On 16th April 1956 Chuck Berry sat in a studio in Chicago and recorded “Brown Eyed Handsome Man”. It was released in September the same year and reached #5 on the Billboard R’n’B singles.
The song was produced by brothers, Leonard and Phil Chess and backing was provided by Johnnie Johnson on piano, L. C. Davis on tenor saxophone, Willie Dixon on bass, and Fred Below on drums.
There have been many different ideas of the basis of the lyrics but a quote from Berry in his Autobiography gives a lot of insight.
“’Brown Eyed Handsome Man’ came to mind when I was touring California for the first time. After leaving St Louis with six feet of snow lying in sub-freezing temperatures, I found green grass and clear blue skies with eighty-degree breezes loitering along the evening sunset.
What I didn’t see, at least in the areas I was booked in, was too many blue eyes. The auditoriums were predominantly filled with Hispanics and ‘us’. But then I did see unbelievable harmony between the mix, which got the idea of the song started. I saw, through the length of the tour, quite a few situations concerning the life of Mexican people. For example, a Caucasian officer was picking up a fairly handsome male loiterer near the auditorium when some woman came up shouting at the policeman to let him go. He promptly did so, laughingly saluting the feminine rescuer. The verse in the song as situated a bit differently but was derived from that incident. The verse about Venus de Milo (believe it or not) came from thoughts out of a book I had come across Venus In Furs and the last verse from a fictional condition always appreciated in a baseball game.”
In 1963 Buddy Holly posthumously had a top-five hit with the song in the UK
Look here for the origin of more of Berry’s’ songs from his autobiography.