Charles Edward Anderson "Chuck" Berry (October 18, 1926 – March 18, 2017) was an American guitarist, singer and songwriter and one of the pioneers of rock and roll music. With songs such as "Maybellene" (1955), "Roll Over Beethoven" (1956), "Rock and Roll Music" (1957) and "Johnny B. Goode" (1958), Berry refined and developed rhythm and blues into the major elements that made rock and roll distinctive. Writing lyrics that focused on teen life and consumerism, and developing a music style that included guitar solos and showmanship, Berry was a major influence on subsequent rock music.
Born into a middle-class African-American family in St. Louis, Missouri, Berry had an interest in music from an early age and gave his first public performance at Sumner High School. While still a high school student he was convicted of armed robbery and was sent to a reformatory, where he was held from 1944 to 1947. After his release, Berry settled into married life and worked at an automobile assembly plant. By early 1953, influenced by the guitar riffs and showmanship techniques of the blues musician T-Bone Walker, Berry began performing with the Johnnie Johnson Trio. His break came when he travelled to Chicago in May 1955 and met Muddy Waters, who suggested he contact Leonard Chess, of Chess Records. With Chess he recorded "Maybellene"—Berry's adaptation of the country song "Ida Red"—which sold over a million copies, reaching number one on Billboard magazine's rhythm and blues chart. By the end of the 1950s, Berry was an established star with several hit records and film appearances and a lucrative touring career. He had also established his own St. Louis nightclub, Berry's Club Bandstand. But in January 1962, he was sentenced to three years in prison for offences under the Mann Act—he had transported a 14-year-old girl across state lines.
After his release in 1963 after serving 20 months of the three years, Berry had more hits in the mid-1960s, including "No Particular Place to Go", "You Never Can Tell", and "Nadine". By the mid-1970s, he was more in demand as a live performer, playing his past hits with local backup bands of variable quality. In 1979 he served 120 days in prison for tax evasion. Berry was among the first musicians to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on its opening in 1986; he was cited for having "laid the groundwork for not only a rock and roll sound but a rock and roll stance." Berry is included in several of Rolling Stone magazine's "greatest of all time" lists; he was ranked fifth on its 2004 list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll includes three of Berry's: "Johnny B. Goode", "Maybellene", and "Rock and Roll Music". Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" is the only rock-and-roll song included on the Voyager Golden Record.... (Read more)
Links to Peel
In the late 1960s Chuck Berry received numerous write-ups in magazines such as Rolling Stone, portraying him as an inspirational figure for the Beatles and many of their contemporaries, as well as a "poet" of rock'n'roll. However, Peel paid little attention to the singer's recordings at that time, although he played some cover versions of Berry songs, notably by the Rolling Stones.
Given that great swathes of Peel's writings mentioned another rock icon, Elvis Presley, it seems a little odd that in his two books of writings Berry is mentioned only twice. In Margrave Of The Marshes , he refers to the disastrous second Buxton Festival (1969), where Peel was compere and Berry was booked to appear but didn't, resulting in widespread mud-slinging. In the same year, the re-formed Misunderstood supported Berry at the Albert Hall Pop Proms on 4 July, although it is not known whether Peel attended.
In Olivetti Chronicles , he claims that Chuck performs his hits live "in a perfunctory manner with a nervous pick-up band". (This was not an uncommon critical reaction to Berry's later performances, with some observers commenting that the singer's main concern was to ensure that he was paid for the gig.) Yet the man was never far from his playlists (particularly in 1972,chiming with the current vogue for rock 'n' roll revival), as can be seen below, and he praised the Electric Light Orchestra's cover of Roll Over Beethoven despite being annoyed at the number of covers that his work attracted. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, Peel ignored Berry's biggest UK chart hit, the double entendre novelty song My Ding-a-Ling (recorded live in Coventry in 1972, with the audience joining in on the sing-along chorus) which few would count among the singer's best work. However, an earlier UK chart entry, No Particular Place To Go made the Peelenium for 1964, and he seemed to share with Andy Kershaw an admiration for Promised Land.
Festive Fifty Entries
- Peelenium 1964: 'No Particular Place To Go'
Other Shows Played
- 30 July 1967: 'Back To Memphis (7")'
- 03 March 1972: 'Around & Around (LP-unknown)'
- 10 March 1972: 'Memphis (LP-unknown)' 
- 24 March 1972: 'Thirty Days (To Come Back Home) (LP-unknown)' (Chess)
- 31 March 1972: 'Rock And Roll Music (7")' (Chess)
- 04 April 1972: 'Promised Land (7") (Pye)
- 07 July 1972: 'Reelin' And Rockin' (2xLP–Chuck Berry's Golden Decade)' (Chess)
- 21 July 1972: 'It Wasn't Me (LP-)'
- 21 July 1972: 'Oh Baby Doll (LP-)'
- 21 July 1972: 'My Mustang Ford (LP-)'
- 21 July 1972: 'No Particular Place To Go (LP-)'
- 21 July 1972: 'Anthony Boy (LP-)'
- Radio Luxembourg Tracklistings 2: 'Reelin’ And Rockin' (LP-The London Chuck Berry Sessions)' (Chess)
- Radio Luxembourg Tracklistings 4: 'Mad Lad (LP)' (Marble Arch)
- Radio Luxembourg Tracklistings 6: 'Let’s Boogie (LP-The London Chuck Berry Sessions)' (Chess)
- 10 June 1980: 'Oh Baby Doll'
- 10 June 1980: 'Guitar Boogie'
- 17 July 1982: 'No Particular Place To Go'
- 16 April 1984: 'Thirty Days (To Come Back Home)'
- 25 December 1987: Run Rudolph Run
- 12 October 1991: 'Oh Baby Doll (LP-One Dozen Berries)' (Chess)
- 02 October 1992: 'Maybellene'
- 10 March 1995: 'Blue Feeling (LP-One Dozen Berrys)' (Chess) (JP: 'My reasons for playing that are so feeble as to be barely credible.')
- 18 March 1995 (BFBS): 'Blue Feeling (LP-One Dozen Berrys)' (Chess)
- 27 January 1999: 'Promised Land (LP-Chuck Berry's Golden Decade Vol. 2)' (Chess)
- 27 October 1999: 'No Particular Place To Go (7")' (Chess) Peelenium 1964
- 14 December 1999: 'Run Rudolph Run (7")' (Chess)
- 21 December 2000: 'Run Rudolph Run (7")' (Chess)
- 08 August 2002: '30 Days (LP-Greatest Hits)' (Chess)
- 23 April 2003: 'Oh Baby Doll (LP-One Dozen Berries)' (London)
- 22 July 2003: 'Promised Land (LP-Greatest Hits)' (Chess)
(The list below was compiled only from the Cover Versions page of this site. Please add more information if known.)
Artist | Song | First Known Play
- Beatles: Roll Over Beethoven 20 August 1976
- Cannibals: Nadine 09 January 1979
- Kevin Dunn: Nadine 25 September 1979
- Guana Batz: No Particular Place To Go (session) 02 May 1984
- Jimi Hendrix: Johnny B Goode 11 February 1972
- John Lennon: Sweet Little Sixteen 20 March 1975
- Love Sculpture: Promised Land (session) 06 October 1968
- Lonnie Mack: Memphis 24 November 1968
- Pink Fairies: Johnny B Good 16 November 1971
- Rolling Stones: Around & Around 03 March 1972
- Rolling Stones: Carol (Perfumed Garden (July/August)) (exact date unknown)
- Rolling Stones: Come On 18 March 2004
- Rolling Stones: Confessin' The Blues 12 March 1980
- Rolling Stones: Little Queenie 29 September 1972
- Rolling Stones: Route 66 03 August 1978
- Rolling Stones: You Can't Catch Me 26 February 1980
- Silicon Teens: Memphis, Tennessee 31 July 1979
- Teengenerate: Baby Doll 02 July 1994 (BBC World Service)