Chuck Berry — an extraordinary guitarist
Any thorough discussion of rock and roll has to pay significant attention to the contributions of Chuck Berry. An extraordinary guitarist, Berry is credited, by many, as being one of the fathers of rock and roll, despite the fact that acts like Elvis Presley and The Beatles were the ones who popularized the style in the 1950s and 1960s. Among the first inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Berry’s name is utterly synonymous with rock and roll, even today.
Chuck Berry was born Charles Edward Anderson Berry in 1926 in St. Louis, MO. Born into a middle class black family, which was rare at the time, Berry grew up learning music and in his teens dabbled in the blues. His first real gig was playing with a band called Sir John’s Trio in St. Louis. In the mid 1950s, Berry relocated to Chicago, where on the advice of fellow great Muddy Waters, he began cutting records for Chess. Playing traditional tunes with an innovative, driving beat which became his trademark, and by 1956, Berry had two hits on the Billboard charts - «Maybelline» and «Roll Over Beethoven.»
Rock and roll was being born at the time, and Berry was its father.
More than a decade later, Berry became synonymous with rock and roll. John Lennon famously said that his name could be an actual synonym for the genre. As his fame grew, so did his reputation, and the reputation of his music. Famously, Berry would tour with only his trusty Gibson guitar, assuming that any musicians in any town he would play in would know the songs he would perform by heart, because they were so famous. Most of the time, this was absolutely true. But despite his undeniable gift and ability, Berry was also a controversial figure, and he spent years in jail on many charges, including a prostitution charge under the Mann act, and several counts of income tax evasion.
Despite this, Berry remains a very influential figure, and was instrumental in the development of some of the most famous acts to ever play on earth, including The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Keith Richards said that he stole every guitar lick that Berry ever invented. In fact, many rock and rollers, even to this day, credit Berry with helping develop both their styles and the style of rock and roll music proper. To think that some believe that Elvis and The Beatles invented rock and roll is almost laughable, and was even to these find groups.
Berry’s career is long and distinguished. Among his many hits are bona fide legendary rock songs like «Johnny B. Goode», «Roll Over Beethoven», «Too Much Monkey Business» (famously covered by The Beatles), and «My Ding-A-Ling», his only number one hit that was inspired by a silly song from New Orleans. If you’re interested in playing some old standards, Chuck Berry guitar licks are easily learned by consulting the ’net and downloading some Chuck Berry tablature.