Martin Cooper pays tribute to the fa­ther of rock and roll gui­tar and the man who gave rhythm and blues a whole new lease of life.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

Martin Cooper re­mem­bers a gen­uine leg­end of rock and roll, the in­no­va­tor Chuck Berry.

On March 18 2017 we lost one of the most im­por­tant fig­ures in rock mu­sic from the past 100 years. Charles Ed­ward An­der­son, ‘Chuck’ Berry, died aged 90, hav­ing re­de­fined rhythm and blues to cre­ate rock and roll, and in the process in­formed what would be­come rock mu­sic. Brought to you by…

Chuck Berry took ba­sic 12-bar rhythm and blues and added gui­tar so­los, crowd-pleas­ing show­man­ship and lyrics that iden­ti­fied with the youth of the day. His play­ing and writ­ing went on to in­spire count­less rock bands, in­clud­ing AC/DC, Sta­tus Quo, The Rolling Stones and Beatles. He has been in­cluded in sev­eral Rolling Stone mag­a­zine great­est polls, such as fea­tur­ing at num­ber 6 in their 100 Great­est Gui­tarists Of All Time list. He also won a Grammy Life­time Achieve­ment Award and was hon­oured by the Kennedy Cen­ter in 2000. John Lennon once said: “If you tried to give rock and roll an­other name, you might call it Chuck Berry.”

Berry was in­ter­ested in mu­sic from a young age and af­ter a spell in youth prison for armed rob­bery he formed a singing quar­tet and was al­lowed to per­form out­side of the de­ten­tion cen­tre on oc­ca­sion. He was re­leased on his 21st birth­day in 1947, and by the 1950s Berry was play­ing in blues clubs, gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity for his mix of coun­try and R&B.

Chuck was signed to Chess Records in 1955 and al­though the pop­u­lar­ity of rhythm and blues had been on the wane, when he re­leased May­bel­lene it went on to sell over a mil­lion copies. More suc­cess fol­lowed with Roll Over Beethoven (also cov­ered by The Beatles), and a tour along­side The Everly Broth­ers and Buddy Holly in 1957. He also had act­ing and singing roles in two movies and, of course, even though he didn’t ap­pear in Back To The Fu­ture, he re­ceived homage from Michael J Fox’s character, Marty McFly. He was one of the main fig­ure­heads of pop­u­lar Amer­i­can youth cul­ture, con­tin­ued to tour into old age and re­leased his fi­nal al­bum ear­lier this year.

Our track is rock and roll, as Chuck Berry pretty much in­vented it. It’s in the key of E but built around E Mi­nor Pen­ta­tonic (E-G-A-B-D) as far as lead phras­ing goes. It’s quick but not too dif­fi­cult to play; just pay at­ten­tion to the the tim­ing and pace of the rhythm gui­tar and play with a loose but ac­cu­rate feel (great as they are, we don’t want to sound like Sta­tus Quo). Check out Play­ing Tips for more de­tails and Hail! Hail! Rock And Roll!


Chuck Berry: helped to de­fine rock and roll

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