Today’s edition of Han’s Worst Hits of the 70’s- selection is My Ding- A- Ling by the immortal Chuck Berry. This is such a rock tragedy. Chuck Berry was a musical God- he wrote some of the greatest rock ‘n roll songs ever- and the only song he had that went to #1 was this novelty number from 1972 that he didn’t even write.
Chuck Berry was certainly past his prime as a songwriter/ performer by the early 1970’s. My Ding- A- Ling was originally recorded and credited to Dave Bartholomew in 1952. The Chuck Berry #1 hit single version was a live recording- recorded on February 3, 1972 at the Lanchester Arts Festival in Coventry, England. A Boston DJ is credited with ‘discovering’ the recording and pushing it to #1- he received a gold record for his efforts.
Because of the sexual innuendo there were radio stations that refused to play it. Some stations not playing it didn’t hurt it any as it did reach #1 not only in the US but in the United Kingdom and Canada too. I remember as a teenager hearing it- it was funny the first couple times but the bottom line is it isn’t very good. I also find it tragically sad. Chuck Berry should have had- in the 1950’s a dozen #1’s at least. There is a great compilation album called “The Great Twenty-Eight”- [My Ding-A-Ling is not on that album} that I would recommend to someone who never heard rock n roll and wanted to know what is was. There isn’t a song on that album that shouldn’t have been a big hit- but in his career Berry only had a total of fourteen Top 40 hits. I have always thought if Chuck Berry had been born white he would have been bigger than Elvis. The prejudices of the 50’s no doubt hurt his career- no wonder he was a bitter, difficult man. He was certainly greater in my opinion. Again it is sad that they man who did songs like Johnny B. Goode, Roll Over Beethoven, Memphis, Tennessee, Sweet Little Sixteen and dozens of other great songs- only #1 was this bathroom humor garbage.
The Dean of Rock Critics Robert Christgau has called Chuck “the greatest of the rock and rollers”, John Lennon famously said “if you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it “Chuck Berry.” Ted Nugent said “If you don’t know every Chuck Berry lick, you can’t play rock guitar.” Bob Dylan called Berry “the Shakespeare of rock ‘n’ roll.’ Upon his death Bruce Springsteen said “Chuck Berry was rock’s greatest practitioner, guitarist, and the greatest pure rock n’ roll writer who ever lived.”