I met Chuck Berry a few years ago in St Louis. He gave a free outdoor concert in one of the plaza’s downtown. I was just walking along and heard music, so decided to check it out.
It was just a small gathering on a Saturday afternoon. After he finished, I went up, shook his hand, and thanked him for the concert. I thought it was pretty cool that he used to do that around St. Louis.
I had the opportunity to see Chuck live a bunch and completed a photo story on him in 1998/1999. My band also was able to open for him as well. He was nothing but cool to me as was his family and didn’t live up to the negative reputation. Berry’s influence is greater than any other single rock’n'roll group / artist. The Beatles, The Stones, Elvis, Jerry Lee, Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins, Johnny Rivers, Waylon Jennings — even Mountain, Motorhead, Bad Religion and Iron Maiden recorded / performed Chuck Berry songs. While others sold many more records, he laid the groundwork for just about everyone after him. I yelled out at one of those shows “You are the king, Chuck” and replied “I’m the prime minister, baby”. He’s still the King to me. Thanks for the recognition on the blog, Rich. We are a rock’n'roll family, for sure! :)
Wordslinger Brian Wilson openly admitted that he combined the Chuck Berry guitar sound with the vocals of the Four Freshman to get the Beach Boys sound. Couldn’t go wrong. Chuck Berry’s guitar riff on Johnny B Goode came from his piano player. RIP Chuck.
FWIW, I highly recommend “Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story” by Rick Bragg.
Best story, among many great ones: The night in the wee hours when Jerry Lee crashed his Caddy into the gates at Graceland, and emerged bloody from the car with a gun in one and the neck of broken champagne bottle in the other, demanding to see Elvis.
To hear Jerry Lee tell the tale, there was a reasonable explanation for all of it, in his mind. And it being Memphis, he skated. Hilarious.