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Legendary rocker CHUCK BERRY died at his home in ST. CHARLES COUNTY, MO TODAY (3/18) at the age of 90.

According to many reports, including this one in "ST. CHARLES COUNTY police responded to a medical emergency. Inside the home, first responders observed an unresponsive man and immediately administered lifesaving techniques. Unfortunately, the 90-year-old man could not be revived and was pronounced deceased at 1:26p.

"THE ST. CHARLES COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT sadly confirms the death of CHARLES EDWARD ANDERSON BERRY SR., better known as legendary musician CHUCK BERRY."

Variously dubbed “The Father Of Rock & Roll,” “The Poet Laureat of Rock” and “The Eternal Teenager,” a duck-walking, guitar-slinging cars and girls wordsmith who penned such early teenage anthems as “Maybellene,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Rock and Roll Music,” “Too Much Monkey Business,” “Brown-Eyed Handsome Man” and “Johnny B. Goode” over a period of three years from 1955-’58, BERRY was a charter member of the first class of inductees into the ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME in 1986.

The ST. LOUIS-born musician ushered rhythm and blues into the rock era with a chunky, rhythm guitar style that influenced a generation of musicians, including THE BEATLES, BEACH BOYS and the ROLLING STONES, most notably, JOHN LENNON, BRIAN WILSON and KEITH RICHARDS.  

Growing up in a middle-class family, BERRY showed an interest in music at an early age, learning the rhythm and blues chord changes from a friend, IRA HARRIS, that would become the foundation of his influential sound.  The very first time he was on-stage for an audience, while still in high school, he performed a JAY McSHANN song, “Confessin’ The Blues.” After serving a term in jail as a juvenile, he got married and worked in an automobile plant.  By 1952, influenced by the playing and showmanship of T-BONE WALKER and CHARLIE CHRISTIAN, he began performing with the JOHNNY JOHNSON TRIO, then the SIR JOHN’S TRIO, which was eventually renamed the CHUCK BERRY COMBO, regularly playing the COMOPOLITAN CLUB in ST. LOUIS.  It was there BERRY coined his twisted brand of country and R&B into a unique hillbilly hybrid that began to attract a very integrated crowd.

Along with his longtime piano player JIMMIE JOHNSON, BERRY began to attract attention with his flamboyant stage moves, which included the bended crouch and leg kick which became known as the “duck walking.”  It was something he first did as a kid, “stooping with full-bended knees, but with my back and head vertical” to retrieve a ball under a table.

Traveling to CHICAGO in MAY 1955, he was directed to CHESS RECORDS’ LEONARD CHESS by one of his idols, MUDDY WATERS, after catching him at a local club. After BERRY returned home, he recorded a song called “Maybelline,” an adaptation of BOB WILLS’ country swing tune “Ida Red” and drove back to CHESS to audition for the label, which signed him on the strength of the song. It surprised BERRY who thought CHESS would be more interested in his blues material. “Maybelline” sold over one million copies, going Top Five on the BILLBOARD pop charts and #1 on the R&B side.  

Hits like “Roll Over Beethoven” followed, as BERRY hit the road as part of the “TOP ACTS OF ‘56” tour, then the following year went out on the road with ALAN FREED’s tour, which included the EVERLY BROTHERS and BUDDY HOLLY.  His debut album, “After School Session,” came out later in ‘57. During the period of ’57-’59, BERRY had more than 12 charted singles, including the Top 10 U.S. hits “School Days,” “Rock And Roll Music,” “Sweet Little Sixteen” and “Johnny B. Goode,” appearing in two early rock movies, “Rock Rock Rock” and “Go, Johnny, Go.”  His performance of “Sweet Little Sixteen” at the 1958 NEWPORT JAZZ FESTIVAL is captured in the motion picture, “Jazz On A Summer’s Day.”

BERRY opened his own ST. LOUIS nightclub, BERRY’S CLUB BANDSTAND and acquired a great deal of real estate, but his career went downhill after his arrest in DECEMBER, 1959, under the MANN ACT after allegations he had sex with a 14-year-old waitress he transported over state lines to work at his club as a hat check girl. BERRY was eventually convicted, fined $5,000 and sentenced to five years in prison, eventually serving an 18-month term from FEBRUARY 1962 to OCTOBER 1963.

BERRY’s return to recording and performing came at the height of interest in the BRITISH Invasion, with groups like THE BEATLES and STONES covering his songs.  During this period, he had hits with “No Particular Place To Go,” “You Never Can Tell” and “Nadine,” all of which reached the Top 20 of the BILLBOARD 100.  Between 1966 and 1969, BERRY released five albums on MERCURY RECORDS, including his first live album, “Live At Fillmore Auditorium,” in which he was backed by the STEVE MILLER BAND.

BERRY continued to tour, but his penchant for hiring unrehearsed local backing bands and insisting on being paid in cash earned him a reputation as “difficult.” BERRY returned to the CHESS label in 1970, with a live recording of a novelty song named “My Ding-A-Ling” became his only #1 single. It was a silly song which he had recorded in a different version, as “My Tambourine” on a previous album.  The follow-up, a live “Reelin’ And Rockin’,” proved BERRY’s last Top 40 hit in the U.S. and U.K., with both featured as part of the album, “The LONDON CHUCK BERRY Sessions.” BERRY recorded “Rock It” for ATCO in 1979, which was, to date, his last studio album release.  In 1979, BERRY pleased guilty of tax evastion and was sentenced to four months and prison and 1,000 hours of community service in the form of benefit concerts.

In 1986, the TAYLOR HACKFORD-directed documentary, “Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll,” celebrated BERRY’s 60th birthday with a gala concert organized by KEITH RICHARDS, which included a memorable fight between the two, and featured ERIC CLAPTON, ETTA JAMES, JULIAN LENNON, ROBERT CRAY and LINDA RONSTADT, among others.

BERRY attracted trouble again in 1990 when 59 women sued him, claiming he installed a video camera in the ladies bathroom of his WENTZVILLE, MO, restaurant, The Southern Air, in which he agreed to a class action settlement and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge that arose when police came to search his home for the videos.  In NOVEMBER 2000, he was sued by JOHNNIE JOHNSON over authorship of many of his hits, a suit dismissed by the judge because too much time had elapsed.

BERRY’s honors include a GRAMMY LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD (1984), KENNEDY CENTER HONORS (2000) and the POLAR MUSIC PRIZE (2014).  A snippet of “Johnny B. Goode” was chosen to be played in the VOYAGER 1 spacecraft and was ranked first by ROLLING STONE in its list of “100 Greatest Guitar Songs Of All Time.”

Noted Dean Of AMERICAN ROCK CRITICS ROBERT CHRISTGAU called BERRY “the greatest of the rock and rollers,” the first to combine country swing, blues and soul into a rhythmic paean to the pursuits of teenage life – cars, girls and sex – for an integrated audience.

Admin Mar 18 · Tags: chuck berry, death