Thursday, June 6, 2013

Oct 16, 2001 - the Day I met the man who invented Rock N Roll!

 "If you were going to give Rock N Roll another name, you'd probably call it Chuck Berry"  These are the immortal words of Beatles legend John Lennon, who along with his Beatles colleagues, and rival Rolling Stones colleagues, took Chuck's amid 1950s American bluesy rock style to a whole new level in the early 1960s.

Simply put, without Chuck, there would be no 70s rock. there would be no 80s rock. there would be no 90s  rock. there would be no rock, period!

While we'll never know for sure where music would end up, we do know that traditional blues, rockabilly, folk, and country, likely never would have evolved as they did. So hence, you can say good bye to essentially much of all music made from 1965- present day, without Chuck pioneering rock music in its form.  Of Course now, there were others. Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Elvis Presley.. But they were all trying to follow Chuck's lead.

It was a dream come true when I decided to make the 12 hour drive from Toronto to St. Louis on October 16, 2001, so that I could attend Chuck's 75th Birthday Party (aka birthday concert).

I had just taken an interest in classic rock in the late 90s, when ironically, bands from the 70s started doing reunion tours. After falling in love with music from bands like the Eagles, Aerosmith, and the Rolling Stones, I traced their roots back to Chuck Berry, and immediately went on a hunt to find his greatest hits album.  Almost immediately, I was completely blown away with what i heard.  Shortly thereafter, I noticed that both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, perhaps considered the top 2 rock n roll bands of all time, had launched their career by covering Chuck's tunes!  Their hits actually opened the door for Chuck to make a comeback of sorts, with the release of new music in 1964, his first new music in almost 5 years.

When I found out that Chuck would be playing a special show to commemorate his 75th birthday, I made plans to attend. The drive was long and boring, and I arrived in St. Louis exhausted, but I freshened up in my nearby hotel and entered the venue with my general admission ticket and bolted right to the front row - standing right in front of the speakers. You can actually see me in the picture depicted here as the only person standing directly in front of the stage, in between the two amps!

Chuck went through a set of all his classic tunes from the 50s and 60s, and still sang and played fairly well, considering his age.  After the set, special commemorative posters were given to all attendees and we were all invited to stick around the club afterwards to say hi to Chuck.  I did not have a camera with me, but I got him to autograph the poster for me, which I have scanned and shared in this blog. When I spoke with Chuck, I really didn't know what to say, so I told him I had literally drive 12 hours earlier in the day to be there tonight, and he seemed shocked and appreciative.

I would go on to see Chuck perform two more times over the next few years, giving me three Chuck Berry concerts in small venues where I had excellent seats. 13 years later, approaching 88 years old, Chuck continues to live a healthy life in St. Louis and still plays concerts on a semi-regular basis, including a monthly show at home at the Blueberry Hill Duck Room concert venue.  Go see him if you can!

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