Chuck Berry, the pioneering rock 'n' roll musician, has died at the age of 90. St Charles County Police confirmed the news this afternoon
Berry was one of the first artists to catalyze rhythm and blues into rock 'n' roll music in the 1950s, drawing country and blues sounds together in his guitar licks and imbuing his performances with a radical and joyful showmanship. His lyrics, focused on pop culture and teenage hedonism with an eye on American idealism, came through on a string of hits in the 1950s, including 1956's "Roll Over Beethoven", 1957's "Rock and Roll Music," and 1958's "Johnny B. Goode," all released on Chess Records.
Born Charles Edward Anderson Berry on October 18, 1926 to a middle-class family in an African-American enclave of St Louis called "The Ville," Berry demonstrated an interest in music and photography as a child. But it wasn't until his mid-20s, after he'd spent a three-year stint in reform school for armed robbery, been released, and settled down with a wife and two children, that Berry decided to pursue music seriously. He played in a number of blues groups in St Louis, borrowing much of his style from the expressive blues musician T-Bone Walker, before joining Jonnie Johnson's trio in 1953, finding a wider audience with a combination of blues, country, and ballads.
Berry's career changed radically in 1955 when he met Muddy Waters on a trip through Chicago. It was Waters who suggested that Berry contact Leonard Chess of Chess Recordings. It was one of the songs that Berry brought to Chess, a country song that Berry called "Ida Red," a variation on an old country song, that caught Chess's ear. Recorded and renamed "Maybellene," the track went on to sell over a million records in 1955.
Berry's two s
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Photo via Wikimedia Commons.
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