Birth Name: Charles Edward Anderson Berry
Born: October 18, 1926, in St. Louis, Missouri
Parents: Henry and Martha Berry
Wife: Themetta "Toddy" Suggs
Children: Four; one daughter, Ingrid Berry Clay, is a singer and often performs with her father
Weight: 180 pounds
Musically influenced by: Nat "King" Cole, Muddy Waters
Food: Enjoys beef and seafood, peaches, home fries, candied yams, chili,
grape soda, orange juice, Snickers bars and Dutch apple pie. Despises liver,
okra, gumbo, celery, carrots, cooked onions, grapefruit, salami and liquor.
Hobbies: Playing music, softball, twenty questions, chess, croquet, highway driving
Comedians: Lucille Ball
"Riding Along In My
Automobile..." - lyrics which for many encapsultate
the music of Charles Edward Anderson Berry - better known as Chuck Berry,
or as John Lennon once said: "If you tried to give rock'n'roll another name,
you might call it 'Chuck Berry' ".
Born 18th October 1926 in St.
Louis, Missouri where he learned the guitar.
After a period in jail for armed robbery at the age of eighteen, Berry began
playing guitar in various St. Louis bar bands.
It wasn't until 1951, however that
he actually recorded some of his composition
ideas on a home tape recorder. He then joined Johnnie Johnson (piano) and
Ebby Hardy (drums) to form a trio which became a popular club attraction,
playing everything from R'n'B to country & Nat King Cole songs.
In 1955, Berry went to Chicago
with a demo tape and through a meeting with
Muddy Waters was introduced to Leonard Chess. One song on the tape, "Ida Mae",
impressed Chess, and after a re - write, turning the song into "Maybellene",
Chuck Berry had his debut single - at nearly thirty years old! The record became
a favourite of D.J. Alan Freed who played it extensively - taking a share of the
composer royalties as his "reward". The song became a national Top 5 smash,
as well as an R'n'B No. 1.
There followed a stream of chart
successes like "Roll Over Beethoven",
"Brown Eyed Handsome Man" and his UK chart debut "School Days".
Drawing from country and R'n'B,
Berry's songs told of the teenage obsession - the
generation gap - which managed to transcend the colour bar which had blighted
many other black artists' careers. It was Chuck Berry who had the hits, not some
white artist's insipid and inferior cover version, as had been the case before.
Between 1955 - 1960, Berry's
success went from strenght to strenght. He appeared in
several "rock" films, one of them, "Jazz on A Summer Day", recorded live at the 1958
Newport Jazz Festival, which captured on film Berry's now famous "duckwalk". Then,
in October 1961, he was imprisoned again, this time for "transporting an under - age
girl across state lines for immoral purposes". Berry spent 20 months in prison, continuing
to write, but unable to continue his recording career.
During those two years, the UK pop
scene changed out of all recognition, with the emergence
of the "Liverpool Beat" scene, and the opposing white R' n' B groups. The former gave us
The Beatles, the latter The Rolling Stones and The Yardbirds. When The Beatles included a
song called "Roll Over Beethoven" on their second album " With The Beatles " in 1963, and
The Rolling Stones chose "Come On" as their first single, many of their young fans wondered
who this "Berry" was, credited with writing the songs. It began a surge of new interest in the
Chuck Berry catalogue, and with his release from jail in October '63, his 1958 recording of
"Memphis Tennessee", which his namesake fan, Dave Berry had taken into the British Top 20
a month earlier, charged into the Top 10, leap - frogging the cover version and becoming Chuck's
biggest UK hit to date. For the next two years, Chuck continued to have enormous chart
succes both in Britain and America, touring Britain with Carl Perkins, giving these new fans
a taste of the Berry R'n'B sound and a glimpse of the outrageous "duckwalk",
"No Particular Place To Go" became his biggest UK hit, reaching No. 3 in the summer of 1964.
Then, as the mid - 60's turned
from R'n'B to Psychedelia, and the Beatles rejected the guitar
for the sitar and studio wizardry, Berry's star waned. He continued to tour but it wasn't until
he performed a long - used showstopper, "My Ding A Ling" in a 1972 recorded concert,
that he archived what all rock stars hanker after; a No. 1 hit. His career was revived yet again,
and today Berry is cited by many rock superstars, such as Bruce Springsteen and Keith Richards,
as the original Mr. Rock'n'Roll.