Chuck Berry Turns 85
Posted by Michael Mueller on October 18, 2011 at 1:41 PM
It's difficult to imagine what rock music or even heavy metal would look and sound like today without Chuck Berry, who turns 85 today (10/18). The "Father of Rock & Roll" invented and made popular not only many of the riffs and licks that formed the basis of modern rock (and are still played today) but also the stage moves and entertainment aspect of a rock 'n' roll show.
Berry was born October 18, 1926, in St. Louis, Missouri. Growing up, he developed an affinity for the blues of Muddy Waters and the jazz of Nat King Cole, who was his idol. Berry's first public performance came at a high school student musical event, in which he sang Jay McShann's "Confessin' the Blues." He received thunderous applause, and from that moment on Berry knew he wanted a career in the spotlight.
Soon after that performance, Berry began taking guitar lessons and soon discovered that if he learned rhythm changes and blues chords, he could play most of the popular songs on the radio at the time. In 1952, he joined a club band in which he began to develop his showmanship. The following year, he joined the Sir John's Trio (eventually renamed the Chuck Berry Combo), in which he intertwined his blues-based guitar riffs with country-western music, resulting in a captivating stew that appealed to both black and white audiences.
In 1955, Berry traveled to Chicago, where he met Muddy Waters, who told him to go see Leonard Chess, of Chess Records. Upon hearing "Maybellene," Chess signed Berry to his label, and that summer, the song reached #5 on the pop chart and #1 on the R&B chart. Chuck Berry was now a star.
The rest, as they say, is history. His songs "Brown-Eyed Man," "Too Much Monkey Business," "Roll Over Beethoven," "No Particular Place to Go," and, of course, "Johnny B. Goode" are now considered timeless masterpieces and form the foundation of what the world now knows as rock 'n' roll.
The "Eternal Teenager," Berry still tours, having played over 20 shows this year, and scheduled to rock in the new year at B.B. King's Blues Club in New York City, on December 31.