Brown Eyed Handsome Man

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"Brown Eyed Handsome Man"
Single by Chuck Berry
from the album After School Session
A-side "Too Much Monkey Business"
Released September 1956 (1956-09)[1]
Recorded April 16, 1956 in Chicago, Illinois[2]
Genre Rock and roll, rhythm and blues
Length 2:19
Label Chess 1635[1][2]
Writer(s) Chuck Berry
Producer(s) Leonard Chess, Phil Chess[2]
Chuck Berry singles chronology
"Brown Eyed Handsome Man"
"Roll Over Beethoven"
"Brown Eyed Handsome Man"
Single by Buddy Holly
from the album Reminiscing
B-side "Rock-a-Bye Rock"
Released 1963 (1963)
Format 7" 45 RPM
Recorded 1956–1957
Genre Rock and roll
Length 2:07
Label Carol 93 352
Writer(s) Chuck Berry
Producer(s) Norman Petty
Buddy Holly singles chronology
"Brown Eyed Handsome Man"
"Bo Diddley"

"Brown Eyed Handsome Man" is a rock and roll song by Chuck Berry, which was originally released by Chess Records in September 1956 as the B-side to "Too Much Monkey Business." It was also included on Berry's 1957 debut album After School Session. The song title was also used as the title of a biography of Berry.[3]

Background and recording[edit]

"Brown Eyed Handsome Man" was written following a visit that Chuck made in several African American and Hispanic areas in California. During his time there, Chuck saw a Hispanic man being arrested by a policeman when "some woman came up shouting for the policeman to let him go."[4]

"Brown Eyed Handsome Man" was recorded on April 16, 1956 in Chicago, Illinois. The session was produced by the Chess Brothers – Leonard and Phil – and backing Chuck Berry was Johnnie Johnson on piano, L. C. Davis on tenor saxophone, Willie Dixon on bass, and Fred Below on drums.[2]

The song was released in September 1956[1] and eventually reached #5 on Billboard magazine's R&B Singles later in the year.[5]

Relevance in race relations[edit]

Glenn C. Altschuler explains that the lyrics of this song "played slyly with racial attitudes and even fears."[6] Martha Bayles elaborates, noting that "Berry's penchant for bragging about his "Brown Eyed Handsome Man"’s appeal for white females outraged a lot of people."[7]

Cover versions[edit]

The song has been covered by many artists, including Buddy Holly, whose recording was a posthumous top-five hit in the United Kingdom in 1963 and was released on Reminiscing.[8] Johnny Rivers also covered the song on his first album At the Whisky à Go Go in 1964, as did Nina Simone on her 1967 album, High Priestess of Soul, and Waylon Jennings on a single from his 1970 album, Waylon. It was also covered by Robert Cray on the 1987 live tribute album to Berry, Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll and by Paul McCartney on his 1999 album Run Devil Run and was also released as a double A side single with "No Other Baby".

The song was also performed by the so-called "Million Dollar Quartet": Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley at a December 4, 1956, jam session.[9] Lewis also released a solo version on his 1970 album, She Even Woke Me Up to Say Goodbye,[10] while Cash later recorded it with Perkins on his posthumous 2003 album Unearthed. "Brown Eyed Handsome Man" was included in the Broadway musical entitled Million Dollar Quartet, which opened in New York in April 2010,[11] and on the Million Dollar Quartet original Broadway cast recording. The song was covered by the company of the production, which included Lance Guest as Johnny Cash; Robert Britton Lyons as Carl Perkins; Levi Kreis as Jerry Lee Lewis, and Eddie Clendening as Elvis Presley.[12]

Influences in other songs[edit]

John Fogerty used the line "A-roundin’ third, and headed for home, it’s a brown-eyed handsome man" in his 1985 song "Centerfield" from the album Centerfield.


  1. ^ a b c Rudolph, Dietmar. "A Collector's Guide to the Music of Chuck Berry: The Chess Era (1955-1966)". Retrieved December 4, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d Gold (CD liner). Chuck Berry. United States: Geffen Records/Chess Records. 2005. pp. 20, 27. 0602498805589 |url= missing title (help). 
  3. ^ See Bruce Pegg, Brown Eyed Handsome Man: The Life and Hard Times of Chuck Berry : an Unauthorized Biography (Routledge, 2002).
  4. ^ "Brown Eyed Handsome Man by Chuck Berry". Rolling Stone. Jann S. Wenner. Archived from the original on February 9, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Chuck Berry - Billboard Singles". Allmusic. United States: Rovi Corporation. Retrieved December 3, 2010. 
  6. ^ Glenn C. Altschuler, All Shook Up: How Rock 'n' Roll Changed America (Oxford University Press US, 2003), 64.
  7. ^ Martha Bayles, Hole in Our Soul: The Loss of Beauty and Meaning in American Popular Music (University of Chicago Press, 1996), 149-150.
  8. ^ Dave McAleer, Hit Singles: Top 20 Charts From 1954 To The Present Day (Hal Leonard Corporation, 2004), 84.
  9. ^ Million Dollar Quarter, The Million Dollar Quartet Retrieved April 11, 2012.
  10. ^ Jerry Lee Lewis, She Even Woke Me Up to Say Goodbye Retrieved April 11, 2012.
  11. ^ Zielinski, Peter James. "Photo Coverage: Million Dollar Quartet Opens on Broadway". Posted: 12:04 PM; Monday, April 12, 2010. [1]
  12. ^ MDQ Merchandising LLC (2010). “Song List” and “Performing Credits”. In Million Dollar Quartet (p. 5) [CD booklet]. New York City: Avatar Studios; and Chicago: Chicago Recording Company.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
by Bobbie Gentry
RPM Country Tracks number-one single
(Waylon Jennings version)

February 28, 1970
Succeeded by
"If I Were a Carpenter"
by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash