Chuck Berry

October 18, 1926 - March 18, 2017
  • 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 documentary Hail! Hail! Rock n Roll is about Berry's life. Keith Richards was a producer on the film and assembled the musicians. It did not go as planned: After extensive rehearsals without Berry present, he completely changed the arrangements when they began filming. Berry's capricious nature is evident in the film, but he approved of it.
  • 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 Escalanti across state lines when he brought her up from Mexico to work in a St. Louis club he owned. After a few weeks, their relationship soured, and Berry brought her to a bus station, giving her money for a ticket home. Instead of going home, she went to the police, who arrested Berry.

    Berry's side of the story was that he fired the girl and she was retaliating against him. He claimed, rather dubiously and against Escalanti's account, that they never had sex. Berry was found guilty and spent about 20 months in jail, getting out in1963.
  • 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 in 1948 when he was 21. They remained married until Berry's death, although he was blatantly unfaithful.
  • 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.
  • In 1996, he started playing monthly gigs at the Blueberry Hill club in St. Louis. He did 209 shows, his last on October 15, 2014.
Please sign in or register to post comments.

Comments: 5

  • Jose from Guanacaste, South Americahe is one of the greatest artist ever
  • Coda from The Lou, MoI always heard he was from Wentzville
  • Camo from Abbey Road, Richuck berry rocks.
  • Erhard from Herrenberg, Germany
    It does not matter where Chuck Berry was born. What I know is: "Roll over Beethoven" is one of the greatest songs in rock and pop history. And I say this as a fan of classical music with Mozart, Bach and Beethoven on the very top.
  • Mike from Berkeley, CaChuck Berry claims to have been born in St. Louis, but Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones claims he knows "for a fact" that Chuck was born in San Jose CA. One wonders about this conflicting info. :-)
see more comments

Millie JacksonSongwriter Interviews

Outrageously gifted and just plain outrageous, Millie is an R&B and Rap innovator.

Amanda PalmerSongwriter Interviews

Call us crazy, but we like it when an artist comes around who doesn't mesh with the status quo.

Gentle GiantSongwriter Interviews

If counterpoint and polyrhythms are your thing, you might love these guys. Even by Progressive Rock standards, they were one of the most intricate bands of the '70s. Then their lead singer gave us Bon Jovi.

Richard MarxSongwriter Interviews

Richard explains how Joe Walsh kickstarted his career, and why he chose Hazard, Nebraska for a hit.

Amy GrantSongwriter Interviews

The top Contemporary Christian artist of all time on song inspirations and what she learned from Johnny Carson.

Song Titles That Inspired MoviesSong Writing

Famous songs that lent their titles - and in some cases storylines - to movies.