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Chuck Berry

Of all the early breakthrough rock & roll artists, none is more important to the development of the music than Chuck Berry. He is its greatest songwriter, the main shaper of its instrumental voice, one of its greatest guitarists, and one of its greatest performers. Quite simply, without him there would be no Beatles, Rolling Stones, Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, nor a myriad others. There would be no standard "Chuck Berry guitar intro," the instrument's clarion call to get the joint rockin' in any setting. The clippety-clop rhythms of rockabilly would not have been mainstreamed into the now standard 4/4 rock & roll beat. There would be no obsessive wordplay by modern-day tunesmiths; in fact, the whole history (and artistic level) of rock & roll songwriting would have been much poorer without him. Like Brian Wilson said, he wrote "all of the great songs and came up with all the rock & roll beats." Those who do not claim him as a seminal influence or profess a liking for his music and showmanship show their ignorance of rock's development as well as his place as the music's first great creator. Elvis may have fueled rock & roll's imagery, but Chuck Berry was its heartbeat and original mindset.

He was born Charles Edward Anderson Berry to a large family in St. Louis. A bright pupil, Berry developed a love for poetry and hard blues early on, winning a high school talent contest with a guitar-and-vocal rendition of Jay McShann's big band number, "Confessin' the Blues." With some local tutelage from the neighborhood barber, Berry progressed from a four-string tenor guitar up to an official six-string model and was soon working the local East St. Louis club scene, sitting in everywhere he could. He quickly found out that black audiences liked a wide variety of music and set himself to the task of being able to reproduce as much of it as possible. What he found they really liked -- besides the blues and Nat King Cole tunes -- was the sight and sound of a black man playing white hillbilly music, and Berry's showmanlike flair, coupled with his seemingly inexhaustible supply of fresh verses to old favorites, quickly made him a name on the circuit. In 1954, he ended up taking over pianist Johnny Johnson's small combo and a residency at the Cosmopolitan Club soon made the Chuck Berry Trio the top attraction in the black community, with Ike Turner's Kings of Rhythm their only real competition.

But Berry had bigger ideas; he yearned to make records, and a trip to Chicago netted a two-minute conversation with his idol Muddy Waters, who encouraged him to approach Chess Records. Upon listening to Berry's homemade demo tape, label president Leonard Chess professed a liking for a hillbilly tune on it named "Ida Red" and quickly scheduled a session for May 21, 1955. During the session the title was changed to "Maybellene" and rock & roll history was born. Although the record only made it to the mid-20s on the Billboard pop chart, its overall influence was massive and groundbreaking in its scope. Here was finally a black rock & roll record with across-the-board appeal, embraced by white teenagers and Southern hillbilly musicians (a young Elvis Presley, still a full year from national stardom, quickly added it to his stage show), that for once couldn't be successfully covered by a pop singer like Snooky Lanson on Your Hit Parade. Part of the secret to its originality was Berry's blazing 24-bar guitar solo in the middle of it, the imaginative rhyme schemes in the lyrics, and the sheer thump of the record, all signaling that rock & roll had arrived and it was no fad. Helping to put the record over to a white teenage audience was the highly influential New York disc jockey Alan Freed, who had been given part of the writers' credit by Chess in return for his spins and plugs. But to his credit, Freed was also the first white DJ/promoter to consistently use Berry on his rock & roll stage show extravaganzas at the Brooklyn Fox and Paramount theaters (playing to predominately white audiences); and when Hollywood came calling a year or so later, also made sure that Chuck appeared with him in Rock! Rock! Rock!, Go, Johnny, Go!, and Mister Rock'n'Roll. Within a years' time, Chuck had gone from a local St. Louis blues picker making 15 dollars a night to an overnight sensation commanding over a hundred times that, arriving at the dawn of a new strain of popular music called rock & roll.

The hits started coming thick and fast over the next few years, every one of them about to become a classic of the genre: "Roll Over Beethoven," "Thirty Days," "Too Much Monkey Business," "Brown Eyed Handsome Man," "You Can't Catch Me," "School Day," "Carol," "Back in the U.S.A.," "Little Queenie," "Memphis, Tennessee," "Johnny B. Goode," and the tune that defined the moment perfectly, "Rock and Roll Music." Berry was not only in constant demand, touring the country on mixed package shows and appearing on television and in movies, but smart enough to know exactly what to do with the spoils of a suddenly successful show business career. He started investing heavily in St. Louis area real estate and, ever one to push the envelope, opened up a racially mixed nightspot called the Club Bandstand in 1958 to the consternation of uptight locals. These were not the plans of your average R&B singers who contented themselves with a wardrobe of flashy suits, a new Cadillac, and the nicest house in the black section. Berry was smart with plenty of business savvy and was already making plans to open an amusement park in nearby Wentzville. When the St. Louis hierarchy found out that an underage hat-check girl Berry hired had also set up shop as a prostitute at a nearby hotel, trouble came down on Berry like a sledgehammer on a fly. Charged with transporting a minor over state lines (the Mann Act), Berry endured two trials and was sentenced to federal prison for two years as a result.

He emerged from prison a moody, embittered man. But two very important things had happened in his absence. First, British teenagers had discovered his music and were making his old songs hits all over again. Second, and perhaps most important, America had discovered the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, both of whom based their music on Berry's style, with the Stones' early albums looking like a Berry song list. Rather than being resigned to the has-been circuit, Berry found himself in the midst of a worldwide beat boom with his music as the centerpiece. He came back with a clutch of hits ("Nadine," "No Particular Place to Go," "You Never Can Tell"), toured Britain in triumph, and appeared on the big screen with his British disciples in the groundbreaking T.A.M.I. Show in 1964.

Berry had moved with the times and found a new audience in the bargain and when the cries of "yeah-yeah-yeah" were replaced with peace signs, Berry altered his live act to include a passel of slow blues and quickly became a fixture on the festival and hippie ballroom circuit. After a disastrous stint with Mercury Records, he returned to Chess in the early '70s and scored his last hit with a live version of the salacious nursery rhyme, "My Ding a Ling," yielding Berry his first official gold record. By decade's end, he was as in demand as ever, working every oldies revival show, TV special, and festival that was thrown his way. But once again, troubles with the law reared their ugly head and 1979 saw Berry headed back to prison, this time for income tax evasion. Upon release this time, the creative days of Chuck Berry seemed to have come to an end. He appeared as himself in the Alan Freed bio-pic, American Hot Wax, and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but steadfastly refused to record any new material or even issue a live album. His live performances became increasingly erratic, with Berry working with terrible backup bands and turning in sloppy, out-of-tune performances that did much to tarnish his reputation with younger fans and oldtimers alike. In 1987, he published his first book, Chuck Berry: The Autobiography, and the same year saw the film release of what will likely be his lasting legacy, the rockumentary Hail! Hail! Rock'n'Roll, which included live footage from a 60th-birthday concert with Keith Richards as musical director and the usual bevy of superstars coming out for guest turns. But for all of his off-stage exploits and seemingly ongoing troubles with the law, Chuck Berry remains the epitome of rock & roll, and his music will endure long after his private escapades have faded from memory. Because when it comes down to his music, perhaps John Lennon said it best, "If you were going to give rock & roll another name, you might call it 'Chuck Berry'." ~ Cub Koda
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Blues

1. House Of Blue Lights

2. Wee Wee Hours

3. Deep Feeling (Instrumental)

4. I Just Want To Make Love To You

5. How You've Changed

6. Down The Road Apiece

7. Worried Life Blues

8. Confessin' The Blues

9. Still Got The Blues

10. Driftin' Blues

11. Run Around

12. Route 66

13. Sweet Sixteen

14. All Aboard

15. The Things That I Used To Do

16. St. Louis Blues

x

Track List: Gold

Disc 1

1. Maybellene (1955)

2. Wee Wee Hours

3. Thirty Days

4. You Can't Catch Me

5. Downbound Train

6. No Money Down

7. Brown Eyed Handsome Man

8. Roll Over Beethoven

9. Too Much Monkey Business

10. Havana Moon

11. School Day

12. Rock And Roll Music

13. Oh Baby Doll

14. Sweet Little Sixteen

15. Guitar Boogie

16. Reelin' & Rockin'

17. Johnny B. Goode

18. Around And Around

19. Beautiful Delilah

20. House Of Blue Lights

21. Carol

22. Jo Jo Gunne

23. Memphis, Tennesse

24. Sweet Little Rock & Roller

25. LIttle Queenie

26. Almost Grown

Disc 2

1. Back In The USA

2. Do You Love Me?

3. Betty Jean

4. Childhood Sweetheart

5. Let It Rock

6. Too Pooped To Pop

7. I Got To Find My Baby

8. Don't You Lie To Me

9. Bye Bye Johnny

10. Jaguar & Thunderbird

11. Down The Road Apiece

12. Confessin' The Blues

13. I'm Talking About You

14. Come On

15. Nadine (Is It You?)

16. You Never Can Tell

17. Promised Land

18. No Particular Place To Go

19. Dear Dad

20. I Want To Be Your Driver

21. Tulane

22. My Ding-A-Ling (Live, Single Edit)

23. Reelin' & Rockin' (Live)

24. Bio

x

Track List: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best Of Chuck Berry

1. Maybellene

2. Roll Over Beethoven

3. Brown Eyed Handsome Man

4. School Days

5. Rock And Roll Music

6. Sweet Little Sixteen

7. Johnny B. Goode

8. Carol

9. You Never Can Tell

10. My Ding-A-Ling (Live)

11. No Particular Place To Go

x

Track List: His Best, Volume 1

1. Maybellene (1955)

2. Thirty Days

3. You Can't Catch Me

4. Downbound Train

5. Brown Eyed Handsome Man

6. Roll Over Beethoven

7. Too Much Monkey Business

8. Havana Moon

9. School Days

10. Rock And Roll Music

11. Oh Baby Doll

12. Reelin' And Rockin'

13. Sweet Little Sixteen

14. Johnny B. Goode

15. Around And Around

16. Beautiful Delilah

17. Carol

18. Anthony Boy

19. Jo Jo Gunne

20. Memphis

x

Track List: The London Chuck Berry Sessions

1. Let's Boogie

2. Mean Old World

3. I Will Not Let You Go

4. London Berry Blues

5. I Love You

6. Reelin' & Rockin' (Live)

7. My Ding-A-ling

8. Johnny B. Goode (Live)

x

Track List: Chuck Berry Is On Top

1. Almost Grown

2. Carol

3. Maybelline

4. Sweet Little Rock & Roller

5. Anthony Boy

6. Johnny B. Goode

7. Little Queenie

9. Roll Over Beethoven

10. Around And Around

11. Hey Pedro

12. Blues For Hawaiians

x

Track List: Golden Hits

1. Sweet Little Sixteen

2. Memphis

3. School Days

4. Maybellene (1955)

5. Back In The USA

6. Around And Around

7. Brown Eyed Handsome Man

8. Johnny B. Goode

9. Rock And Roll Music

10. Roll Over Beethoven

11. Thirty Days

12. Carol

13. Let It Rock

14. Reelin' And Rockin'

15. Club Nitty Gritty

Comments

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cherokeeprin c e s s 1 2 7
❤❤❤❤❤❤
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kimready46
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You do realize the message behind this song being played don't you BRIAN!!
"" BRIA BE GOOD "" Not JOHNNY BE GOOD "" !!
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If I may brag...I have the first 2 Chuck Berry albums...ori g i n a l vinyl. Chuck Berry Is On Top is my favorite by one song.
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love this song
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Chuck Berry....eve n after all these years...wow ....peace and love to you
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From you hometown of St. Louis we love you Chuck. So many guitar licks started with what Chuck was laying down in the 50's
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SCHOOL days so good i love it so good the bonus is pandora is free what what what
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Long distance information give me Memphis, TN... and Immortality!
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Chuck Berry and Little Richard started it!!!
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I love era Chuck Berry will always be close to my heart. Lets end this hate we have today. Marty
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Don't read this. You will be kissed on the nearest Friday by the love of your life. Don't stop this is freaky. But if you read this and ignore it you will get bad luck. Put this on 15 songs in 143 mins. When your done press the space bar and your crushes name will appear in big letters on the screen. This is so creepy because it actually works.
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mikeav1
I feel so fortunate to have grown up in an era where music was so defined. Chuck and others in this time were the bench mark for eons to come.
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Not Dale Hawkins
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When I hear him play I'm young again and I just got to dance.
Thank you Mr. Berry.
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mdanfang4
4 words: Back, to, the, Future.
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Love this Song
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For the girls, Elvis was King. To the guys, Chuck Berry was the King of Rock and Roll.
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����������⚡️ R o c k in roll will stay
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Isn't Mr. Berry approaching his 90th birthday later this year?
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ltal64cfhs
Without a doubt the king of rock and roll.
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here is my kiss to you and my great big hug Mimi to Mike
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Is awesome
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CHUCK BERRY CHUCK BERRY CHUCK BERRY CHUCK BERRY!!!!!
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Fantastic song great melody. Chuck Berry is an artist that focus on the heart and soul. His songs have rhythm and beat his songs are love.
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Chuck Berry making merry my man
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I love this station and I love Johnny cash but why is he on chuck berrys station
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jrobertsjsr
Songs at memories in a track
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I have always loved this song
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ELVIS THE KING OF THE WORLD
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THIS MAN WAS JUST BIGGER THAN LIFE!!
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i love all the above
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Chuck berry may have invented rock and roll but would never get credit for it.what a great artist and guitarist
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Brings back old memories.
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Classic...nu f f said!!
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Another great hit frm C B.My first time hearing it. ��
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Good morning. ☆☆☆
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Sup
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Solid gold.
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Chuck Berry is the king of Rock n roll there is no dispute most of the Rock , metal , Rap, etc etc even Elvis followed him Beatles etc. Done he is the king
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Would be no jimi, would be no Elvis, no Beatles, Acdc, and on and on. He is to me rock and roll.
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If Chuck would have been white for the times He would have the king of rock-n-roll
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There IS a difference between rock and rock 'n roll! Rock 'n roll is gold!
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Long live Rock N'Roll!!
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Awesome.
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Good old fashioned times
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Chuck berry is one. Of my faves
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What's Rock N' Roll without Chuck Berry!
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❤❤❤❤❤
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I love chuck berry too masterthedar k s i d e 9 Which song is you favorite song from chuck berry
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