Chuck Berry: 1926-2017
R.I.P. to one of my all-time idols and the man who helped write the book on rock and roll guitar playing. As a kid, I was introduced to the "oldies but goodies" and Chuck Berry quickly became one of my favorites. In addition to hearing him on oldies stations like WHND AM 56 (aka "Honey Radio"), I also recall seeing Chuck on such programs as "Sha Na Na" and in the 1978 movie "American Hot Wax". One of my earliest music purchases was the cassette version of Chuck's compilation "The Great Twenty Eight", which I later purchased on CD when I upgraded. Although I sold the CD a couple of years ago when I downsized my collection, one purchase I won't part with is the 3-CD set "Chuck Berry- The Chess Box".
As a radio DJ, I have some unwritten rules for myself and one of them is to never talk over a Chuck Berry intro. I tried explaining that to a lady friend recently and I told her a Chuck Berry guitar intro sets the table for what's to come. The guitar intros elevated such tunes as "Sweet Little Sixteen", "Roll Over Beethoven", "You Never Can Tell" and of course "Johnny B. Goode" from great to a whole new level!
In addition to his guitar work, Chuck was also a master showman. I know I'm not alone in trying to imitate the "duck walk" while also air guitar playing to a Chuck Berry classic.
One aspect of Chuck's artistry that sometimes got overlooked was his songwriting prowess. His vivid storytelling allowed me to play his songs in my head like 2 1/2 minute movies. Just imagine if the modern music video format was around during Chuck's prime. As Bruce Springsteen stated in the superb 1987 concert doc "Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll", I have never seen a "coffee-colored Cadillac", but I know what one looks like! If there is a Rock and Roll Heaven, that "helluva band" is now off the charts! This Saturday (3/25) on The Retro Mix, I am paying tribute to Chuck Berry. In addition to plenty of music from Chuck, I am playing other solid gold oldies from the 50s and 60s.
Below is one of the highlights from my all-time favorite concert movie, "The T.A.M.I. Show". If interested, you can find the complete film here. One of the dancers later became a star in her own right. The tall blonde wearing the sweater and Roman sandals is a young Teri Garr!