When you hear the phrase, “King of Rock N Roll,” Some might think of Elvis Presley. But in reality, Chuck Berry created the unique sound, swagger and coolness that rock music would eventually become. In reality, there would be no Beatles, Beach Boys, Rolling Stones and many other groups without Chuck Berry.
Born in St. Louis on October 18, 1926, Berry had many inspirations that molded his unique style to the greatness that it became. The music of Nat King Cole, Muddy Waters and Jay McShann were some of his greatest influences. As a high school student, Berry played on stage in front of his peers and was well accepted. Practicing rhythm changes and blues chords, along with his friend, Ira Harris, showing him techniques on the guitar helped to hone his skills as a musician. “In 1952, Berry began playing guitar and singing in a club band whose song list ranged from blues to ballads to calypso to country. Berry was becoming an accomplished showman, incorporating gestures and facial expressions to go with the lyrics.”
Chuck Berry started playing at the Cosmopolitan Club in St. Louis around 1953 where he drove the crowds crazy. His success at the Cosmopolitan gained him the attention of white America. Soon he was playing for crowds that were almost 40% white, which was rare for a black musician of that time. Berry helped to break down racial barriers amidst the high racial tensions plaguing a segregated/Jim Crown “United States.”
In 1955 Berry ran across one of his idols, Muddy Waters while on a road trip to Chicago. Waters gave him some advice that changed Berry’s life forever, where to get a record deal. Following the advice of Waters, Berry went to Chess Records, a blues label where greats like Howlin’ Wolf and Bo Diddley recorded. Berry presented the record label with his song, “Maybellene,” and that was the diamond that caught their attention. “Berry was signed to Chess Records and in the summer of 1955, “Maybellene” jumped to #5 on the Pop Charts and #1 on the R&B Charts. Through Chuck Berry, Chess Records moved from the R&B genre into the mainstream and Berry himself was on his way to was on his way to stardom.”
During his long career, Chuck Berry released many great songs including, “Brown-Eyed Man,” “Too Much Monkey Business,” “Memphis,” “Roll Over, Beethoven!” and “Johnny B. Goode.” “Too Much Monkey Business,” “Memphis,” “Roll Over, Beethoven!” and “Johnny B. Goode.” Berry’s unique sound and talent concreted his place in rock history and led to his lifetime of fame and success.
In 1986, Chuck Berry along with other musical legends like James Brown, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Little Richard, and the Everly Brothers were inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Not only is Chuck Berry in the Rock Hall of Fame, but his hit song, “Johnny B. Goode.” was chosen played in the Voyager I spacecraft, allowing his legacy and musical talents to be shared across the universe.
According to the St. Charles County police Facebook page, officers responded to a medical emergency at Berry’s home on Saturday March 18, 2017 and found him unresponsive. Medical Resuscitation procedures failed. The St. Charles County Police Department confirmed the death of Charles Edward Anderson Berry Sr, better known by his stage name Chuck Berry.
While Chuck Berry may be gone in body, his sprit will live on through his music for generations. Berry will always be the “King of Rock N Roll,” regardless of what others might say.