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Charlie Gracie' (born Charles Anthony Graci, May 14, 1936, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is an American rock pioneer and singer.
His father encouraged him to play the guitar. Gracie's musical career started at the 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 regional talent contests.
The owner of Cadillac Records, Graham Prince, heard one of Gracie's early radio performances, contacted the young musician and signed him to a recording 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, including one called "Rockin´ ´n´ Rollin´" in 1952, Charlie moved on to 20th Century Records, where he put out another four sides. 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.
By 1956, Philadelphia had given birth to the new Cameo record label. Its founders, in search of a strong talent, signed Gracie later that year. With a $600 budget, this new union went into the recording studio to record "Butterfly" backed with "Ninety Nine Ways". It became a hit record, reaching #1 in jukebox plays in the Billboard chart. Gracie received a gold disc for the two million plus sales. His only other Top 40 hit was with a song entitled "Fabulous" the same year, which reached #16. This track also reached number 6 in the UK - where it remained regularly played on national radio more than twenty years later. Two other substantial sellers followed: "Wandering Eyes", his third Billboard Top 100 hit, which peaked at #71 (another number 6 in the UK), and "Cool Baby" (also a top 30 hit in Britain). The financial success of these hits bankrolled the Cameo label, which became a dominant force in the music industry for several years.
Gracie'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, American Bandstand and the 500 Club in Atlantic City. He appeared in the 1957 film Jamboree and toured with Chuck Berry, The Everly Brothers, Bo Diddley and his close friend Eddie Cochran.
Gracie became only the second American rock and roller to bring this new art form to the British concert stage. His two extensive tours in 1957 and 1958 were topped off by headlining the Palladium and the Hippodrome in London. In the audiences, among Gracie's fans, were future rock musicians Graham Nash, members of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, Joe Cocker and Van Morrison. These performers and many other well-known acts have credited Gracie as an influence. George Harrison referred to Gracie's guitar technique as 'brilliant' in a March 1996 interview with Billboard; Paul McCartney invited Gracie to the premiere party of his 1999 release which paid tribute to the early pioneers of rock music.
According to the documentary film Wages of Spin, Gracie sued Cameo Records for unpaid royalties and in retaliation was blacklisted from the radio and American Bandstand. Per the film, Bandstand host Dick Clark had a relationship with the record company and was paid $14,000 for services related to Gracie's song "Butterfly".
Gracie moved on to other record labels such as Coral, Roulette, Felsted, and Diamond, performing more of the R&B he preferred. Even as success slowed, he continued to perform in clubs, theaters, and resorts, from the 1960s through the 1990s. He still enjoys a loyal following in the United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, and the Netherlands.
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