There really was a ‘Chuck E’ – the focus of Ricki Lee Jones’s hit Chuck E’s in Love’. The song rose to number 4 on the charts in 1979 and remains Jones’s biggest hit. At the time, Jones and her lover, singer/songwriter Tom Waits spent a lot of time with Weiss in LA, until one day he disappeared. Later Weiss called to explain he was in Denver and had fallen in love. When Waits told Jones ‘Chuck E’s in Love, a song was born.
Chuck E. Weiss grew up in Denver where his parents owned a record store. Hanging around local music venues, Weiss met Lightnin’ Hopkins who was impressed with his drumming, and took him along on tour. After settling in LA, Weiss released his first record in 1981 with a long gap, a second record in 2000.
Weiss was associated with the LA music scene for decades – an association he explained as a fear of flying that limited his ability to travel. After eleven years playing Monday nights at a local club called The Central, it closed. Weiss and friend Johnny Depp bought the club and reopened it as The Viper. The most notable event at the Viper was it’s being the site of River Phoenix’s death in 1993.
Weiss’s music ranged across almost every genre. He was noted for including beat poetry and blues in his songs which could also feature nursery rhymes and zydeco. Chuck E. Weiss died in July at the age of 76.