Chuck Berry, who with his indelible guitar licks, brash self-confidence and memorable songs about cars, girls and wild dance parties did as much as anyone to define rock ’n’ roll’s potential and attitude in its early years, died on Saturday. He was 90.
The St. Charles County Police Department in Missouri confirmed his death on its Facebook page. The department said it responded to a medical emergency at a home and he was declared dead after lifesaving measures were unsuccessful.
While Elvis Presley was rock’s first pop star and teenage heartthrob, Mr. Berry was its master theorist and conceptual genius, the songwriter who understood what the kids wanted before they did themselves. With songs like “Johnny B. Goode” and “Roll Over Beethoven,” he gave his listeners more than they knew they were getting from jukebox entertainment.
His guitar lines wired the lean twang of country and the bite of the blues into phrases with both a streamlined trajectory and a long memory. And tucked into the lighthearted, telegraphic narratives that he sang with such clear enunciation was a sly defiance, upending convention to claim the pleasures of the moment.
In “Sweet Little Sixteen,” “You Can’t Catch Me” and other songs, Mr. Berry invented rock as a music of teenage wishes fulfilled and good times (even with cops in pursuit). In “Promised Land,” “Too Much Monkey Business” and “Brown Eyed Handsome Man,” he celebrated and satirized America’s opportunities and class tensions. His rock ’n’ roll was a music of joyful lusts, laughed-off tensions and gleefully shattered icons. (by Jon Parles, The New York Times)
Chuck Berry’s music has transcended generations. He earns respect to this day because he is truly an entertainer. Berry, also known as “The Father of Rock & Roll,” gained success by watching the audience’s reaction and playing accordingly, putting his listeners’ amusement above all else. For this reason, tunes like “Johnny B. Goode,” “Maybellene” and “Memphis” have become anthems to an integrated American youth and popular culture. Berry is a musical icon who established rock and roll as a musical form and brought the worlds of black and white together in song.
Born in St. Louis on October 18, 1926 Berry had many influences on his life that shaped his musical style. He emulated the smooth vocal clarity of his idol, Nat King Cole, while playing blues songs from bands like Muddy Waters. For his first stage performance, Berry chose to sing a Jay McShann song called “Confessin’ the Blues.” It was at his high school’s student musical performance, when the blues was well-liked but not considered appropriate for such an event. He got a thunderous applause for his daring choice, and from then on, Berry had to be onstage.
Berry took up the guitar after that, inspired by his partner in the school production. He found that if he learned rhythm changes and blues chords, he could play most of the popular songs on the radio at the time. His friend, Ira Harris, showed him techniques on the guitar that would become the foundation of Berry’s original sound. Then in 1952, he 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.
It was in 1953 that Chuck Berry joined the Sir John’s Trio (eventually renamed the Chuck Berry Combo), which played the popular Cosmopolitan Club in St. Louis. Country-western music was big at the time, so Berry decided to use some of the riffs and create his own unique hillbilly sound. The black audience thought he was crazy at first, but couldn’t resist trying to dance along with it. Since country was popular with white people, they began to come to the shows, and the audience was at some points almost 40 percent white. Berry’s stage show antics were getting attention, but the other band members did their parts as well. In his own words: “I would slur my strings to make a passage that Johnnie (Johnson) could not produce with piano keys but the answer would be so close that he would get a tremendous ovation. His answer would sound similar to some that Jerry Lee Lewis’s fingers later began to flay.”
Later in 1955, Berry went on a road trip to Chicago, where he chanced upon a club where his idol, Muddy Waters, was performing. He arrived late and only heard the last song, but when it was over he got the attention of Waters and asked him who to see about making a record. Waters replied, “Yeah, Leonard Chess. Yeah, Chess Records over on Forty-seventh and Cottage.” Berry went there on Monday and discovered it was a blues label where greats like Howlin’ Wolf and Bo Diddley recorded. He didn’t have any tapes to show, but Chess was willing to listen if he brought some back from St. Louis. So Berry went home and recorded some originals, including the would-be “Maybellene,” then called “Ida May,” and drove back to Chicago later that week to audition. Much to Berry’s surprise, it was that hillbilly number that caught Chess’ attention. Berry was signed to Chess Records and in the summer of 1955, “Maybellene” reached #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 stardom.
Berry continued his success with such hits as “Brown-Eyed Man,” “Too Much Monkey Business,” “Memphis,” “Roll Over, Beethoven!” and “Johnny B. Goode.” “Johnny B. Goode” is Berry’s masterpiece, as it brought together all the elements of Berry’s unique musical sound. It cemented his place in rock history and led to fame in the 1950s. His popularity garnered him television and movie appearances and he toured frequently.
Berry’s incredible success is due to his ability to articulate the concerns and attitudes of his audience in his music. At the height of his success, Berry was a 30-year-old black man singing to a mostly white, teenage audience. Dubbed the “Eternal Teenager,” Chuck Berry’s knowledge of the pop market made it possible for him to break color barriers and play to an integrated audience.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Berry’s music was the inspiration for such groups as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Berry had a number of comeback recordings and in 1972 had the first and only #1 Pop Chart hit of his career with “My Ding-A-Ling. 1986 fittingly saw him inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as the very first inductee in history. As a tribute to his pervasiveness in the realm of rock, a clip of “Johnny B. Goode” was chosen played in the Voyager I spacecraft, proving Chuck Berry and his rock legacy are truly out of this world. (taken from his Website)
After School Session is Chuck Berry’s debut album, released in May 1957 (see 1957 in music) by Chess Records as LP 1426. It was the second LP record released by Chess.
The first song on the original version of After School Session to be released was “Wee Wee Hours”, the B-side of “Maybellene”, issued in July 1955. It peaked at number 10 on Billboard magazine’s R&B Singles chart. The next song to be released was “Together We Will Always Be”, the B-side of “Thirty Days”, in September 1955. The next two songs released were “No Money Down” backed with “Down Bound Train”, in December 1955, the former peaking at number 8 on the R&B Singles chart. In May 1956, “Drifting Heart” was released as the B-side of “Roll Over Beethoven”. Berry’s next single, “Too Much Monkey Business” backed with “Brown Eyed Handsome Man”, was released in September 1956; these songs reached number 4 and number 5 on the R&B Singles chart, respectively. “Havana Moon”, the B-side of “You Can’t Catch Me”, was released in November 1956. The last single from the album to be released was “School Day (Ring Ring Goes the Bell)” backed with “Deep Feeling”, in March 1957, with the former reaching number 1 on the R&B Singles chart and number 3 on the Hot 100.
The songs on After School Session were taken from Berry’s first five sessions for Leonard and Phil Chess. “Wee Wee Hours” was the first to be recorded, on May 21, 1955. “Together (We’ll Always Be)” was recorded in September 1955. At the next session, on December 20, 1955, Berry recorded “Roly Poly” (also known as “Rolli Polli”), “No Money Down”, “Berry Pickin'”, and “Down Bound Train”. The third session was on April 16, 1956, when he recorded “Too Much Monkey Business”, “Brown Eyed Handsome Man”, and “Drifting Heart”. “Havana Moon” was recorded on October 29, 1956. The last session took place on January 21, 1957, when he recorded “School Days” and “Deep Feeling”.(by wikipedia)
Chuck Berry’s debut LP (60 years old !!!) is fairly strong musically, as well as having a really cool cover (a still shot of Berry, guitar slung in front of him, from the movie Rock, Rock, Rock!). After School Session was just the second long-player ever issued by Chess — only the soundtrack to the movie Rock, Rock, Rock! preceded it. This May 1957 release made Berry something of a late-bloomer among rock & roll’s foundation performers — he’d had his first recording session two years earlier, in May of 1955, and by the spring of 1957, Bill Haley already had a handful of LPs to his credit, Elvis Presley was gaining on him, and Clyde McPhatter’s version of the Drifters was represented on album, with numerous others soon to join their ranks. Berry had actually enjoyed only two major pop (i.e. rock as opposed to R&B) chart hits at the time: “Maybellene” in the summer of 1955, and “Roll Over Beethoven,” which had just made the Top 30 in the summer of 1956. It was “School Day,” the lead-off track here, that heralded his successful 18-month assault on the Top 40, opening a string of hits that included “Rock and Roll Music,” “Sweet Little Sixteen,” “Johnny B. Goode,” and “Carol,” and resulted in the release of After School Session — the title offers curious multiple meanings, incidentally, intended to attract Berry’s teen audience in the most innocent of terms (in connection with the rock & roll cuts), but also subtly invoking more daring “extra-curricular” activity in its blues and ballads, and older, post-teen concerns.
In those days, as a policy, Chess’ rock & roll and blues LPs were comprised of previously existing single sides, and, thus, beyond the current single, the songs leap wildly across different sounds and styles — impromptu blues (“Deep Feeling”), and dance (“Roly Poly,” “Berry Pickin'”), instrumentals are interspersed with a trio of rock & roll jewels, “Too Much Monkey Business” and “No Money Down,” with their accents on the joys and textures of teenage life, which somehow didn’t catch on among mainstream listeners as singles, and the piercing, provocative “Brown Eyed Handsome Man,” which showed how easily Berry could broach sensitive or provocative material if it were masked by a hot enough beat and loud enough guitar, bass, and drums; and we take detours into blues (“Wee Wee Hours,” “Downbound Train”), ballads (“Together (We’ll Always Be),” “Drifting Heart”), and even calypso music (“Havana Moon”). All of it was recorded in four separate sessions spread across almost two years; the rock & roll numbers and the guitar-driven instrumentals out-class most of the blues and ballads, but there’s nothing here that could be classed as “filler,” either — a lot of British Invasion bands wore out copies of these same sides learning their basic repertory, and domestic roots rockers could have done worse than to listen to “Downbound Train” or “No Money Down.” (by Bruce Eder)
Fred Below (drums)
Chuck Berry (guitar, vocals, steel guitar on 02.)
Willie Dixon (bass)
Ebby Hardy (drums)
Johnnie Johnson (piano)
Jimmy Rogers (guitar)
Otis Spann (piano)
Jasper Thomas (drums)
L. C. Davis (saxophone on 03. + 12.)
Jerome Green maracas on 15.)
01. School Days 2,43
02. Deep Feeling 2.21
03. Too Much Monkey Business 2,56
04. Wee Wee Hours 3.05
05. Roly Poly (aka Rolli Polli) 2.51
06. No Money Down 2.59
07. Brown Eyed Handsome Man 2.19
08. Berry Pickin’ 2.33
09. Together (We Will Always Be) 2.39
10. Havana Moon 3.09
11. Downbound Train 2.51
12. Drifting Heart” 2:50
13. You Can’t Catch Me 2.44
14. Thirty Days (To Come Back Home) 2.25
15, Maybellene 2.19
All songs written by Chuck Berry.
Charles Edward Anderson “Chuck” Berry (October 18, 1926 – March 18, 2017)
We all had to thank !