Charles Edward Anderson Berry was born in St. Louis on October 18, 1926.  In the early 1950's, Berry led a popular blues trio by night and worked as a beautician by day.  He befriended Muddy Waters, who thought highly enough of Berry's ability to introduce him to Leonard Chess, head of Chicago-based Chess Records.

It was not his bluesy numbers that convinced Chess to sign Berry, but a song on his audition tape called "Ida Red," an uptempo number that Berry later reworked into "Maybellene."  Released on August 20, 1955, "Maybellene" went to Number 5 in Billboard and established Berry as a rarity: a black artist who successfully crossed over to the largely white pop charts.

Chuck Berry has as much claim to the title "Father of Rock and Roll" as does any other human.  His recording of "Maybellene" combined elements of both country music and rhythm and blues to create something that neither of them alone could claim to be.  Any list of classic early rock recordings is going to include such Berry standards as "Roll Over Beethoven," "Sweet Little Sixteen," "School Days," and "Johnny B. Goode."

Truly a living legend, now past age 70, Chuck Berry is still in demand as an "in person" performer.  You can keep track of his touring schedule at the Pollstar web site.

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This page created and maintained by Jim Lowe
First appearance: September 25, 1997
Last updated: September 25, 1997

© 1997 by James R. Lowe, who reserves all rights to the content of this page not successfully claimed by others.