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The Dukays

The Dukays' bright future dimmed only when record-company shenanigans did them in; their 1961 smash "The Duke of Earl" was credited solely to their lead singer, Eugene Dixon (aka Gene Chandler), who left the group after it was re-released on another label. One of the most popular groups on Chicago's south side (the Englewood neighborhood), the Dukays consisted of Dixon, Shirley Jones (tenor/soprano), James Lowe (second tenor), Earl Edwards (baritone), and Ben Broyles, the unforgettable bass on "Duke of Earl."

Songwriter Bernice Williams befriended the Englewood sensations and became their main songwriter when they soon signed with Nat Records. The group's first single, "The Girl Is a Devil," sold locally and did a little business outside of Chicago in 1961. They were showstoppers live: everything about them was exciting, especially Shirley Jones (Dixon's cousin), who stepped and blew notes right along with the fellows, almost a funky edition of the Platters. In December of 1961, Nat released their third single, "The Duke of Earl" b/w "Kissin' in the Kitchen," and all hell broke loose. By the following month, a deal was consummated with Vee Jay Records, who re-released "Duke of Earl" and credited it to Gene Chandler (he adopted the surname from actor Jeff Chandler and people always shortened his first name anyway). The Dukays felt slighted, abused, and mistreated. Vee Jay didn't re-record the song, but simply slapped their label on new pressings on the Nat acetate.

As appeasement, Vee Jay signed the group to a separate deal and reissued their second single "Nite Owl." Charles Davis (aka Nolan Chance) replaced Chandler and Margaret "Cookie" Stone took over for Shirley Jones, who quit. Vee Jay issued three singles by the Dukays, two in 1962 and one in 1963, but none of them clicked. They appeared uncredited on a few of Chandler's solos, before he switched to Constellation Records, the label that made him an R&B icon.

Nearly two years passed before the Dukays surfaced in November 1964 on the Jerry-O label with "The Jerk." The new group featured Claude McRae (lead), Richard Dixon, Earl Edwards, and James Lowe. In 1965, Jerry-O, owned by Jerry J. Murray, issued the final Dukays single, "Mellow-Fezneckey" b/w "Sho-Nuf M.F." (a scandalous title for the times); neither did much business and they disbanded. Nolan Chance recorded solo for Constellation and other labels, while Chandler carved a stellar solo career. ~ Andrew Hamilton
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Vee-Jay: The Definitive Collection

Disc 1

2. Baby, It's You

3. Goodnite Sweetheart, Goodnite

4. Ain't Times Hard

5. You Don't Have To Go

7. I Wish You Would

8. At My Front Door

9. Hurt My Feelings

10. Bad Boy

11. Somewhere To Lay My Head

13. Fool's Prayer

14. Oop De Oop

15. I'll Be Forever Loving You

16. Ain't That Lovin' You Baby

18. Up On The Mountain

19. Big Town Playboy

20. Rock 'n' Roll Mama

21. Oh What A Nite

Disc 2

1. Dimples

2. The Telephone Is Ringing

4. Uncloudy Day

6. Mother's Son

8. Honest I Do

9. Farther Along

10. You Can Make It If You Try

11. It Hurts Me Too

14. Blues Get Off My Shoulder

15. For Your Precious Love

17. I Love You Honey

18. Leave You In The Hands Of The Lord

19. Nobody But You

21. Crying For My Baby

Disc 3

1. Mary Don't You Weep

2. Steppin' Out

3. Just A Little Bit

6. Will The Circle Be Unbroken

7. Easy Lovin'

8. No Shoes

10. He Will Break Your Heart

11. Exodus

12. Big Boss Man

13. Raindrops

14. Every Beat Of My Heart

16. Bright Lights, Big City

17. Nite Owl

18. Duke Of Earl

19. Real Gone Mama

21. Boom Boom

Disc 4

1. I'm A Woman

2. Make It Easy On Yourself

3. Sherry

4. Rainbow

7. Body Surf

8. You're No Good

10. The Shoop Shoop Song (It's In His Kiss)

11. Steal Away

12. Have I The Right

13. Let It Be Me

15. Getting Mighty Crowded

17. Tainted Love

18. Billy's Bag

19. Stay In My Corner

21. Let's Do It Over

22. I Don't Know What You've Got But It's Got Me

Comments

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The original Nite-Owl at last. Sounds real good. I do believe that Gene Chandler had a version of this song also. Both are excellent.

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