– I drove for more than a few miles Saturday evening with my mouth hanging wide open. I had just heard Cousin Brucie announce on his SiriusXM radio show that Chuck Berry had passed away. At the age of 90 we couldn’t expect one of the true originators to continue duckwalking across the rock and roll landscape forever, but it was still a shock.
It’s the end of an era – though the legend will live on.
It’s doubtful I ever go a day without hearing a Chuck Berry riff. As a Classic Rocker with musical tastes never straying too far from the basic three chord rock and roll that excited and influenced every important rocker that followed him, he is still an important foundation for my daily playlists. Chuck Berry was covered and copied by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and way too many others for me to even attempt to list. They handed it down to the next generation and the legacy continues.
“If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry.’” – John Lennon
“I’ve stolen every lick he ever played.” – Keith Richards inducting Chuck Berry into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Since The Classic Rocker is about music and memories, here’s one of mine…
As fate would have it, I had just talked about my experiences going back to the roots of rock and roll in the most recent song on this Dream Song List. My album collection in the late 1960’s and early 70’s was being restocked with the originals by Chuck Berry and other members of the first class inducted into The Rock Hall. My goal was to play guitar like Chuck, piano like Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, and sing like Elvis. It didn’t exactly work out that way, which is why you’re reading these ramblings rather than listening to any of my albums.
During my freshman year in college – and I’m not kidding – my dorm room featured Chuck Berry wallpaper. As a Berry fan, I might have been an originator among interior decorators.
Chuck was playing a show at another college nearby. Of course I would be there, but that’s another story for another song on this list. Especially since I wound up on stage with my hero and had a rockin’ good time. But the buildup had started a couple months before.
I went to my local record store (vinyl you crazy cats!) to check out what was new. I saw a stack of flyers on the counter advertising the concert. I went crazy (cat) right there about my commitment to the greatness of Chuck Berry. The store manager picked up the pile of flyers, handed them to me and said I could hang them up. I was probably guessing correctly he meant for me to hang them up around campus, but since no discount was offered to me on the ticket price or the album I’m sure I purchased that day, it meant the only place these flyers would be hung up were in my dorm room.
I have a photo somewhere of the coolest room on campus that spring, but would need to dig through too many boxes of Classic Rocker keepsakes to find it. Trust me when I say the flyers made the walls both colorful and unique.
Which is also a good description of Chuck Berry’s overwhelming influence on popular music. The exact birth date of rock and roll will always be debated, but it’s a no-brainer to say the fuse was ignited with his first big hit in 1955, Maybellene. The future of rock and roll followed in a direct line behind him. And when you think about it, there’s no higher praise you can give to someone that meant so much to so many.
Rock on Chuck Berry! You will be missed, but not forgotten.
Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing