b. Charles Edward Anderson Berry, 18th October 1926, St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A.
d. 18th March 2017, St. Charles, Missouri, U.S.A.
Although considered by many, a pioneer of Rock and Roll, Chuck Berry was also one of the finest exponents of the R&B genre.
Chuck Berry was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and was the fourth child in a family of six.
His father was called Henry (he was a contractor and deacon of a nearby Baptist church), whilst his mother, Martha, was a public school principal.
A musical child, he began performing whilst at the Sumner High School.
In 1944, he mixed with the wrong people, and was arrested and charged with armed robbery at three shops in Kansas City.
Chuck served three years, during which time he set up a singing quartet and boxed.
On release, he began work at a car assembly company.
In 1948, Chuck married Themetta Suggs, who gave birth to Darlin Ingrid Berry in 1950.
After he was married, Chuck took up the guitar, later performing with the Johnnie Johnson Trio.
Having become an accomplished Blues performer, Chuck’s influences included the playing of T-Bone Walker.
He took guitar lessons from a friend called Ira Harris, who helped Chuck perfect his own style of playing.
In 1955, a chance meeting with Muddy Waters, led to an interview with Chess Records.
Chess took Chuck under their wing, and he began releasing several successful 45’s.
after school session - 1957 / one dozen berry's - 1958 / berry is on top - 1959 / rockin' at the hops - 1960
These included ‘Maybellene’ (in 1955), ’You Can’t Catch Me’ (in 1956), ‘Roll Over Beethoven’ (in 1956, number 29 on the Billboard Top 100 chart), ‘Rock N’ Roll Music’ (in 1957), ‘Johnny B. Goode’ (in 1957), ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’ (in 1958) and ‘Reelin’ & Rockin’ (in 1958).
‘Maybellene’ sold over a million copies, reaching number one on Billboard's Rhythm and Blues chart.
The track featured the other musicians, Johnnie Johnson (piano), Jerome Green (maracas), Jasper Thomas (drums) and Willie Dixon (bass).
Whilst releasing the steady stream of singles in the late Fifties, Chuck opened his own nightclub, called Berry's Club Bandstand.
He also featured in two movies over this era, namely ‘Rock Rock Rock’ (in 1956), and ‘Go, Johnny, Go!’ (in 1959).
In 1959, Chuck was arrested after questionable allegations regarding a waitress, whom he had transported over state lines to work as a hat check girl at his club.
He ended up not serving the whole of his term, and was released in 1963.
st louis to liverpool - 1964 / chuck berry in london - 1965 / chuck berry in memphis - 1967 / from st. louie to frisco - 1968
Between 1964 and 1965, he released eight singles, which included, ‘No Particular Place to Go’, You Never Can Tell’, and ‘Nadine’ (which reached the top 20 on the Billboard 100).
He subsequently released five albums for the Mercury imprint.
During the Seventies, Chuck had returned to the Chess Records imprint.
back home - 1970 / san francisco dues - 1971 / chuck berry - 1975 / rock it - 1979
He had become employed more as a live act, and in 1972 Chess released a live recording of ‘My Ding-a-Ling’, a novelty song which he had recorded in a different version on his 1968 LP ‘From St. Louie to Frisco’ under the title of ‘My Tambourine’.
‘My Ding-a-Ling’ became his only number one single.
Chuck departed the Chess label in 1975, following the release of the album ‘Chuck Berry’.
He wasn’t to record in the studio until 1979, when he released ‘Rock It’ for the Atco imprint.
Chuck performed live at a concert for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 (backed by Bruce Springsteen).
At the request of President Jimmy Carter, he performed at the White House in 1979.
Pursued by the IRS that year, Chuck faced prison again, this time pleading guilty to tax evasion.
Chuck was sentenced to four months in prison and 1,000 hours of community service.
Chuck was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, whilst still undertaking a hectic touring schedule.
In 2000, his seemingly never ending troubles continued, when his former pianist Johnnie Johnson, claimed he co-wrote over 50 of his songs.
These included ‘No Particular Place to Go’, ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’ and ‘Roll Over Beethoven’.
The case was later dismissed when the judge ruled that too much time had passed since the songs were originally written.In the Millennium, Chuck toured Sweden, Norway, Finland, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Ireland, Switzerland, Poland and Spain.
In 2017, police in St. Charles County, Missouri, were called to Chuck’s house, where he was unresponsive.
He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Ex-Beatle, John Lennon once stated, “if you tried to give rock and roll another name, that name should be 'Chuck Berry’.”
Rolling Stone magazine named Chuck at number 6 in their list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.
After School Session (Chess Records 1957)
One Dozen Berrys (Chess Records 1958)
Berry Is on Top (Chess Records 1959)
Rockin' at the Hops (Chess Records 1960)
New Juke Box Hits (Pye Records 1961)
Chuck Berry On Stage (Chess Records 1963)
Two Great Guitars (Chess Records 1964)
St. Louis to Liverpool (Chess Records 1964)
Chuck Berry in London (Chess Records 1965)
Fresh Berry's (Chess Records 1965)
Chuck Berry's Golden Hits (Chess Records 1967)
Chuck Berry in Memphis (Fontana Records 1967)
From St. Louie to Frisco (Mercury Records 1968)
Concerto in B. Goode (Mercury Records 1969)
Back Home (Chess Records 1970)
San Francisco Dues (Chess Records 1971)
The London Chuck Berry Sessions (Chess Records 1972)
Bio (Chess Records 1973)
Chuck Berry (Chess Records 1975)
Live In Concert (Chess Records 1978)
Rock It (ATCO Records 1979)