March 18, 2017

Goodbye to the greatest rock and roller of them all: Chuck Berry.

He was 90. Here's the NYT obituary. Here's WaPo.







73 comments:

Amexpat said...

Just finished watching a clip of him on the Carson show in 1987. He did three great songs and ended up being the only guest.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdnFsSiUFjk

Mid-Life Lawyer said...

The real King of Rock and Roll.

Jay Elink said...

It's too bad for Berry that his "Maybellene" audience had to be taken from the East German Army Chorus.

Whatta buncha stiffs!!!

FullMoon said...

Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco,19something, backed by Steve Miller.
Far out, man!

rcocean said...

What an amazing life. 90 is old for anybody, but especially for a rock-n-roller.

Personally, I thought the dude died years ago, but according the intertubes, he was traveling and playing at 82.

Loved his music. I assume he was ripped off by the New York record companies - and had is copyright stolen - like most of the 1950s Black Artists.

stever said...

Yes there is and was, only one King of Rock n Roll, and it was Chuck Berry. A remarkably simple genius. His contribution is still relevant. C'est la vie, say the old folks.

Luke Lea said...

A singer-songwriter let us not forget. Wrote his own music and words.

Unknown said...

The greatest rock lyricist, and I doubt that Dylan would even dispute it.

traditionalguy said...

He was the greatest. He weaponized Rock and Roll, and no one ever made it any better.

Laslo Spatula said...

I won't get into his bathroom video-taping habits, but they WERE in his restaurant called "The Southern Air."

The 'Southern Air.' an appropriate euphemism, perhaps.

I am Laslo.

Unknown said...

"Send More Chuck Berry"

madAsHell said...

The link provided by Amexpat is well worth the time. I watched to the very end, and found a 1987 copyright date on the broadcast.

He was duck walking, and strutting at 60 years of age!!


LarsPorsena said...

Blogger Amexpat said...
Just finished watching a clip of him on the Carson show in 1987. He did three great songs and ended up being the only guest.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdnFsSiUFjk

3/18/17, 5:58 PM

---------------------------------------------------------

Thanks for the link..........just great!!!

LYNNDH said...

Making me feel very very old now.

madAsHell said...

Geez....."You Can't Catch Me" is the entire British invasion in one song.
No wonder he punched Keith Richards!!

Tank said...

Just a great writer, guitarist, singer, performer and innovator.

Just ... GREAT!

Gahrie said...

Chuck Berry was great.....but Little Richard was the king of rock and roll.......

Ann Althouse said...

Yes, Little Richard still lives.

He's the greatest left from the 1950s.

Love him.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Headline typo alert "roll and roller"

Fabi said...

Bravo, Laslo!

rhhardin said...

I've heard the name, but couldn't say what he did. Or what was so great about rock and roll for that matter.

I'd have guessed he died with what's his name in the plane crash. Buddy Holly.

Beech Bonanza.

All my favorite composers are dead too, however.

wild chicken said...

We had a Motorola hi fi in 1956 and it had a 12 in woofer and three 3 in tweeters, and it rocked the whole nabe in eagle rock, playing that After School Rock lp, and Here's Little Richard, and Elvis. Fats Domino I didn't like so much.

My brother bought all these with his boxboy earnings. Funny how young white guys will always seek out the latest black music. Why is that.

rhhardin said...

When I was in school in the 50s early 60s it wasn't rock'n'roll you heard in the dorm rooms but Kingston Trio.

I think r'n'r is over-remembered.

rhhardin said...

Dave Brubeck Take Five was the popular snack bar juke box song.

FullMoon said...

Ann Althouse said... [hush]​[hide comment]

Yes, Little Richard still lives.

He's the greatest left from the 1950s.

Love him.


Personification of "Tutti Frutti"

America's Politico said...

My introduction to Chuck Berry was Back to the Future, with MJ Fox playing the song, Johnny BG. He will be missed. RIP.

Ron said...

Jerry Lee Lewis is also still alive! When you think about the 100 different ways that guy should have been toast, it's a miracle he's still here also!

Don't forget Vera Lynn...who had a chart hit at 100...

Ron said...

Towards the end of his touring days, Chuck didn't have a backup band; he'd post a notice in the town he was headed towards to just ask drummers, bass players, etc. to show up, audition for him and play that night! Pretty cool...

traditionalguy said...

Nobody could ever touch Chuck when his V-8 Ford style of Guitar playing kicked in. He was the winner.

madAsHell said...

I think r'n'r is over-remembered.

You know the Kingston Trio was a boy band!!

rhhardin said...

Peter Paul and Mary showed up in dorms too.

rhhardin said...

Also Fuck the Magic Dragon, whoever did that.

rhhardin said...

As for Rock and Roll, you guys realize it's three chords, right?

Question you always want asked.

rhhardin said...

Rock and Roll is sort of like the women's vote in politics, to a musician.

rhhardin said...

Panzara sings Faure Clair de Lune, the opposite of rock and roll. The beat is only implied. The downbeat is avoided if anything. No drum. Lots of chords.

Will Cate said...

rcocean said: "I assume he was ripped off by the New York record companies"

Yes, and he was bitter to the very end. He never thought he got his due in the business. He demanded to be paid, in cash, before playing, and he drove himself from city to city to play shows with (usually) local musicians backing him up.

My favorite Chuck Berry story is a first-hand anecdote related to me by an old college classmate who went to see Chuck play in St. Louis back in the late 90s. He must have been about 70 at the time. Before the show Chuck was sitting at the bar nursing a Budweiser beer. My friend knew better than to actually approach the man (he didn't really like people talking to him), but he couldn't help himself, and started babbling about how great Chuck was, meant so much to him, etc. etc.

Chuck, without even looking up from his beer, replied, "Eat.... shit."

And that was the end of the conversation.

3rdGradePB_GoodPerson said...

You old folks' music sometimes reminds me of nursery rhymes.

At least that clip re "I put my pee pee in your pee pee, " or whatever it was, seems fun. But that was more of a stage presence thingy than music.


Anywho, different strokes for different folks.

madAsHell said...

Is it because I keep terriers?....and you don't?

William said...

Some lines from "Fiddler Jones" in the Spoon River Anthology:

The earth keeps some vibration going
There in your heart, and that is you........

I ended up with forty acres
I ended up with a broken fiddle
And a broken laugh and a thousand memories
And not a single regret.

Earnest Prole said...

To write and perform your own pop masterpieces was wondrous when the Beatles and Dylan did it in 1965. To think a black man did it ten years earlier is almost inconceivable. This article, written a few months ago, captures Berry’s genius and moral flaws in equal measure. Run, don’t walk, to see Chuck Berry: Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll

madAsHell said...

Peace! My sister and I would sing "500 Miles" relentlessly in the '53 Olds during road trips.

David said...

When I was in school in the 50s early 60s it wasn't rock'n'roll you heard in the dorm rooms but Kingston Trio.

I think r'n'r is over-remembered.


Depends on where you were and what your interests were.

wild chicken said...

Rock n roll was a high school thing. By college it was jazz, classical and folk. Besides, rock was quickly co-opted and watered down into bubblegum by 1960.

Only a few cool things were happening under the radar, like Ray Charles and the Everlys..Until the Beatles.

David said...

America's Politico said...
My introduction to Chuck Berry was Back to the Future,


Please don the dunce cap and stand facing the corner for the next six months.

3rdGradePB_GoodPerson said...

BTW is there some sorta correlation (causation?) between whether folks write "rock n roll" or "rock and roll" and having a figurative stick up the back side?

Maybe Althosue could do a dual poll.

1) What is the correct way to write R&R?

2) Do you have a stick up your ass?

Science.


The Godfather said...

In 1969 I was in Army basic training at Ft. Bliss TX. I was a 26 yr old reservist, and almost everyone else was 18-20 yr old. One day we were cleaning the barracks, and someone had a portable radio on, and the station started to play "oldies", basically '50's rock, including but not limited to Chuck Berry. None of these kids had ever heard this music. They thought it was great! The white guys, the black guys ("brothers" in the lingo then), the Mexicans ("banditos"), all thought it was great! When I told them it was music from 10-15 years ago, from MY youth, they didn't believe me.

William said...

At Instapundit there's a link to an interesting article by Taylor Hackford. Berry got ripped off on his first record, but on subsequent recordings he made sure he got his cut. Hackford indicates that Berry may have lifted some riffs from his piano player. I got the sense from that article that Berry probably screwed over as many people in the music business as tried to screw over him. Well, good for him......He had a Caliban vibe. He knew how to bottom feed. Lots of scandals but they only enhanced his reputation.

ganderson said...

Forty years ago tonight I went to Winterland to see the Dead. They opened the show with a rollicking version of "Promised Land", my favorite Berry song. It was a great opening to a great three night run - they "Promised Land " again, even better two nights later. What a weekend!

lucy white said...

Donald Trump and Chuck Berry
New Year's Eve Concert (February 1, 1988) http://tinyurl.com/mls6ekx

exiledonmainstreet said...

Here's a clip of Berry, John Lennon and Yoko Ono performing "Memphis Tennessee." Berry and Lennon are jamming up a storm, clearly enjoying playing together, and then Yoko, being Yoko, has to jump in and do her impression of a turkey being garroted. Berry's slight eye pop at about 1:23 is priceless.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9kgu71d81U

Known Unknown said...

Chuck, may he rest in peace, has a new album coming out.

Laslo Spatula said...

Brokedown Bobby Shakes says...

Sure, everyone's all got the sads now on Chuck Berry, they all fallin' all over theyselves to say how great he was -- they don't even remember that he stole all of Brokedown Bobby's songs...

I write "Bobby Want Butt," next thing you know Chuck steals it and calls it "Johnny B. Goode". I take a twelve-year-old girl with me from Mississippi to California, Chuck takes a 14-year-old girl across state lines and gets hisself arrested: he was always trying to one-up me, understand...?

I had respect for Elvis. HE knew he stole the Black Man's music, straight up. I write "Young Girl Butt," Elvis turns it into "All Shook Up." I write "Jailbait Butt," Elvis turns it into "Jailhouse Rock." But you expect that shit from a White Man: you don't expect a Black Brother to steal your shit and call it his...

People say to me, "Well Brokedown Bobby, if your songs weren't all about twelve-year-old girls maybe THEY woulda been played on the Radio." They just don't get it: Rock and Roll wasn't for no adults, Rock and Roll was FOR the twelve-year-old girls. It was catchy, bouncy shit to get them little girls all jumpin' up and down and gettin' their juices all juicy...

Who liked the little girls? Elvis did. Jerry Lee Lewis did. Chuck Berry did. Brokedown Bobby sure did, and he still does! Rock and Roll was Sex for the Little Girls who hadn't had sex yet -- you know, to get them started and all: that's all it was. And let Brokedown Bobby tell ya: it worked mighty fine...

You know, I never could understand what that Jim Morrison cat was all going on about sometimes, like white kids killin' they daddy and fuckin' they mama and all, but he sure got one thing right when talkin' about us Back Door Men: The men don't know, but the little girls understand....

So I live my life on the road, rockin' and rollin'. Who knows -- I might be comin' to your town, too, and if you come see me, do Bobby a favor: bring your granddaughters...

I am Laslo.

3rdGradePB_GoodPerson said...

BTW, was Chuck a life long republican?

Static Ping said...

To follow that up, note that Chuck Berry only had one #1 single: "My Ding-a-Ling."

pacwest said...

Rock and Roll lasted a long time. I don't like rap, but music should evolve. Will newer generations hear any classical now that Bugs Bunny is not Saturday morning fare?

Unknown said...

Berry coud sue with the best of them. That's why "Surfin' USA" now has a Berry credit. Things were pretty loosey-goosey back in the 60s with songs being traded back and forth and "answer songs" and whatnot. If Brian Wilson thought about it at all, he probably figured that "Sweet Little Sixteen" had already been ripped off a couple of times before, and besides the "Surfin USA" riff came from Duane Eddy's "Rebel Rouser" anyway so what the hey. Berry didn't see it that way..

eddie willers said...

Read many articles today and other that exiledonmainstreet here, very few mentioned my favorite song of his, Memphis

It maybe the first song I ever heard with a such sweet twist at the end:

Marie is only six years old, information please
Try to put me through to her in Memphis Tennessee

Laslo Spatula said...

Excerpt from "Black Blood, Black Seed"

"Benjamin, why do all you colored folk play that awful rock-and-roll music?"

“Miss Christina, it's about being free! It's about enjoying the little things in life, no matter what the world throws at you."

"But it's so SILLY, Benjamin, with its squawky guitars and its jungle rhythms."

"I don't know, Miss Christina, some of you young White Girls in the City now sure like it mighty fine..."

"I just don't believe they should be putting the Black Man's rhythm into white people's music, that's all: it makes people, well... susceptible."

"Susceptible, Miss Christina?"

"Yes, Benjamin: like, susceptible to immoral dancing. Immoral dancing and rutting. Things like that."

"Ah, Miss Christina, it ain't no sin to shake what yo' momma gave ya."

"Benjamin, don't be so disingenuous. We BOTH know that once white women start dancing to black rhythms they lose all their inhibitions."

"Maybe you white girls losing some of your inhibitions would be a GOOD thing. It might take the stick outta yo' white asses."

"Benjamin! Why is it with you Black Men it always ends up being about the buttocks? Anyway, it's just a passing fad, that's all."

"I don't know: I see young white boys are starting to play it now too, Miss Christina."

"Yes, Benjamin, unruly white boys from bad homes. They always seem to be enchanted with what the Negroes do."

"It's just music, Miss Christina. It ain't gonna hurt no one."

"I wouldn't be so sure about THAT, Benjamin. First it will be this music, then the promiscuous sex, then the illegal drugs. You know what reefer does to white people: it makes them lazy and shiftless."

You're saying rock-and-roll will lead to sex and drugs? Aren't you being a bit silly yourself, Miss Christina?"

"Mark my words, Benjamin: there will be sex and drugs and rock-and-roll, and then white children will start disobeying their parents and stop cutting their hair properly."

"Like that could EVER happen, Miss Christina."

"You know: you're right, Benjamin. Us white people are smart enough not to ruin our lives on such silly things."

"Ain't that the truth, Miss Christina: ain't that the truth..."

I am Laslo.

Unknown said...

>It maybe the first song I ever heard with a such sweet twist at the end:
>
>Marie is only six years old, information please
>Try to put me through to her in Memphis Tennessee
>

Hardly a "sweet" twist that the man's daughter is gone with his ex and he's not even sure where she is other than "Memphis" and a general location.

Yancey Ward said...

It was a great pleasure to see him perform live, too. I did so 4 times in my life- actually every time he played a venue near enough for me to drive to and for which I could get tickets.

Like a commenter above wrote, I often think he is the real King of Rock and Roll. There aren't many left from that first group of artists still living.

Unknown said...

Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Dominio, and that's about it.

Even the second generation is getting thin on the ground.

Heck, Mike Love was 76 on Wednesday.

Never got to see Chuck, but glad I got to see The Everleys and some of the older Blues and Jazz greats: B.B. King, Lionel Hampton, Count Basie, Dave Brubeck, Buddy Rich..

Etienne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Earnest Prole said...

It was a teenage wedding
and the old folks wished them well
You could see that Pierre
did truly love the mademoiselle
And now the young monsieur
and madame have rung the chapel bell
"C'est la vie" say the old folks,
it goes to show you never can tell

They furnished off an apartment
with a two room Roebuck sale
The coolerator was crammed
with TV dinners and ginger ale
But when Pierre found work
the little money comin' worked out well
"C'est la vie" say the old folks,
it goes to show you never can tell

They had a hi-fi phono, boy, did they let it blast
Seven hundred little records,
all rock, rhythm and jazz
But when the sun went down
the rapid tempo of the music fell
"C'est la vie" say the old folks,
it goes to show you never can tell

They bought a souped-up jitney,
'twas a cherry red '53,
They drove it down New Orleans
to celebrate their anniversary
It was there that Pierre was married
to the lovely mademoiselle
"C'est la vie" say the old folks,
it goes to show you never can tell

Ann Althouse said...

"Headline typo alert "roll and roller""

Thanks.

I could have looked at that a hundred times without seeing it!

Ann Althouse said...

I wasn't sure Fats Domino was still alive. He's 89.

Heartening to see musicians living to be very old.

urbane legend said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
virgil xenophon said...

I can tell that not a lot of commenters here were in undergrad school in the South in the 60s. Rock Roll for HS only in 60s? Ever hear of Bobby "Blue" Bland? Otis Redding? Ike & Tina Turner, etc? They were ALL part of the "college circuit" in the early sixties--played almost exclusively for white college fraternities. I saw them ALL when they passed thru Baton Rouge and played at local clubs. I caught Otis and Boby Blue back to back at the same night club on Fri/Sat night in spring of '65... Beach Boys, Dave Brubeck My Ass...sure, they were part of the scene, but ONLY a part..

What made Chuck Berry stand out from ALL other black musicians of his day--his real genius-- was that he wrote songs almost exclusively for WHITE teenagers. "Cruising along..can't get my seat-belt t'a off" is about white teen agers as few young black teens back then could afford a car..listen to the lyrics of his songs, you'll see, Berry was a marketing genius..

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

Awww man!

He was the best. The original.

He brought it straight back from its blues roots to what it is.

Way down in Louisiana down in New Orleans...

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

I wasn't sure Fats Domino was still alive. He's 89.

Heartening to see musicians living to be very old.


Lol. My impression is that the blues legends outlive the rockers.

Just thinking about how blues-influenced Johnny B. Goode is, you could have probably taken it as a blues melody just by slowing it down a tempo, and changing one major note to minor.

Blues folks take their stories in slow-motion.

Livermoron said...

I play guitar every day because of Chuck Berry. He and Duane Allman inspired me and I am so grateful for that.

Gonna go work on 'O Carol' just in case I get to jam with him in the afterlife. Don't want to piss him off.

Both he and John Lennon were planning on being hairdressers if their music careers hadn't panned out.

May God Bless.

David said...

Article "No one before Mr. Berry thought to write a pop song about the headaches of paying bills or losing your change in a pay phone."

"Yip yip yip yip boom boom boom boom Get a Job.'

"money honey"

Bad Lieutenant said...


rhhardin said...
I've heard the name, but couldn't say what he did. Or what was so great about rock and roll for that matter.

I'd have guessed he died with what's his name in the plane crash. Buddy Holly.

Beech Bonanza.

All my favorite composers are dead too, however.
3/18/17, 8:06 PM


Rh, it's okay for you to shut up sometimes, really. Nobody will mind.

Robert Cook said...

"Towards the end of his touring days, Chuck didn't have a backup band...."

That wasn't just "toward the end of his touring days," that was his standard practice for decades. The promoter in each town booking him for a gig was responsible to hire a local band who knew Berry's songs. There was no rehearsal: Berry would appear moments before showtime, walk on stage, and the band was expected to just play.