Chuck Berry was born on October 18th 1926 in Missouri. He is a reknown guitarist, singer and songwriter, regarded by many as one of the early fathers of Rock and Roll, and as such belongs to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with emblematic songs such as Johnny B. Goode, Maybellene and Rock & Roll Music.
Along with Elvis Presley he earned the title of King of Rock, and stands in Rolling Stone's fifth place in the list of "The Inmortals", as well as sixth in their "100 Greatest Guitarists of all Time" list.
Chuck Berry grew up in St. Louis, and by the time he was in High School gave his first performance. He was somewhat conflictive though, and in 1944 he was convicted for stealing a car at gun-point along with some friends. After almost three years at the Intermediate Reformatory for Young Men in Algoa, he was released and continued with his career as guitarist & singer.
In 1953, still in St. Louis, he was part of the Johnnie Johnson Trio. He used to mix his blues with hillbilly style, and his performances were so good that he got the attention of both black & white audiences. In a couple years time he decided to try luck in Chicago, and visited Leonard Chess, from Chess Records, who got interested in a track named "Ida Red", later known as "Maybellene", which ended up selling over a million copies and topping the Billboard R&B list.
Late that year his song "Roll Over Beethoven" got high on the Billboard, and he soon started touring the uSA along with the Everly Brothers & Buddy Holly. He kept releasing classics such as "School Days," "Rock and Roll Music" "Sweet Little Sixteen," and the autobiographic, unforgettable & legendary "Johnny B. Goode.". By that time Chuck was famous all over the country and owned a club in his hometown, named Berry's Club Bandstand. He even appeared in a couple movies "Rock Rock Rock" (1956) and "Go, Johnny, Go!" (1959).
Chuck Berry was in trouble with the law once more by the end of 1959: he brought a 14-year-old waitress he met in Mexico to work in his club as a hat check girl, but he soon fired her. The girl was later arrested for prostitution, and Chuck Berry was arrested as a result, when she said it was him that had brought her to the country. As a result Berry spent two years in jail, between 1961 and 1963.
Released from jail in the 60s he found himself surrounded by new famous bands such as the Rolling Stones, The Beatles and The Beach Boys, who happenned to be covering some of his songs. That helped him fast regain his lost fame, and once back in shape he recorded several new hits such as "Nadine" & "You never can tell" in 1965. Come 1966 he signed with Mercury, releasing several albums and touring all over USA. Late 60s weren't good times for Berry though: his concerts were good but he didn't release many memorable tracks during his time with Mercury. he eventually decided to try luck with his old label again, and returned to Chess in 1970. His decision was right and after two years, he released his fisrt nº1 hit "My Ding-a-Ling", which happenned to be an old tune he never had aired before. Later he released "The London Chuck Berry Session" and "Bio" album in 1973.
Being a rock legend and knowing all possible gig circuits, Chuck decided to travel on his own and play concerts wherever he pleased during the 70s. He was so famous that he could hire a band wherever he might go, and the musicians would know his songs with no rehearsal. Funny enough some of these musicians that were hired as part of his backup bands were Bruce Springsteen and Steve Miller. But it wasn't the same charismatic Chuck Berry of old times, he didn't get good bands most of the times and sometimes he played short tiers of songs to dissapear without even saying goodbye. Springsteen even stated that he wouldn't even talk to the band or thank them after the concert.
As a result of these tours that Chuck did on his own and the Government's tax investigations, in 1979 he was accused of tax evasion. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to spend four months in jail and do benefit concerts as community service. That same year he released his last studio album, "Rockit" and performed at the White House for Jimmy Carter.
80s & 90s
Nothing changed much in the 80s & 90s, as Berry continued to travel alone and recruit any band he could find wherever he performed. This didn't help much, as many times the band wouldn't be on par with Berry, and the lack of proper rehearshal showed up. His charismatic persona, amazing talent and the legend behind him made up for that, and he still gathered a well deserved attention wherever he may go.
In 1984 Berry received his Lifetime Achievement Award, and gave an awesome performance in which SRV and George Thorowood appeared. Later in 1986 the documentary "Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll" was released, featuring Keith Richards and Eric Clapton among others.
In 2000 he was sued by his long time ago pianist Johnnie Johnson, who claimed to have co-written many of Berry's most emblematic tracks, though the case was dismissed.
Being over 80 years old Berry still gives regular concerts in his home town, has recently toured Europe and will take part in some upcoming festivals.
Style & Influences
Among Chuck Berry main influences are the classic Bluesmen, T. Bone Walker, Nat "King" Cole and Muddy Waters, along with country legends such as Jimmie Rodgers and bluegrass father Bill Monroe's. Chuck Berry is famous for his two-note chords (double stops), which he used in his intros and solos, and his use of blues shuffle rhythms for the verses.
Chuck Berry is regarded as one of the fathers of Rock and Roll. With his sticky riffs and rocking rhythms he went beyond blues and country, influencing many popular artists such as Keith Richards, John Fogerty, George Thorogood, John Lennon, Jerry Garcia, Angus Young, The Who, Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys and many others. Artists who, in turn, created some of the most important songs and albums that would shape what now a days is regarded as classic, raw, Rock n' Roll.
1956 Rock, Rock, Rock
1957 After School Session
1958 One Dozen Berrys
1959 Chuck Berry Is on Top
1960 Rockin' at the Hops
1961 New Juke-Box Hits
1962 Chuck Berry Twist
1964 Chuck Berry's Greatest Hits
1964 Two Great Guitars
1964 St. Louis to Liverpool
1965 Chuck Berry in London
1965 Fresh Berry's
1967 Chuck Berry's Golden Hits
1967 In Memphis
1968 From St. Louie to Frisco
1969 Concerto In B. Goode
1970 Back Home
1971 San Francisco Dues
1972 The London Chuck Berry Sessions
1973 Sweet Little Rock and Roller
1974 Wild Berrys
1975 Chuck Berry
1979 Rock It
1981 Alive and Rockin'
1982 Chuck Berry
Related GMC Lessons
Originally by Fran