Chuck Berry’s background:
Chuck Berry was born on October 18, 1926, in St. Louis, Missouri. From 1944 to 1947 while still in secondary school he served a jail term (in the “Middle of the road Reformatory for Young Men” close Jefferson City, Missouri) for armed robbery. He served another jail term in 1962, well after his career had taken off, for transporting a 14-year-old young lady across state lines. What’s more, in 1979 he was sentenced to 4 months in prison for tax avoidance, since he demanded being paid in real cash.
Early in his musical career, he was influenced by blues guitarist T. Bone Walker. While in Chicago in 1955 Muddy Waters put him in touch with Leonard Chess of Chess Records and he recorded his first hit, “Maybelline”. This record rose to #1 on the Billboard Rhythm and Blues chart and sold more than 1 million copies.
In 1956 came up his “Roll Over Beethoven”. In the vicinity of ’57 and ’59, he recorded a few hits including “Shake and Roll Music”, “Sweet Little Sixteen”, “Johnny B. Goode”, “Memphis, Tennessee” and “Little Queenie”. During this period he appeared in two films and showed up on different TV network programs. He was also a regular member on the touring circuit. His musical career was brought to a temporary halt in 1962 with his widely publicized trial for engaging in hanky punky with a 14-year-old girl who worked in his night club as a hat check girl.
After his release in 1962, his career was temporarily revived by the interest in his music spawned by the British invasion – in particular, the Beatles and Rolling Stones, both of whom recorded songs of his. In 1963 the Beach boys also had a hit with “Surfing’ USA” – a remake version of ” Sweet Little Sixteen”.
During the 1964 to 65 period he brought out eight more singles including “You Never Can Tell”, “No Particular Place to Go” and “Nadine”, and in the 66-69 session, he released five collection albums, none of which had a phenomenal effect.
By 1970 his recording career was essentially over, but he continued on with a successful concert touring schedule. In fact, he has continued touring till well into his 80′s. His touring style has been fairly unique – traveling solo and using local bands to back him up. In 2011 during a New Year’s Day concert near Chicago, he passed out from exhaustion and had to be carried from the stage.
Guitar style and roots
Chuck Berry was initially influenced by the playing style and showmanship of T. Bone Walker. In the process of writing and performing such songs as “Maybelline” and “Johnny B. Goode” Berry defined the major elements of rhythm and blues as well as early rock and roll. There is not really a Rock or Blues guitarist alive who isn’t acquainted with the Chuck Berry style.
In 2000 Rolling Stone magazine chose him as #6 on the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” list and in 2004 was chosen #5 on “The Immortals” – The 100 Greatest Artists of All Time list. The rundown of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time incorporate six of his melodies, Furthermore, in 2008 “Johnny B. Goode” was ranked #1 of the 100 Greatest Songs of all time.
The 90-year-old Berry died on Saturday 18 March 2017 at his home close to St. Louis. His great melodies “Johnny B. Goode” and “Move Over Beethoven” reverberated all through the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Sunday as it paid tribute to the artist.
Each guitarist of his time has been profoundly affected by him. Any music significant other will recall that him playing the opening riff of “Johnny B. Goode” again and again as a maturing teenager guitarist.
While paying a glowing tribute to this great artist President Obama wrote,” Chuck Berry rolled over everyone who came before him – and turned up everyone who came after.
We’ll miss you, Chuck. Be good.”