Tuesday, June 2, 1970

Musical Artist - Berry, Chuck

Chuck Berry is an American musician and rock and roll pioneer best known for a string of hits in the 1950s that set the tone for an entire genre of music. Originally from the Saint Louis area, Berry was performing as a musician and getting into trouble with the law before he graduated from high school, a pattern than would follow him for the rest of his life. After high school, he got married and worked a variety of jobs before a meeting with Muddy Waters resulted in Berry working with Leonard Chess to produce a string of hits in the mid- to late-1950s including Maybellene, Johnny B. Goode, and Roll Over Beethoven. Legal troubles derailed his career in the early 1960s, but he came back to record more hit records such as Nadine and No Particular Place to Go. Berry's reputation suffered in the 1970s, as he insisted on touring with nothing but his Gibson guitar, with the expectation that he could hire a local band that knew all of his music to back him anywhere he went. As a result, his live performances were erratic, as the quality of his accompanying band varied wildly from tour location to tour location. This practice was not helped by the fact that Berry apparently never rehearsed with these bands, and often didn't even give them a set list, simply expecting them to be able to figure out from the opening chords what song he was playing and follow along.

A recording of Johnny B. Goode was included on the "golden disc" that was launched with the Voyager spacecraft in 1976, and Berry was invited by President Carter to perform at the White House in 1979. Despite his status as an icon of American music, legal troubles dogged Berry throughout his life, including a conviction to tax evasion, arrests for drug possession and child abuse, and allegations of placing a video camera in the women's bathroom in a restaurant he owned. Although Berry's last studio album was released in 1979, Berry continued to tour through 2008. Even after he stopped touring, Berry continued to perform shows near his home in Saint Louis, and was in the midst of recording a new studio album when he died in 2017.

There is a website dedicated to Chuck Berry named, appropriately enough, Chuck Berry.

Musical Monday Selections:

03/20/17: Johnny B. Goode

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