“Duke of Earl“ is a 1962 US # 1 song….which was originally sung by Gene Chandler…..as it is the best known of Chandler’s songs…..after which he subsequently dubbed himself “The Duke of Earl”. The song was penned by Chandler, Bernice Williams, and Earl Edwards….and was a 2002 inductee into the Grammy Hall of Fame. It has also been selected by The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.
The song originated from warm-up exercises by the Dukays….which was a vocal group that included Chandler under his original name, Eugene Dixon and Earl Edwards….as it already had some success on the R&B chart. The group would regularly warm up by singing “Do do do do…” in different keys….when on one occasion, Dixon changed the syllables he was singing to include Earl’s name….and the chant gradually became the nonsense words “Du..du..du..Duke of Earl”. The pair worked on the song with regular songwriter and mentor Bernice Williams….and then recorded it with the other members of the Dukays….however, the group’s record company preferred to release another song, “Nite Owl”, leaving Dixon with the offer of releasing it as a solo artist. Dixon changed his name to Gene Chandler….which was a surname taken from that of the actor Jeff Chandler…..and the song was released at the end of 1961….as it quickly rose to become # 1 on both the pop and R&B charts. “Duke of Earl” debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 chart on January 13, 1962….and held the # 1 spot for three weeks. It was on the Hot 100 for a total of 15 weeks. Musicians on the record included Floyd Morris on piano, Lefty Bates, Phil Upchurch and Kermit Chandler on guitar, Al Duncan on drums and Cliff Davis and John Board on sax.