Remembering Chuck Berry

I only saw Chuck Berry perform live once.

It was in 2002, at the Levitt Pavilion’s annual fundraiser.

He was on a double bill with Little Richard.

Neither was very good. Both were well past their sell-by dates.

Chuck Berry — who died yesterday at 90 — was already 75.

Yet looking back, it’s very impressive that he was still performing — and still doing a (modified) version of his famed “duck walk.”

And how cool that I — and the rest of Westport — could see one of the true legends (and founders) of rock ‘n’ roll, right in our back yard.

That’s my only live memory of Chuck Berry.

But this is “06880,” where “Westport meets the world.” Our town is probably filled with people who played or recorded with, went into business with, or otherwise knew Chuck Berry well. (Weston too: I’m thinking of you, Keith Richards.)

Click “Comments” below, to share your memories.

PS: Roll over, Beethoven! And tell Tchaikovsky the news.

13 responses to “Remembering Chuck Berry

  1. Rozanne Gates

    From the first time I heard Chuck Berry, back in the 50’s, I was in love. I still am. He will live forever.

  2. William G. Armstrong Jr.

    I grew up in Cleveland, where Rock’n’Roll is enshrined, and will always remember the day in 1964 when I saw the great Chuck Berry perform live at the old Cleveland Public Hall for a Danny Thomas leukemia benefit. He will forever be on our playlists..

  3. Susan Hopkins

    Although Little Richard self-styles himself, “The architect of rock ‘n roll”, one might arguably place to Chuck Berry in the same category. Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Fats Domino, B.B. King, et al. Most of the greats are gone now, but oh how they “lighten the load” and live on via their music.

    “Nadine …. honey, is that you?!”

    R.I.P. Chuck Berry.

    Thank you.

  4. Robert Mitchell

    It was really a thrill to see Chuck Berry and Little Richard in 2002 – even if they were past their prime. The concert was held indoors, at Staples Field House, because of rain; we were not allowed to bring in our picnics; it was very hot; and still it was wonderful! And fun to hear them bitch at each other for taking up too much of the allotted time.

  5. Chuck Berry blew Little Richard away that night and HE WAS NOT PAST HIS PRIME — or if he was, he was still great. I understood why the STONES and other musicians said they learned so much from him. I thought it was incredible that after so many years he still gave us all his talent and energy and didin’t phone it in.


    Chuck Berry recorded “Maybellene” on May 21, 1955. I was finally a teen-ager and looking for something to identify with, something new, different from the current culture. There were earlier rock ‘n roll songs, but “Maybellene” blasted into the room like no other song had before with a guitar sound Chuck Berry invented, that went on to inspire generations of guitarists including Keith Richards and Eric Clapton, who still emulate the Berry riffs. I fell in love with his style of writing songs: singing the lyric and following with a riff that put the words into a melody. He wrote songs that related to my life:

    Up in the mornin’ and out to school
    The teacher is teachin’ the Golden Rule
    American history and practical math
    You study’ em hard and hopin’ to pass
    Workin’ your fingers right down to the bone
    And the guy behind you won’t leave you alone

    Soon as three o’clock rolls around
    You finally lay your burden down
    Close up your books, get out of your seat

    Down the halls and into the street
    Up to the corner and ’round the bend
    Right to the juke joint you go in

    Hail, hail rock’n’roll
    Deliver me from the days of old
    Long live rock’n’roll
    The beat of the drum is loud and bold
    Rock rock rock’n’roll
    The feelin’ is there body and soul

    Thank you, Chuck Berry, for delivering me from the days of old and giving me the feeling in body and soul. Thanks for helping to make sure that rock ‘n roll will not just live long, but forever.

  7. Jeffrey Schon

    I was there, and remember thinking I’ve never heard anyone play an electric guitar so well, especially given he was playing in a fieldhouse on account of inclement weather. And I’d seen Jimi Hendrix perform. Go, go… Chuck.

  8. keef lives in Weston ? tell him i say hi !
    played two gigs with Chuck on upright bass. 5.3.71 at the Hollywood Palladium, and New Years eve 1986 at the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles. Chuck didn’t rehearse; his pianist ran through the seven or eight
    numbers with me and the drummer (Shakey Walls at the Palladium, Jim
    Keltner at the Pantages). of course we knew the tunes , having heard
    them on the radio for years already. Chuck thought it looked good to have white boys playing in his rhythm section. his son told me that Chuck never could hold on to any of that big money he made from his hit records, and that’s why he had to work well into his eighties. i played that upright bass
    (blonde 1953 Kay plywood) with a lot of rockers (Bob Seger, Elvis Costello, the real Elvis, Little Richard, Rod Stewart, Mike Bloomfield, and Jerry Lee Lewis come to mind) but i never rocked it as hard as on those two gigs with Mr. Berry ! Thanks and RIP Chuck !

  9. Adam Schwartz '75

    I saw Chuck Berry in Las Vegas with The Four Seasons (Actually, Franki Valli and a couple of young musicians who probably weren’t born until well after the Four Seasons recorded their last album) back in the late 80’s. I thought he was amazing! But what really impressed me about Chuck Berry is that supposedly he toured by himself. His backup bands were always local musicians assembled somehow ahead of time and sometimes with little or no notice. I read a story where the writer said Chuck almost always never met the musicians he played with until he walked on stage. Not sure how true this is but if it is, I’m impressed!

    • Chuck travelled with the same piano player, Johnny Johnson, for over thirty
      years; and his son joined him on rhythm guitar for the last eleven years of
      his long touring career.

  10. I came back to this posting, because for 2 weeks I’ve been marveling at the sheer idiosyncratic brilliance and poignancy of “You Never Can Tell.”

    Sure, I love the semi-religious journey of “School Days.”

    But I also love the specificity, the quirky terminology and the sense of generations and community of “You Never Can Tell.” It’s one of those things where the particular expands to the universal, as we go with these newly-married Cajun teens through their getting an apartment, going shopping, ineptly stocking the “Coolerator,” getting a job, having fun and in general, living and learning and finding what life’s all about.

    And, sweetest of all, when they finally get a car, what do they do?

    “Drove it down to Orleans to celebrate their anniversary.”

    And all this watched over by the surprised, bemused, but always supportive, well-wishing, “old folks.”

    I’ve seen some wonderful acts: Janis Joplin wailing away to a mind-blown crowd at the Avalon Ballroom (we’d come to see “Big Brother and the Holding Company”; hadn’t expected THIS), The Coasters hilariously acting out their songs at the Whiskey-a-go-go, and Ike and Tina Turner rocking out at the Peppermint Lounge on Ventura Blvd. in the SF Valley (before we got kicked out for being 17). But I do sorely MISS seeing Chuck Berry.


    It was a teenage wedding, and the old folks wished them well
    You could see that Pierre did truly love the mademoiselle
    And now the young monsieur and madame have rung the chapel bell,
    “C’est la vie”, say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell

    They furnished off an apartment with a two room Roebuck sale
    The Coolerator was crammed with TV dinners and ginger ale,
    But when Pierre found work, the little money comin’ worked out well
    “C’est la vie”, say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell

    They had a hi-fi phono, boy, did they let it blast
    Seven hundred little records, all rock, rhythm and jazz
    But when the sun went down, the rapid tempo of the music fell
    “C’est la vie”, say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell

    They bought a souped-up jitney, ’twas a cherry red ’53,
    They drove it down to Orleans to celebrate the anniversary
    It was there that Pierre was married to the lovely mademoiselle
    “C’est la vie”, say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell

    Written by Chuck Berry • Copyright © BMG Rights Management US, LLC