Chuck Berry

No one person can claim to be the father of Rock N’ Roll. It was an evolution of a collective of mostly American influences that clung together and somehow morphed into the Rock N’ Roll that we hear today. That said, if a single person were ever to be coined as the first Rock N’ Roll focused musician, that person would surely be Chuck Berry. His influence is all encompassing in the Rock N Roll world. If a particular kid wasn’t influenced by him directly then most likely the kid’s influences were influenced by him(does that sentence make sense?).
Chuck Berry
Chuck Berry was born and raised in Saint Louis, Missouri. He grew up in a middle class family in your typical St. Louis suburb. He picked up the guitar as a kid. Having no major musical influence inside his family he played out of a self motivated interest in the instrument. Having played his first live performance while in high school things were moving along quite well for Chuck and musical hobby until one fateful day in his senior year of high school. In 1944 Chuck’s car broke down on the side of the highway. Chuck had no way home so he flagged down a car for assistance. I’m not sure what the cause was but Chuck ended up stealing the car at gun point (I think there’s a couple details missing there). At any rate the driver called the police soon after and Chuck was arrested only minutes later. This incident put Chuck in jail for four years and would be the first of three jail terms he would serve in the next thirty years. All in all he spent about ten years in prison for relatively minor offenses.

Chuck’s music is a melding of blues and country with some of his own proclivities thrown in. The outcome is one of the purest forms of Rock N Roll you’ll find anywhere. Early in his musical career Chuck was a paid musician who would pinch hit for local bands in the Saint Loius area. Because he played with pretty much anyone who paid him he had access to poor audiences and rich audiences, black and white, country and urban, you get the idea. This interaction enabled him to play the different types of music that each audience liked and as a kind of experiment he tried mixing different styles together to see if he could reach a single broad sound that could easily be listened to by a wide audience. This musical alchemy and eager experimentation brought him into the sights of Leonard Chess of Chess Records. At first Chuck thought Leonard was interested in his more traditional blues songs but Leonard had an insider’s view on the blues market and knew that it was slowing. He focused in on Chuck’s unique hybrid country music. The first fruit of this pairing was the song Maybelline. Maybelline shot up the charts and Chuck was asked to record other songs, the hits kept on flowing and the rest is history.

As always with these older artists all you’re really going to find are greatest hits type albums and I’d strongly suggest them. Chuck Berry was an excellent song adapter and writer. Many of his songs can stand on their own as perfect examples of that raw originally rock sound from the good old days.

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