Chuck Berry cooked up the hipster-lingo inventions (“As I was motorvatin' over the hill . . .”), but its groove comes from “Ida Red,” a 1938 recording by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. By 1955, Berry had been playing country tunes for black audiences for a few years — “After they laughed at me a few times, they began requesting the hillbilly stuff,” he said. Producer Leonard Chess came up with the title, inspired by a discarded Maybelline mascara box. DJ Alan Freed, co-credited as a songwriter, had nothing to do with writing “Maybellene,” although he got royalties for years in return for radio airplay.
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