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.
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!
IF YOU TRIED TO GIVE ROCK AND ROLL ANOTHER NAME, YOU MIGHT CALL IT CHUCK BERRY John Lennon
Chuck Berry: helped to define rock and roll