.

Song Stories

“Maybellene”

Chuck Berry | 1955

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.

Find out Chuck Berry’s response to a legal dispute about the authorship of his songs.
prev
Song Stories Main Next

Song Stories

“Santa Monica”

Everclear | 1996

After his brother and girlfriend both died of drug overdoses, Art Alexakis -- depressed and hooked on drugs himself -- jumped off the Santa Monica Pier in California, determined to die. "It was really stupid," said the Everclear frontman, who would further explore his personal emotional journey in the song "Father of Mine." "I went under the water. Then I said, 'I don't wanna die.'" The song, declaring "Let's swim out past the breakers/and watch the world die," was intended as a manifesto for change, Alexakis said. "Let the world do what it's gonna do and just live on our own."

More Song Stories entries »
www.expandtheroom.com