Chuck Berry Rock and Roll Music - Guitarist Biography
If we could define this singer, songwriter, and guitarist, in astronomical terms, Chuck Berry would be the Big Bang. With him and with the electric guitar, the genre par excellence of contemporary music would begin to develop: Rock.
Charles Edward Anderson Berry was born in 1926 in the city of St. Louis, Missouri.
From a very young age, he was fond of listening to blues, boogie-woogie, swing, and jazz from Nat King Cole, one of his idols.
At just six years old, Berry was already singing in the church choir, learning to play guitar, later on, influenced by guitarists like B.B. King, Muddy Waters, or T-Bone Walker. Beginning to develop his talent as a guitarist and as a songwriter, although he also stood out for getting into trouble.
In 1944, during a trip to Kansas City in the company of two friends, the musician was arrested and convicted of the crime of armed robbery.
The youths had robbed three stores and a car with the help of a gun that they allegedly found.
Berry and his friends were sentenced to 10 years in prison. Although the guitarist was released in 1947, serving only three years of sentence in a reformatory, where he formed a singing group.
In 1953 he managed to join the rhythm and blues band, Sir John Trio. A group led by pianist Johnnie Johnson, who used to play at the popular Cosmopolitan Club in San Luis.
Berry did not take long to acquire a greater prominence within the band, renaming itself over time as Chuck Berry Combo. Becoming one of the most popular bands in the city of San Luis.
While in Chicago, Berry meets Muddy Waters and he recommends producer Leonard Chess to listen to some of the group's songs. Producing the recording of the single "Maybellene", getting to enjoy in 1955, his first success at the record level. Beginning to write numerous songs for the Chess Records label, which soon after would become great rock classics, at which point his legend would definitely be forged.
Rolling Stone magazine has listed his first single "Maybellene" as the starting point of rock and roll. But I assure you that Marty Mcfly and his DeLorean had nothing to do with the matter.
Chuck Berry would develop it on the basis of rhythm and blues, and on the innovative sounds taken from his electric guitar, influenced by the technique of the Texan guitarist T-Bone Walker, who used to press two strings of the guitar at the same time.
Creating happy, danceable, and energetic music, developing the foundations of rock and roll.
As John Lennon said: "If you wanted to give rock and roll a new name, you could call it Chuck Berry."
At the end of 1956, he would present with great success the songs "Roll Over Beethoven" and "School Days".
And in 1958, he would publish two of his most successful singles. "Sweet Little Sixteen" and his legendary "Johnny B. Goode".
Taking advantage of his economic success, the guitarist founded the Bandstand Club in 1958, which allowed his clients to enter, regardless of their race.
The following year Chuck Berry would meet a young woman in Texas, offering her a job as a waitress at the Bandstand club, as he told her she was 21 years old but was actually 14. So he took her to St. Louis with him.
A few weeks later, the young woman was arrested for prostitution in a hotel in the city. This fact would lead to the arrest of Berry, for crossing the state border with a minor, for immoral purposes.
The guitarist was sentenced to 5 years in prison and a fine of $ 5,000.
The sentence was appealed, due to the racist comments by the judge during the trial, and the sentence was finally lowered to 3 years, being released after spending almost 2 years in prison.
But Chuck would not chastise himself, later getting into trouble with the law again. Being sentenced for tax evasion to four months in jail, and to community work that he fulfilled by performing charity concerts.
But there it was not the thing, returning to have problems in the future to install cameras in the toilets of ladies of a restaurant owned by the musician.
He was denounced by 59 women, but he was able to avoid the charges by reaching an out-of-court settlement estimated at more than a million dollars.
In 1977, the Voyager spacecraft would be launched with relevant cultural material that could give aliens an idea of what life was like for humans on Earth.
Greetings, Sounds of the Earth, Music by Mozart or Beethoven, and the song "Johnny B. Goode" by Chuck Berry.
The satirical program "Saturday Night Live" performed a number where he imagined a short and forceful response from the aliens: "Send more Chuck Berry."
Chuck Berry's music also appears in one of the most legendary scenes in cinema. The dance between Uma Thurman and John Travolta, from the movie ‘Pulp Fiction.
During the 2016 celebration of his 90th birthday, Chuck Berry announced the release of a new album for 2017 titled Chuck. Returning to edit an album with new songs, 38 years after its last publication.
But Chuck Berry would pass away at his home in Wentzville, Missouri, before seeing this album published.
Nothing more and nothing less than Bob Dylan and John Lennon confessed that they learned their surreal style of writing the lyrics of the songs, listening to the songs of Chuck Berry.
Mr. Berry's staging was that of a true showman. With tricks like his famous Paso del Pato (duck walk) that he would perform for the first time at the Paramount Theater in Brooklyn (New York).
According to Chuck, he started walking like a duck simply to hide the wrinkles that he had marked on his suit, something that the public liked and that he ended up popularizing.
This step was already performed by his idol T-Bone Walker, apart from the famous trick of playing behind the head, popularized by Hendrix.
The duck gait would later mutate into another gait style, although it would continue to be named in the same way.
This step would become even more popular than the previous one, as it was adopted by numerous artists such as AC / DC's Angus Young, in homage to Chuck Berry himself.
Chuck Berry: Guitars and Amps
Chuck Berry used primarily Fender Tweed and Fender Dual Showman amps.
His favorite guitar was the Gibson ES-335 with humbucker pickups, and with P90 (ES-330) pickups.
Later, it would go on to the Gibson ES-345, which is the same as the 335 but with tone control to select different condensers, with different tones.
It also used the Gibson ES-350 and the Gretsch G6120.
Chuck Berry has released more than 30 albums since he released "After School Session" in 1957.
Being covered by a large number of top-class artists such as The Rolling Stones (Carol), The Beatles (Rock and Roll Music), Jimi Hendrix (Johnny B. Goode), David Bowie (Around and around).
Chuck Berry's influence on future musicians, and especially guitarists, was total. All the pioneering rock troops would not have been the same without the contributions of a music innovator.