Chuck Berry

The son of a Baptist church deacon, Chuck Berry seemed to have two natural gifts from a young age - music and getting into trouble. While still at school he was convicted of armed robbery and was sent to a reformatory where he started his first vocal group. Upon his release he sang blues and country songs in various St. Louis clubs and developed his famous showmanship, a distinctive guitar style originally learned from T-Bone Walker and, unusually for the time, it appealed to both black and white audiences. In 1955 Berry was signed by Chess Records and recorded his first hit 'Maybelline', an adaptation of an old country song, 'Ida Red'. The following year he recorded the iconic rock & roll anthem 'Roll Over Beethoven', becoming a major influence on Elvis Presley, The Beatles and many others with further hits like 'Rock and Roll Music', 'Sweet Little Sixteen' and 'Johnny B. Goode'. Berry spent the early part of the 1960s in prison after he was convicted for having sexual relations with an underage girl, but he returned in 1964 with another series of smash hits, including 'No Particular Place to Go', 'You Never Can Tell' and 'Nadine', and topped the charts in '72 with a live recording of the novelty song 'My Ding-a-Ling', his only number one single. Although his popularity wavered after his stint in prison, he continued to write and record. He performed 'Chuck Berry in Concert', a live show from BBC's Shepherds Bush Theatre in London in 1972, with, at different times, Steve Miller and Bruce Springsteen acting as his bandleader - Berry was notoriously rude to his band and often reportedly refused to even acknowledge their existence. Berry continued to tour into the '80s but after a series of allegations relating to child abuse and drug possession were made, his reputation once again took a hit. In 2000 his former pianist Johnnie Johnson sued Berry for rights claiming that he had co-written several of his hits including 'Roll Over Beethoven' and 'No Particular Place to Go'. As several decades had past however, the judge made no ruling either way, stating there was no way to be sure. He announced that his final album, titled simply 'Chuck', would be released in celebration of his 90th birthday in 2016. In March 2017 he was found dead at his home in Missouri of an apparent heart attack.

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