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Father of rock & roll
Chuck Berry : the biography
John Collis.
London : Aurum, 2002.
Chuck Berry is one of the greatest talents in popular music. It is no exaggeration to say that, with songs like 'Rock 'n' Roll Music', 'Roll Over Beethoven' and 'Johnny B Goode', he invented rock 'n' roll. Dozens of his songs have become timeless classics, still performed every night in pubs and clubs across the world. As a wordsmith he also set a benchmark for intricate. witty, memorable lyrics, perhaps equalled only by Bob Dylan, who indeed has acknowledged his debt to Berry. And yet he has been respected rather than loved by his peers. After producing Berry's sixtieth-birthday tribute film Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll!, Keith Richards remarked that he 'wouldn't warm to Chuck Berry even if I was cremated next to him'. He is notorious for his meanness and capriciousness -- usually touring alone and using pick-up musicians provided for him in every town, to avoid the expense of keeping a band together. He insists on payment in cash before he goes on stage, often haggling up to the last moment. He usually plays for the contracted minimum time, and never responds to clamour for an encore. He has not only invested widely in property and automobiles, but also shamelessly congratulates himself on his ability to accumulate money. And his career has been overshadowed by scandal and problems with the law that have resulted in three jail sentences, for armed robbery, a relationship with an under-age prostitute and tax evasion. Until now. Berry's own maverick autobiography has been the main source for anyone wanting to read about the life of this extraordinary genius. But now John Collis has interviewed many of those who have worked with him and has researched Berry's life in St Louis, to produce the first rounded, objective and sometimes shocking portrait of a man who, even in his seventies, is still treading the boards and singing of 'Sweet Little Sixteen'. Book jacket.
     

Chuck Berry was among the first musicians to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on its opening in 1986.

Hall of Fame

On June 25, 1989 his Bronze Star was placed in the sidewalk along Delmar Boulevard in University City for the St. Louis Walk of Fame.

Walk of Fame

One of the rock and roll music pioneers that changed the direction of American music is Chuck Berry. He is the only one to write both the music and lyrics to his songs. His ability to transform his poetic lyrics into rock and roll music makes him the most creative. His eclectic style was influenced by other music genre such as the rhythm and blues, country western, jazz and pop.

Chuck Berry has over twenty-five recordings that have hit the charts of the Billboard Hot 100. They include:

  • Maybellene was Berry's first single release and hit the charts in 1955 at number five for eleven weeks. It tells the story of a broken romance and a hot rod race. It is a rewrite of the country-flavored Ida Red originally recorded by Bob Wills in 1938. It is often misspelled as Maybelline.
  • Johnny B. Goode was released in 1958 staying on the charts for fifteen weeks at number eight. Partly autobiographical, it tells a story of a poor country boy and his dreams of becoming a rock star. It is said that Johnnie Johnson, who played the piano and was a major contributor to Berry's songs, is the inspiration for the song. Berry was also born on Goode Avenue in St. Louis. Later Berry wrote a sequel called Bye Bye Johnny.
Brown eyed handsome man : the life and hard times of Chuck Berry : an unauthorized biography
Bruce Pegg.
New York ; London : Routledge, 2002.
This biography uncovers the real Chuck Berry and provides readers and fans with a stirring, unvarnished portrait of both the man and the artist. 35 black-and-white photos, many never before published.
     

And don't forget:

  • Run Rudolph Run is sometimes referred to as Run Run Rudolph, was his top Christmas song. This song was recorded in 1958 and hit number sixty-nine in the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks. This song was one of the first songs to have freeways mentioned in it.
  • My Ding-a-Ling was his only U.S. number-one single. Berry recorded a version called My Tambourine in 1958, but the version which topped the charts, for seventeen weeks, was recorded live during the Lanchester Arts Festival in 1972.

Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff