been written by Bernie Lowe and Kal Mann, owners of the Philadelphia record label Cameo, called Butterfly. Charlie Graci recorded it under the name of "Anthony September," which was the pseudonym of American Bandstand producer Tony Mammarella, who was later implicated in the payola scandals. Charlie's Cameo recording of Butterfly met with phenomenal success, reaching the number one position early in 1957 when he was 20 years old. Later that year Charlie had his second and last top forty hit with Fabulous, also on Cameo. Elvis Presley's publishers contended that Fabulous was very close to Elvis' Don't Be Cruel and sued for publication rights, a suit which they won.
Charlie Gracie could play a guitar with the best of them, and he was a very good singer as well. Short in stature at 5' 4", he was somewhat miscast on the Cameo label, which tried to project its recording artists as teen idols. Charlie was more of a musician, a guitar player and singer, and didn't fit the mold at Cameo. He didn't last long on the charts.
Charlie got a song from Otis Blackwell titled Cool Baby and sang it in the movie Disc Jockey Jamboree in 1957; Blackwell had also written Don't Be Cruel. Gracie had hits in the United Kingdom; in addition to Butterfly, Fabulous and Cool Baby, he also reached the top forty there with I Love You So Much It Hurts and Wanderin' Eyes. Gracie toured in Great Britain on into the 80's.
Charlie filed a lawsuit for non-payment of royalties that he felt were due him; the suit was settled out of court, but there were repurcussions. His songs were not promoted very well, he was no longer invited to appear on Bandstand, and his record sales fell off. He went to a variety of labels playing mostly the R&B type music that he really liked; some of these labels included Felsted, President, Diamond, Sock'n'Soul, Roulette, and Coral. There were albums issued of his early material, including Cameo/Parkway Sessions on London and Charlie Gracie's Early Recordings on Revival.
Charlie Gracie is a talented musician, both as a singer and guitar player, and probably deserves more credit as a pioneer of the early days of rock-and-roll.
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