Charlie Gracie is one of a diminishing number of rock & roll innovators. A native of South Philadelphia, he became the first successful recording star of the “Rock Era” to emerge from that neighborhood. In 1957, Charlie’s “Butterfly” topped the American and British music charts, selling over 3 million copies. His other late 50’s big sellers include: “Fabulous”, “Ninety-Nine Ways”, “Wanderin Eyes”, “I Love You So Much It Hurts” and “Cool Baby.” These hits bankrolled Philly’s famous Cameo-Parkway record label.
At the height of his fame, Charlie frequently appeared on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, The Ed Sullivan Show, and Alan Freed’s TV Specials. He headlined shows at the Brooklyn Paramount, the Casino Royale in Washington, the 500 Club in Atlantic City, the Opera House in Chicago and old Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia.
Charlie’s star burned even brighter in Great Britain where he became the first solo American artist to bring rock & roll to the English concert stage. Preceded only by Bill Haley and the Comets, Charlie headlined London’s Palladium and Hippodrome-receiving outstanding receptions from the press and public. Charlie’s popularity in the United Kingdom continues to
this day where he continues to tour annually.
His superb guitar playing elicited the highest of praise from music legends like George Harrison. The late Beatle once referred to Charlie’s guitar technique as “brilliant” in a March 1996 interview with Billboard Magazine. Sir Paul McCartney paid tribute to Charlie by recording an updated version of “Fabulous” in cd series entitled: “Run Devil Run”.
Pop superstar Sir Cliff Richard followed in 2014 and 2016 by paying tribute to Charlie with updated versions of ‘Fabulous’ and ‘ Butterfly’ in his ‘Fabulous Rock & Roll Songbook’ cd series.
Belfast Blues performer Van Morrison displayed his admiration for Charlie by inviting him to open a West Coast tour-one of a precious few artists to be given that honor!
In 2012 Charlie was the subject of a made for PBS-TV documentary: Fabulous! The program recounted the story of his influential career- from humble beginnings in his South Philadelphia row home to concert stages around the world!
In the fall of 2012 ABKCO Records released his latest CD: ‘FOR THE LOVE OF CHARLIE’ produced by Al Kooper, who has recorded and produced the likes of Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix. Among the artists performing with Charlie on the CD are were: Graham Nash, (Crosby, Stills Nash & Young), Peter Noone (Herman’s Hermits), Jimmy Vivino (guitarist & music director; Conan O’Brien Show), Craig Ross (keyboards; Lenny Kravitz) and Dennis Diken (drummer; Smithereens).
The year 2015 saw the release of his long awaited autobiography: ‘ROCK & ROLL’s HIDDEN GIANT: THE STORY OF ROCK PIONEER CHARLIE GRACIE’ (Alfred Music Publishing). The book received critical acclaim, including a stellar endorsement by Sir Paul McCartney!
A member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and the Philadelphia Music Hall of Fame, Charlie shows no signs of slowing down. He still plays to packed houses all around the world. Recent show tours have taken him to France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Finland and GreatBritain-the site of his greatest success.
Though so much has changed around him, much of Charlie’s life remains constant. He is a family man, first and foremost (he will be happily married to his wife 59-years this year). He still reveres the memory of his parents and grandparents, who encouraged him to pursue his love for music . And he considers his fans his family. Talk about close relations!
Gracie’s unique story is as unpredictable as the path of a butterfly. However, one thing you can’t do is call his resurgence a “comeback,” since essentially, he never really left. Nevertheless, Gracie remains grateful for his lifetime mission of making people happy.
“When all is said and done… I’m still little Charlie Gracie from South Philly who sings and plays the guitar. If you ever came to see me perform -and you found yourself entertained – and I made you happy for a few hours, then I’ve fulfilled my mission in this life. I’m eternally grateful to God
for that opportunity!”