Chuck Berry
American musician
Chuck Berry
Charles Edward Anderson "Chuck" Berry is an American guitarist, singer and songwriter, and one of the pioneers of rock and roll music. With songs such as "Maybellene" (1955), "Roll Over Beethoven" (1956), "Rock and Roll Music" (1957) and "Johnny B.
Biography
Chuck Berry's personal information overview.
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Musician seeks out bigots in documentary 'Accidental Courtesy'
LATimes - 3 months
Though the subject of “Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America” is a musician who has played with Chuck Berry and Little Richard, it’s not Daryl Davis’ musical talent that makes him the focus of the documentary. Instead, it’s his ongoing mission as an African American man to meet members...
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LATimes article
At 90, Chuck Berry to release first new album in four decades
Reuters.com - 4 months
(Reuters) - Rock 'n' roll legend Chuck Berry celebrated his 90th birthday on Tuesday by announcing that his first album of new music in 38 years would be released next year.
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Reuters.com article
Chuck Berry celebrates his 90th birthday with new music
Reuters.com - 4 months
The veteran musican says he will release his first new album in four decades in 2017. Alicia Powell reports.
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Reuters.com article
Chuck Berry to release first new album in more than 35 years
Fox News - 4 months
Ninety-year-old rock 'n' roll legend Chuck Berry is set to release his first new studio album in more than 35 years.
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Fox News article
Real Reactions: Saint Louis Bar Patrons Analyze 2nd Debate
ABC News - 5 months
Patrons of Blueberry Hill, one of Saint Louis’ most popular bars and Chuck Berry’s favorite venue, analyzed the second presidential debate.
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ABC News article
The Playlist NASA Made For Aliens In 1977 Could Now Be Yours
Huffington Post - 5 months
By Cailey Rizzo This article originally appeared on Travel + Leisure. The Voyager Golden Record is an audio introduction to human civilization. When we make contact with aliens, NASA is beyond prepared. Back in 1977, NASA created a phonograph record to introduce beings elsewhere in the universe to the sounds humans make. They only produced 12 copies of the mix known as the “Voyager Golden Record” — two of which was shot up into space — at the time. Now, in honor of the project’s 40th anniversary, the two-hour long audio mix is being released for human ears. The sounds are selected from many different cultures and time periods. Bach’s “Brandenburg Concerto” and Senegalese percussion lead the tracklist. There’s also mariachi music, Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode,” Louis Armstrong, Stravinsky, an Indian raga and the sounds of thunder, footsteps, a rocket launch, laughter, and a baby crying. “Hello” in 55 different languages and the official greetings of the United Nat ...
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Huffington Post article
Timeline
Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Chuck Berry
    FORTIES
  • 2014
    In August 2014, Berry was made a laureate of the Polar Music Prize.
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  • 2011
    During a concert on New Year's Day 2011 in Chicago, Berry, suffering from exhaustion, passed out and had to be helped off stage.
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  • THIRTIES
  • 2009
    He was ranked seventh on Time magazine's 2009 list of the 10 best electric guitar players of all time.
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  • 2008
    In June 2008, his song "Johnny B. Goode" ranked first in the "100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time".
    More Details Hide Details The journalist Chuck Klosterman has argued that in 300 years Berry will still be remembered as the rock musician who most closely captured the essence of rock and roll. Sources
    In mid-2008, he played at the Virgin Festival in Baltimore, Maryland.
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    In 2008, Berry toured Europe, with stops in Sweden, Norway, Finland, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Ireland, Switzerland, Poland and Spain.
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  • 2004
    In December 2004, six of his songs were included in "Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time": "Johnny B. Goode" (#7), "Maybellene" (#18), "Roll Over Beethoven" (#97), "Rock and Roll Music" (#128), "Sweet Little Sixteen" (#272) and "Brown Eyed Handsome Man" (#374).
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    In March 2004, Berry was ranked fifth on the list of "The Immortals – The 100 Greatest Artists of All Time".
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  • 2002
    On May 14, 2002, Berry was honored as one of the first BMI Icons at the 50th annual BMI Pop Awards.
    More Details Hide Details He was presented the award along with BMI affiliates Bo Diddley and Little Richard.
  • TWENTIES
  • 1996
    Berry regularly performed one Wednesday each month at Blueberry Hill, a restaurant and bar located in the Delmar Loop neighborhood of St. Louis, from 1996 to 2014.
    More Details Hide Details A pioneer of rock and roll, Berry was a significant influence on the development of both the music and the attitude associated with the rock music lifestyle. With songs such as "Maybellene" (1955), "Roll Over Beethoven" (1956), "Rock and Roll Music" (1957) and "Johnny B. Goode" (1958), Berry refined and developed rhythm and blues into the major elements that made rock and roll distinctive, with lyrics successfully aimed to appeal to the early teenage market by using graphic and humorous descriptions of teen dances, fast cars, high school life, and consumer culture, and utilizing guitar solos and showmanship that would be a major influence on subsequent rock music. His records are a rich storehouse of the essential lyrical, showmanship and musical components of rock and roll. In addition to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, a large number of significant popular-music performers have recorded Berry's songs. Though not technically accomplished, his guitar style is distinctive—he incorporated electronic effects to mimic the sound of bottleneck blues guitarists and drew on the influence of guitar players such as Carl Hogan, and T-Bone Walker to produce a clear and exciting sound that many later guitarists would acknowledge as an influence in their own style. Berry's showmanship has been influential on other rock guitarists, particularly his one-legged hop routine, and the "duck walk", which he first used as a child when he walked "stooping with full-bended knees, but with my back and head vertical" under a table to retrieve a ball and his family found it entertaining; he used it when "performing in New York for the first time and some journalist branded it the duck walk."
  • 1990
    In 1990 he was sued by several women who claimed that he had installed a video camera in the ladies' bathroom.
    More Details Hide Details Berry claimed that he had the camera installed to catch red-handed a worker who was suspected of stealing from the restaurant. Though his guilt was never proved in court, Berry opted for a class action settlement with 59 women. His biographer, Bruce Pegg, estimated that it cost Berry over $1.2 million plus legal fees. During this time Berry began using Wayne T. Schoeneberg as his legal counsel. Reportedly, a police raid on his house found videotapes of women using the restroom, and one of the women was a minor. Also found in the raid were 62 grams of marijuana. Felony drug and child-abuse charges were filed. In order to avoid the child-abuse charges, Berry agreed to plead guilty to misdemeanor possession of marijuana. He was given a six-month suspended jail sentence and two years' unsupervised probation and was ordered to donate $5,000 to a local hospital.
  • TEENAGE
  • 1984
    Among the honors Berry has received are the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1984 and the Kennedy Center Honors in 2000.
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  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1979
    Facing criminal sanction for the third time, Berry pled guilty to tax evasion and was sentenced to four months in prison and 1,000 hours of community service—performing benefit concerts—in 1979.
    More Details Hide Details Berry continued to play 70 to 100 one-nighters per year in the 1980s, still traveling solo and requiring a local band to back him at each stop. In 1986, Taylor Hackford made a documentary film, Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll, of a celebration concert for Berry's sixtieth birthday, organized by Keith Richards. Eric Clapton, Etta James, Julian Lennon, Robert Cray and Linda Ronstadt, among others, appeared with Berry on stage and in the film. During the concert, Berry played a Gibson ES-355, the luxury version of the ES-335 that he favored on his 1970s tours. Richards played a black Fender Telecaster Custom, Cray a Fender Stratocaster and Clapton a Gibson ES 350T, the same model that Berry used on his early recordings. In the late 1980s, Berry bought The Southern Air, a restaurant in Wentzville, Missouri.
    At the request of Jimmy Carter, Berry performed at the White House on June 1, 1979.
    More Details Hide Details Berry's touring style, traveling the "oldies" circuit in the 1970s (often being paid in cash by local promoters) added ammunition to the Internal Revenue Service's accusations that Berry had evaded paying income taxes.
  • 1975
    Berry's second tenure with Chess ended with the 1975 album Chuck Berry, after which he did not make a studio record until Rock It for Atco Records in 1979, his last studio album to date.
    More Details Hide Details In the 1970s Berry toured on the strength of his earlier successes. He was on the road for many years, carrying only his Gibson guitar, confident that he could hire a band that already knew his music no matter where he went. AllMusic said that in this period his "live performances became increasingly erratic,... working with terrible backup bands and turning in sloppy, out-of-tune performances" which "tarnished his reputation with younger fans and oldtimers" alike. Among the many bandleaders performing a backup role with Berry were Bruce Springsteen and Steve Miller when each was just starting his career. Springsteen related in the documentary film Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll that Berry did not give the band a set list and expected the musicians to follow his lead after each guitar intro. Berry neither spoke to nor thanked the band after the show. Nevertheless, Springsteen backed Berry again when he appeared at the concert for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.
  • 1970
    There were no hit singles from the 1970 album Back Home, but in 1972 Chess released a live recording of "My Ding-a-Ling", a novelty song which he had recorded in a different version as "My Tambourine" on his 1968 LP From St. Louie to Frisco.
    More Details Hide Details The track became his only number-one single. A live recording of "Reelin' and Rockin'", issued as a followup single in the same year, was his last Top 40 hit in both the US and the UK. Both singles were included on the part-live, part-studio album The London Chuck Berry Sessions (other albums of London sessions were recorded by Chess's mainstay artists Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf).
    Berry returned to Chess from 1970 to 1973.
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  • 1969
    He also played at large events in North America, such as the Schaefer Music Festival, in New York City's Central Park in July 1969, and the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival festival in October.
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  • OTHER
  • 1964
    While this was not a successful period for studio work, Berry was still a top concert draw. In May 1964, he had made a successful tour of the UK, but when he returned in January 1965 his behavior was erratic and moody, and his touring style of using unrehearsed local backing bands and a strict nonnegotiable contract was earning him a reputation as a difficult and unexciting performer.
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    In 1964 and 1965 Berry released eight singles, including three that were commercially successful, reaching the top 20 of the Billboard 100: "No Particular Place to Go" (a humorous reworking of "School Days", concerning the introduction of seat belts in cars), "You Never Can Tell", and the rocking "Nadine".
    More Details Hide Details Between 1966 and 1969 Berry released five albums for Mercury Records, including his first live album, Live at Fillmore Auditorium, in which he was backed by the Steve Miller Band.
  • 1963
    When Berry was released from prison in 1963, his return to recording and performing was made easier because British invasion bands—notably the Beatles and the Rolling Stones—had sustained interest in his music by releasing cover versions of his songs, and other bands had reworked some of them, such as the Beach Boys' 1963 hit "Surfin' U.S.A.", which used the melody of Berry's "Sweet Little Sixteen".
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  • 1962
    After another appeal failed, Berry served one and one-half years in prison, from February 1962 to October 1963.
    More Details Hide Details He had continued recording and performing during the trials, but his output had slowed as his popularity declined; his final single released before he was imprisoned was "Come On".
  • 1960
    After a two-week trial in March 1960, he was convicted, fined $5,000, and sentenced to five years in prison.
    More Details Hide Details He appealed the decision, arguing that the judge's comments and attitude were racist and prejudiced the jury against him. The appeal was upheld, and a second trial was heard in May and June 1961, resulting in another conviction and a three-year prison sentence.
  • 1959
    But in December 1959, he was arrested under the Mann Act after allegations that he had sexual intercourse with a 14-year-old Apache waitress, Janice Escalante, whom he had transported across state lines to work as a hatcheck girl at his club.
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  • 1958
    His performance of "Sweet Little Sixteen" at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1958 was captured in the motion picture Jazz on a Summer's Day.
    More Details Hide Details By the end of the 1950s, Berry was a high-profile established star with several hit records and film appearances and a lucrative touring career. He had opened a racially integrated St. Louis nightclub, Berry's Club Bandstand, and invested in real estate.
  • 1957
    The hits continued from 1957 to 1959, with Berry scoring over a dozen chart singles during this period, including the US Top 10 hits "School Days", "Rock and Roll Music,", "Sweet Little Sixteen", and "Johnny B. Goode".
    More Details Hide Details He appeared in two early rock-and-roll movies: Rock Rock Rock (1956), in which he sang "You Can't Catch Me", and Go, Johnny, Go! (1959), in which he had a speaking role as himself and performed "Johnny B. Goode", "Memphis, Tennessee", and "Little Queenie".
    In late 1957, Berry took part in Alan Freed's "Biggest Show of Stars for 1957", touring the United States with the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, and others.
    More Details Hide Details He was a guest on ABC's Guy Mitchell Show, singing his hit song "Rock 'n' Roll Music".
  • 1956
    At the end of June 1956, his song "Roll Over Beethoven" reached number 29 on the Billboards Top 100 chart, and Berry toured as one of the "Top Acts of '56".
    More Details Hide Details He and Carl Perkins became friends. Perkins said that "I knew when I first heard Chuck that he'd been affected by country music. I respected his writing; his records were very, very great." As they toured, Perkins discovered that Berry not only liked country music but also knew about as many songs as he did. Jimmie Rodgers was one of his favorites. "Chuck knew every Blue Yodel and most of Bill Monroe's songs as well," Perkins remembered. "He told me about how he was raised very poor, very tough. He had a hard life. He was a good guy. I really liked him."
  • 1955
    On May 21, 1955, Berry recorded an adaptation of the "Ida Red", under the title "Maybellene", with Johnnie Johnson on the piano, Jerome Green (from Bo Diddley's band) on the maracas, Jasper Thomas on the drums and Willie Dixon on the bass. "Maybellene" sold over a million copies, reaching number one on Billboard magazine's rhythm and blues chart and number five on its Best Sellers in Stores chart for September 10, 1955.
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    In May 1955, Berry traveled to Chicago, where he met Muddy Waters, who suggested he contact Leonard Chess, of Chess Records.
    More Details Hide Details Berry thought his blues music would be of more interest to Chess, but to his surprise it was a traditional country fiddle tune, "Ida Red", as recorded by Bob Wills, that got Chess's attention. Chess had seen the rhythm and blues market shrink and was looking to move beyond it, and he thought Berry might be the artist for that purpose.
  • 1953
    By early 1953 Berry was performing with Johnnie Johnson's trio, starting a long-time collaboration with the pianist.
    More Details Hide Details The band played mostly blues and ballads, but the most popular music among whites in the area was country. Berry wrote, "Curiosity provoked me to lay a lot of our country stuff on our predominantly black audience and some of our black audience began whispering 'who is that black hillbilly at the Cosmo?' After they laughed at me a few times they began requesting the hillbilly stuff and enjoyed dancing to it." Berry's calculated showmanship, along with a mix of country tunes and R&B tunes, sung in the style of Nat King Cole set to the music of Muddy Waters, brought in a wider audience, particularly affluent white people.
  • 1950
    He was doing well enough by 1950 to buy a "small three room brick cottage with a bath" on Whittier Street, which is now listed as the Chuck Berry House on the National Register of Historic Places.
    More Details Hide Details By the early 1950s, Berry was working with local bands in clubs in St. Louis as an extra source of income. He had been playing blues since his teens, and he borrowed both guitar riffs and showmanship techniques from the blues musician T-Bone Walker. He also took guitar lessons from his friend Ira Harris, which laid the foundation for his guitar style.
  • 1948
    Berry married Themetta "Toddy" Suggs on October 28, 1948, who gave birth to Darlin Ingrid Berry on October 3, 1950.
    More Details Hide Details Berry supported his family by taking various jobs in St. Louis, working briefly as a factory worker at two automobile assembly plants and as a janitor in the apartment building where he and his wife lived. Afterwards he trained as a beautician at the Poro College of Cosmetology, founded by Annie Turnbo Malone.
  • 1947
    Berry was released from the reformatory on his 21st birthday in 1947.
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  • 1944
    In 1944, while still a student at Sumner High School, he was arrested for armed robbery after robbing three shops in Kansas City, Missouri, and then stealing a car at gunpoint with some friends.
    More Details Hide Details Berry's account in his autobiography is that his car broke down and he flagged down a passing car and stole it at gunpoint with a nonfunctional pistol. He was convicted and sent to the Intermediate Reformatory for Young Men at Algoa, near Jefferson City, Missouri, where he formed a singing quartet and did some boxing. The singing group became competent enough that the authorities allowed it to perform outside the detention facility.
  • 1941
    He gave his first public performance in 1941 while still a student at Sumner High School.
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  • 1926
    Born on October 18, 1926.
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