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CHUCK E. WEISS,
1945-2021

Chuck E. Weiss, the L.A. singer and nightclub fixture immortalized in songs by Rickie Lee Jones and Tom Waits, died Tuesday. He was 76.

The cause was cancer.

Weiss, a Denver native and blues drummer who became part of the Tropicana Motel scene in the early to mid-'70s with Waits and Jones, played a weekly gig for 11 years, from the 1980s into the '90s, at The Central on the Sunset Strip with his band The Goddamn Liars. Weiss, Johnny Depp and other investors purchased the bar and renamed it The Viper Room, and Weiss continued to perform there. He would later move his residency to the Kibbitz Room at Canter’s Deli.

Part of the attraction of a Weiss show in the early years was a chance to see the subject of Jones’ 1979 Top 5 hit “Chuck E.’s in Love,” who was also name-checked in Waits’ “Jitterbug Boy” and “I Wish I Was in New Orleans (in the Ninth Ward).” The secret was that Waits and Jones were an item; “Chuck E.’s in Love” was reportedly something Waits said after getting off the phone with Weiss that Jones overheard.

Weiss, whose first music gig was touring with Lightnin’ Hopkins, co-wrote “Spare Parts (A Nocturnal Emission)” with Waits, released an EP of demos in 1981 and appeared on the L.A. Ya Ya blues compilation, but his proper debut album was not released until 1998. Titled Extremely Cool, Waits produced it with his wife Kathleen Brennan.

Weiss would release another three blues-rooted albums, the last being Red Beans and Weiss (Anti-) in 2014.

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