Although Chuck Bernard came from St Louis and even recorded doo-wop there with the group the Blue Notes, he is always associated with the Windy City where he moved in the early 60s. A talented vocalist in the “hard soul” style his contribution to the Chicago music scene has never really received its proper recognition, despite his prolific recording history.
He started out in 1964 contracted to Dick Simon’s Satellite / St Lawrence company, not just as a performer but as a producer and sometime A & R man as well. He had no less than five 45s issued by the company and Bernard scored a couple of big local hits with the tough uptempo “Indian Giver” and the hand clapper “Funny Changes”, his only national chart success. But they weren’t his best vocal performances. He sounded much more convincing on both sides of his first single “I Can’t Fight It” and “Send For Me”. The midpaced bluesy beat ballad Dial My Number showed his fiery, hoarse tones really well, and he’s very well accompanied by an uncredited female vocalist as well. But the pick of these early sides for me is the fine melodic She’s Already Married, a tasteful ballad with some excellent horn charts and tom tom led drum patterns.
Chuck appeared on Episode 18 of "The Beat!!!!" lip-synching to "My Baby" (called "Talking About My Baby" for some reason) and although he looked sharp in his suit, he didn't appear to have much stage presence and came across as rather stiff. His second song was done live in the studio and although its lovely to see the guy and hear his fine pipes, sadly the song was the awful "Danny Boy". Absolutely unlistenable!
Bernard’s New Breed sides are very much in a similar vein to his previous efforts - tough hard hitting Chi-town music. Although “Hall Of Soul” with its recitation of soul stars and it’s rhythm debt (and specific reference) to Brother James “There Was A Time” is great fun, my favourite is the down beat Anything For You. No horns to add spice to the mix this time but some lovely chord changes and well-judged double tracked lead vocals – as gruff as you could want.
After a brief stop at Maverick for a reprise of “Indian Giver”, Bernard went to Ric Williams’ Zodiac for another extended run of five 45s. And the second release was a double sided winner. “Everything Is Alright Now” is classic Chicago mid paced soul with some top notch singing, and “The Other Side Of My Mind” is at least as good. The more relaxed I’m Lonely is a personal favourite of mine of Bernard’s work, featuring some lovely electronic piano fills and careful horns and strings. But the cream of his stay with Zodiac must be the first class Thank You Ma’am. Bernard had one further, rather disappointing release on Brunswick but by then the days of tough Windy City music were over.
Although Chuck Bernard never made the front rank of Chicago’s highly competitive scene the depth of his recordings and his soulful vocals deserve to be much better appreciated than they are. Maybe this page will help to redress the balance a bit.
UPDATE ~ My friend and expert Naoya Yamauchi has written about the Chuck & Cleo 45 on Blue Rock. He believes - as I do now he's kindly reminded me of the disc - that the "Chuck" must be Chuck Bernard. I believe the "Cleo" relates to Cleo Randle. Sadly neither side of this duet is anything special but the details are now in the discography.
I'm grateful to Naoya as always for sharing his knowledge.
As CHUCK BENARD & HIS BLUE NOTES
Calling your name / Every time I think of you ~ JOYCE 305
As CHUCK BERNARD
Send for me / I can't fight it ~ ST. LAWRENCE 1025 (1964)
Let’s go get stoned / Wasted ~ SATELLITE 2003 (1965)
Dial my number / Indian giver ~ SATELLITE 2005 (1965)
Funny changes / Every hurt makes you stronger ~ SATELLITE 2008 (1966)
My baby / She's already married ~ SATELLITE 2012 (1966)
Anything for you / Can't get you off my mind ~ NEW BREED 501 (1967/8)
Yes we got it going / Hall of soul ~ NEW BREED 502 (1968)
Hobo flats / You're an indian giver ~ MAVERICK 1009 (1969)
Love can slip away / Bessie girl ~ ZODIAC 1014 (1970)
The other side of my mind / Everything is all right now ~ ZODIAC 1018 (1970)
Turn her loose / Deeper than the eye can see ~ ZODIAC 1019 (1970)
I'm lonely / Love bug ~ ZODIAC 1021 (1970)
Turn her loose / Thank you Ma’am ~ ZODIAC 1025 (1971)
Got to get a hold of myself / Everybody's got their own thing ~ ZODIAC 1050 (1971/2)
A shoulder to lean on / Contract on your love ~ BRUNSWICK 55521 (1975)
As CHUCK & CLEO
Baby / There goes my baby ~ BLUE ROCK 4018 (1965)
Note ~ "CLEO" is likely to be CLEO RANDLE