St. Louis' own King of Rock, Chuck Berry

One could get into a long and heated debate about who is really the father of Rock and Roll. There's a lot to unpack there: who was more influential or popular, whose records came first, or whose hips gyrate with the most vigor. Maybe the father of Rock never recorded a record at all and no one knew his name. Maybe the evolution was a natural process that spontaneously came forth with wiley hopped up guitar players jumping and splitting and duck-walking everywhere. What is certain is that many amazing artists took this seed of cultural change and ran with it, including St. Louis’ own Chuck Berry. 

While Chuck Berry is not without controversy, as with many great stars, he is no doubt one of the biggest influences of Rock and Roll. He is among the greatest guitar players and greatest songwriters in the genre.The impressionable youth of the British Invasion credited Berry with their indoctrination. John Lennon stated, “If you had to give Rock and Roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry.” In a statement provided by his rep. Mick Jagger said “I want to thank him for all the inspirational music he gave to us. He lit up our teenage years, and blew life into our dreams of being musicians and performers. His lyrics shone above others and threw a strange light on the American dream. Chuck, you were amazing, and your music is engraved inside us forever.” 

In 1955 Rock and Roll experienced its turn to break on through the other side. The momentum had been building up and Berry’s “Maybellene” was among the chart toppers that included all the things teens were craving at the time. His musical career was full of successes and unique to him. He was the first to be inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He recorded twenty albums, and among them were two platinum singles, one golden single, and one golden album. He performed at the White House, won a Grammy and an American Masters Music Award.  His song “Johnny B.Goode” has been sent into space on the Voyager’s Golden Record as the only Rock and Roll song on board. 

Chuck Berry was born and died in St. Louis. He played at Blueberry Hill’s Duck Room (named for Berry’s own famous duckwalk moves),  well into his 80's, consecutively for 209 months. Sometimes he had two of his children perform with him, Charles Berry Jr and Ingrid Berry-Clay. He recorded his final album, Chuck, just before his death. It was dedicated to his wife Thelmetta "Toddy" Berry of 69 years. He passed in 2017 from natural causes. If you happened to miss him all those years at Blueberry Hill, you can still visit his bronze statue and see his memorabilia there. 

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