Charlie Gracie (born Charles Anthony Graci on May 14, 1936 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is an American rock pioneer and singer.
His father encouraged him to play the guitar. Charlie's musical career started at the very early age of 14 when he appeared on the Paul Whiteman television show.
Gracie performed at weddings, local restaurants, and parties, and on local radio and television. He also won many regional talent contests. The little money and prizes he received were turned over to his mother to help support the family.
The owner of Cadillac Records heard one of Charlie's early radio performances, contacted the young musician and signed him to a contract. This association yielded the single, Boogie Woogie Blues backed with I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter. The record led to Charlie's first appearance on Bob Horn's "American Bandstand" television program. (This was four years before Dick Clark became the host)
After cutting two more singles for Cadillac, Charlie moved on to 20th Century Records, a subsidiary of Gotham, where he put out another four sides, including Wildwood Boogie. The discs he made embraced a wide variety of styles: jump blues, gospel, and country boogie with the influences of Big Joe Turner, B.B. King, Louis Jordan, Roy Acuff, and Hank Williams.
Between 1951-53, Charlie Gracie was experimenting with many types of music, years before many rock heroes had ever set foot inside a recording studio.
By 1956, Philadelphia had given birth to the new Cameo record label. Its founders, in search of a strong talent signed Charlie later that year. With a $600 budget, this new union went into the studio to record a single that would forever change their lives. The record, Butterfly backed with Ninety Nine Ways became a monster hit, reaching the number one position all across America. Charlie received a gold disc for the two million plus sales and became the first native Philadelphia rock star to achieve international success. Other substantial sellers followed: Fabulous, Wandering Eyes, and Cool Baby. The financial success of these hits bankrolled the Cameo label, which became a dominant force in the recording industry for several years.
Charlie's personal appearances grew until he performed and headlined some of the biggest venues of that time: Alan Freed's rock and roll shows at the Brooklyn Paramount, The Ed Sullivan Show, Dick Clark's "American Bandstand" and the 500 Club in Atlantic City. He appeared in the 1957 film Jamboree, and toured with the likes of Chuck Berry, The Everly Brothers, Bo Diddley and his close friend, Eddie Cochran.
Charlie became only the second American, guitar-toting rock and roller to bring this new art form to the British concert stage. His two extensive tours in 1957 and 58 were a whirlwind, topped off by headlining the Palladium and the Hippodrome in London. He played to packed houses and drew rave reviews. In the audiences, among Charlie's fans and admirers, were future rock greats: Graham Nash, members of the Beatles and Rolling Stones, Joe Cocker and Van Morrison. These performers and many other well-known acts have credited Charlie as an influence. George Harrison referred to Charlie's guitar technique as "brilliant" in a March 1996 interview with Billboard Magazine; Paul McCartney invited Charlie to the premiere party of his 1999 release which paid tribute to the early pioneers of rock music.
Charlie found himself somewhat miscast at Cameo. He moved on to other labels such as Coral, Roulette, Felsted, and Diamond, performing more of the R&B he preferred. Even if success slowed, Charlie continued to perform in clubs, theaters, and resorts, from the 60's through the 90's. He still enjoys a loyal following in Great Britain, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, and the Netherlands. Charlie is a devoted family man, has been married for more than 40 years to his first and only wife, Joan. They have two children, a son and a daughter.
Charlie Gracie's pioneering contribution to the genre has been recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame
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