Chuck Berry

Carl Hogan

Carl Hogan

Chuck with the Gibson ES-350

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Gibson ES 335

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Gibson ES 350

Gretsch G6120
Gretsch G6120

Fender TweedFender Dualshowman
Chuck using most of all the Fender Tweed and Fender Dualshowman as amplifiers


Charles Edward Anderson Berry was born in St. Louis, Missouri on 18 october 1926.
About his exact birth date there quite some confusion, but most sources keep on October 18, 1926.

Chuck Berry, known as the "father of rock and roll," has been a major influence on popular music. Even though his career and life reached great peaks and declined to low valleys, he still prevails in music while his contemporaries have vanished. "If there were a single fountainhead for rock guitar, Chuck Berry would be it," wrote Gene Santoro in The Guitar.

Indeed, the list of artists influenced by the "father of rock and roll" is nearly endless. From the Beach Boys and the Beatles to Jimi Hendrix and on to Van Halen and Stevie Ray Vaughan, every popular musician knows the impact that Chuck Berry has had on popular music. As Eric Clapton stated, there's really no other way to play rock and roll.

Berry self was inspired by guitar players as Muddy Waters, Charlie Christian, Elmore James (king of the slide guitar), Carl Hogan and Chester Arthur Burnett (Howlin' Wolf).

Chuck Berry was a stylistic innovator in his head from the very beginning, a man who worshipped Nat King Cole and Muddy Waters with equal fervor.

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.

It was in 1953 that Chuck Berry joined the Sir John's Trio (eventually renamed 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.

Chuck's famous duck walk

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.

Chuck's favorite guitar is a Gibson ES335 but also he loves the Gibson ES350 and Gretsch G6120.

Chuck Berry has learned a generation of musicians that the basis of good rock 'n' roll is formed by a trio or quartet, with as main instrument, the electric guitar.

"If you tried to give rock 'n' roll another name, you might call it 'Chuck Berry'", were the words of John Lennon.
This one liner is maybe the best summary of the phenomenon and sound of Chuck Berry.

On March 18, 2017 Chuck Berry died in Wentzville, Missouri on the age of 90 years.