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October 18, 1926 - March 18, 2017
Artistfacts for Chuck Berry
Berry was a rock and roll legend; part of the first Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class and a hero to Keith Richards, among others. He had a reputation for being prickly, but by some accounts was quite personable. Years of getting burned by promoters and journalists left him untrusting.
The 1987 movie Hail! Hail! Rock n Roll is about Berry's life.
He joined The Sir John Trio in 1953. The piano player, Johnnie Johnson would continue working with Berry and collaborate on many of his hits. Years later, Johnson sued Berry because he was never credited on any of the songs he helped write, and never received royalties from them. Johnson claimed he did not understand his legal rights at the time, but in 2002, the judge ruled that too much time passed between the writing of the songs and the lawsuit, and ruled in Berry's favor.
He got a degree in cosmetology from the Gibbs Beauty School.
He spent time in a reformatory from ages 18-20 after a carjacking incident. In 1959, he got in trouble with the law again for transporting a 14-year-old girl named Janice Norine across state lines when he brought her up from Mexico to work in a club he owned. What's often overlooked in this story is the racism that may have played a role in his conviction - Berry's side of the story was that he fired the girl and she was retaliating against him. At one point the judge in the case referred to Berry as "this negro." He ended up in jail on these charges until 1963.
Berry was very mathematical, and came up with his own way of notating music using numbers instead of letters.
After going to prison and studying accounting, Berry became very concerned about the business side of his performances - he wouldn't take the stage until he was paid in full, in cash. Another one of his rules: the opening act could not mention his name.
He married his girlfriend Themetta when he was 21, and they remained together ever since.
The now-defunct Spy magazine ran a scathing report on Berry regarding a 1990 lawsuit involving a group of women who claimed that Berry used hidden cameras to record them in the bathroom of his restaurant. Berry denied the charges but settled the case out of court.
Most bands work hard to sell merch at their shows: T-shirts, CDs, etc. Berry never did this, even though it would have made him a lot of money.