Chuck E. Weiss, blues musician, club owner, and Los Angeles character immortalized in Ricky Lee Jones’s breakout hit song, “Chuck E. In Love”, died on July 20 at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. He was 76 years old.
His brother, Byron, said the cause was kidney failure.
Mr. Weiss was an avid musicologist, an encyclopedia of obscure jazz and early R&B artists, a drummer, a songwriter, and a widely accepted badass, who lived in the mid-1970s with his friend singer-songwriter Tom in his native Denver. landed in Los Angeles. waits.
At Troubadour, the venerable West Hollywood folk club, where Mr. Weiss worked as a dishwasher for a time, he met another young singer-songwriter, a former fugitive named Ricky Lee Jones. Mr Waits and Miss Jones became an item and the three of them became inseparable as they stole lawn ornaments and made fun of people at music industry parties (like shaking hands by dipping their palms) through Hollywood.
“Sometimes it feels like we are real romantic dreamers stuck in the wrong time zone,” Ms Jones told Rolling Stone in 1979, referring to Mr Weiss and Mr Waits as her family at the time.
They lived in a 1940s Bohemia Tropicana motel on Santa Monica Boulevard. “It was a regular DMZ,” Mr. Weiss told LA Weekly in 1981, “except everyone had a body and saw Good.”
In the fall of 1977, on a trip to Denver, Mr. Weiss called his friends back in Los Angeles, and when Mr. Waits hung up the phone, he announced to Ms. Jones, “Chuck E. is in love!”
Two years later, Ms. Jones’ imaginary crackdown on that announcement – “What’s her name? / Is she there? / Oh, Christ, I think she even combed her hair” – made her a star Was. (Though the last line of the song states otherwise, it was not Ms Jones for whom Mr Weiss had fallen; it was his distant cousin.)
The song was a hit single, the opening track from Ms. Jones’ debut album, “Ricky Lee Jones”, and was a 1980 Grammy Award nominee for Song of the Year. (“What a Fool Believes,” performed by the Dobie Brothers, received the honor.)
In an essay in the Los Angeles Times on July 21, Ms Jones wrote That when she first met Mr. Waits and Mr. Weiss, she could not tell them apart. “They were two of the most charismatic characters Hollywood had seen in decades, and without them I think the whole street of Santa Monica Boulevard would have collapsed.”
In a phone interview since then, she said of Mr. Weiss: “He had mischief, he was our trickster. He was a thrill man, and for a time a disaster, as thrillers often are.”
Charles Edward Weiss was born on March 18, 1945 in Denver. His father, Leo, was in the rescue business; His mother, Janet (Rolnick) Weiss, owned a hat store, Hollywood Millinery. Chuck graduated from East High School and attended Mesa Junior College in Grand Junction, now Colorado Mesa.
Her brother is her only immediate survivor.
In his early 20s, Mr. Weiss met Chuck Morris, now a music promoter, when Mr. Morris co-owns Tulagi, a music club in Boulder, Colo. That’s when blues artists like Lightnin’ Hopkins and John Lee Hooker came out. , they often traveled alone, and it was up to Mr. Morris to find him a local band. He will ask Mr. Weiss to fill in as the drummer.
In 1973 Mr. Morris opened a Denver nightclub called Ebbets Field (he was born in Brooklyn), which attracted artists such as Willie Nelson, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Mr. Waits. Mr. Weiss filled in there too.
those days, As Mr. Weiss recalled in 2014, He was trying to record his own music and was in the habit of asking artists to play with him. This is how he met Mr. Waits. “And I think what happened was I saw the vets do some finger-poppin stuff at Ebbets Fields one night,” he said, “and I went to him after the show. I put on some platform shoes and a chinchilla coat.” Worn out, and I was slipping on the snow in the street because I was too high, and asked if he wanted to do some recording with me. He looked at me like I came from outer space, man.”
Nonetheless, he said, they quickly became friends.
Mr Waits, interviewed by Philadelphia Inquirer in 1999, described Mr Weiss as “a mensch, a liar, a monkey and a pathological vaudevillian”.
Mr. Waits and Mr. Weiss collaborated on many things, in one example co-writing the lyrics to “Spare Parts (A Nocturnal Emission)”, a barroom dredge on Mr. Waits’ album “Nightwalks at the Dinner”. Released in 1975. Mr Waits produced two albums for Mr Weiss; The first, “Extremely Cool”, in 1999, was described in a review as “an goofy, eclectic mix of loose-fitting blues and boogie-woogie”.
Although his songwriting was prodigious – “Anthem for the Lost Souls” Told from the point of view of a neighbor’s cat – Mr Weiss was best known for his live performances. Gravel-voiced, shaggy-haired and a long chatter, he was a bluesman with a Borch Belt sense of humour.
In the 1980s, Mr. Weiss played with his band The Goddamn Liars at a Los Angeles club called Central. He later encouraged his friend Johnny Depp to buy the place with him and others. He turned it into the Viper Room, a ’90s-era nightclub celebrity.
She was often asked how she felt about her star turn in Ms. Jones’ hit. “Yeah, I was amazed,” he told the Associated Press in 2007. “Little did we know that, overall, we would both be known for the rest of our lives.”
But the rest of their lives will no longer be intertwined.
“When ‘Chuck E. In Love’ passed through heaven and ‘I Hate That Song’ faded into the desert from which it still hasn’t really recovered, he and I parted, and everyone got away from it,” Ms Jones wrote of Mr Weiss in Los Angeles Times Essay. “Left awaits, our street corner jive’s brief Camelot ends. We had made our fiction, the hero of the very autocrats. But I’m glad I did.”
Later, over the phone, she said, “The two of us became very successful musicians, but not Chuck, and he knew a lot of people.” She continued: “We think being famous is winning, but I’m not sure. Chuck did just fine.”