Born in the New Orleans suburb of Kenner, Chris Kenner sang gospel music with his church choir, and moved to New Orleans in his teens. In 1955 he made his first recordings, for a small label called Baton Records, without success, and in 1957 recorded his "Sick and Tired" for the Imperial Records label; Fats Domino covered it the next year and the song became a hit. "Rocket to the Moon" and "Life Is Just a Struggle," both cut for the Ron Records label, were other notable songs from this period.
Moving to another New Orleans label, Instant, he began to work with pianist and arranger Allen Toussaint; this collaboration produced in 1961 the classics "I Like It Like That" (covered in 1965 by the Dave Clark Five) and "Something You Got" (covered by Alvin Robinson, the Ramsey Lewis Trio, Chuck Jackson and Maxine Brown, and Bobby Womack). In 1962 he produced his most enduring song, "Land of 1,000 Dances," which was recorded by Cannibal and the Headhunters and Wilson Pickett. Kenner's recordings were marked by his rough-hewn voice and the elegant arrangements and piano of Toussaint.
Kenner continued to record for Instant and for various other small local labels; many of his lesser-known songs from the '60s, such as "My Wife," "Packing Up" and "They Took My Money," are classic examples of New Orleans R&B. He released an LP on Atlantic Records in 1966.
In 1968 Kenner was convicted of statutory rape of a minor, and spent three years in Louisiana's Angola prison. Never a compelling live performer, profligate with the considerable money he earned from his songwriting, and given to drink, Kenner never again equalled his early successes.