July 6: "The Duke of Earl" Gene Chandler is 74-years-old today.

Born Eugene Dixon, Gene Chandler is from Chicago's South side. He began performing in the early 1950s with The Gaytones. In 1957 he joined a doo-wop group, The Dukays, with James Lowe, Shirley Jones, Earl Edwards and Ben Broyles, soon becoming their lead singer. After serving in the U.S. Army, he returned to Chicago in 1960 and rejoined The Dukays.

The Dukays were offered a recording contract by Nat Records and in 1961 recorded a single, "The Girl Is a Devil," followed by two other singles including "Nite Owl." "Nite Owl" entered the charts and he recorded with The Dukays under the name 'Gene Dixon' and as a solo act as Gene Chandler. Vee-Jay Records released the Dukays recording of "Duke of Earl" but credited the song solely to Chandler. "Duke of Earl" sold a million copies in just over one month.

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Gene Chandler - 20 Greatest HitsRainbow '65 (Full Version)
After spending three weeks at number one on the Billboard Magazine charts, Chandler purchased a cape, a monocle, a top hat and a cane and became "The Duke of Earl." His concerts became popular and he performed encores, usually "Rainbow '65," one of his collaborations with Curtis Mayfield. This song was recorded by Chandler three times during his career, becoming a hit each time.

Chandler left Vee Jay and recorded for Constellation Records, Chess and Brunswick Records: these companies alternated with each other when releasing Chandler's recordings. He had a Top 20 Pop hit with "Just Be True" in 1964, and produced by Curtis Mayfield. "Nothing Can Stop Me," also written by Mayfield, became a Top 20 pop hit as well.

More hits followed during the next five years including "What Now," "Rainbow," "I Fooled You This Time," "Think Nothing About It"', "A Man's Temptation," "To Be A Lover," "Rainbow '65" (recorded live at Chicago's Regal Theatre), "Bless Our Love," and "You Can't Hurt Me No More," These songs helped Gene become a major R&B star.

Chandler also had success with his hit cover of James Brown's "There Was A Time" and "You Threw A Lucky Punch," which was released as an "answer" song to Mary Wells's Motown hit "You Beat Me To The Punch." In 1970, Chandler recorded the album Gene and Jerry: One on One, with Jerry Butler.

After a number of years on the road, Chandler decided to become more involved with production of music. In 1970, he produced, wrote, arranged and had a major hit with "Groovy Situation," which reached #12 on the pop charts pop and #8 on the R&B charts, becoming his second biggest hit since "Duke Of Earl." "Groovy Situation" sold more than a million copies, and received a gold disc awarded by the R.I.A.A. in November 1970.

The hits he recorded and produced earned him The National Association of Television and Radio Announcers Producer of the Year Award in 1970. He also appeared with The Impressions and Curtis Mayfield on the live album Curtis in Chicago.

In 1974, Chandler appeared on Arthur Louis's album Knocking on Heaven's Door along with Eric Clapton. Later he had success with disco music, creating hits such as "Get Down," "When You're #1," "Does She Have A Friend?" and "Rainbow '80." During this time he was also the Executive Vice President of Chi Sound Records and worked with reggae star Johnny Nash.

In 1997 Chandler was inducted as a Pioneer Award honoree into the Rhythm and Blues Foundation . In 1988 "Duke of Earl" was included on the soundtrack of Hairspray. In 2004, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame.

Chandler still performs across the U.S.