John Lennon of the Beatles perhaps said it best, “If you can’t call it Rock-N’-Roll, call it Chuck Berry.
Chuck Berry just passed away at 90 years of age ‘after ‘an illness’ as the press likes to put it. Once he finally stopped performing about 5 or 6 years ago, I figured it wouldn’t be too much longer.
That legendary vitality of his finally wore down.
Chuck Barry was a throwback to the first black singers, like Ike and Tina Turner and others, they were paid initially for a gig in cash, and they kept their money in the trunks of their cars.
Almost all of the old rock in’ rollers have passed on to that Great Concert in the Sky, and when they’re gone something unique will have gone with them.
There’s always was an ageless quality to Berry, something about that old spine and leg catharsis that still seemed young, powerful and ageless. Jerry Lee has it too and now in his eighties, he’s pretty much just what he always said he’d be…the last man standing.
Jerry Lee has it too and now in his eighties, he’s pretty much just what he always said he’d be…the last man standing.
Two personal memories of Chuck Berry…two sides of the same coin.
A hot, humid summer night on the road, checking into a hotel in the Midwest, the name and exact place lost in the memory banks.
Not a roach hole or a five-star, but the sort of moderately priced place you stay at if you’re on tour and trying to keep the costs down.
And who should I see checking out and headed towards the door with a guitar case and a small, black, travel bag in hand but Chuck Berry.
What you thought the Beach Boys and the Beetles were first?
I shrugged and went back to the hotel desk.
Take two…a night at the Aquarius theater in Hollywood, at a filming of the old TV show, ‘In Concert’. I was
I was there, courtesy of a backstage pass from the manager of one of the eminently forgettable bands set to be filmed that night, some of them with actual records on the radio.
Loads of roadies and plenty of heavy-duty equipment. Marshall stacks, huge
Marshall stacks, huge drum sets, big hair, flashpots and pyrotechnics, nubile young ladies checking out the bulges in the spandex, a slight smell of marijuana in the air, schmoozing and those little white lines laid out backstage…a typical concert scene for the times.
One by one, the bands came on, did their shtick, and they all got a nice, enthusiastic response from the crowd.
And then out walked a fiftyish Chuck Berry…one small Fender Twin amp, one guitar, and just like always, an obvious pickup band consisting of a bass player and a drummer, probably hired for scale from the local union for that night’s show.
What happened next was sheer magic.
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