Six facts to know about rock ‘n’ roll trailblazer Chuck Berry

Rock ‘n’ roll would sound very different without Chuck Berry’s immense contribution. But before music, Berry worked as a carpenter, a freelance photographer, auto plant janitor and hairdresser.

world Updated: Mar 19, 2017 20:36 IST
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Paul Brown of Creve Coeur and his daughter Lacey Brown, 10, visit the statue of music legend Chuck Berry on the Delmar Loop, on Saturday, in University City, Mo. (AP)

Chuck Berry, who duck-walked his way into the pantheon of rock ‘n’ roll pioneers as one of its most influential guitarists and lyricists, creating raucous anthems that defined the genre’s sound and heartbeat, died on Saturday at his Missouri home. He was 90.

Here are six facts about Berry:

1) Before music, Berry worked as a carpenter, a freelance photographer, auto plant janitor and hairdresser.

Rock and roll legend Chuck Berry performing at a concert held in Santa Cruz de Tenerife on March 28, 2008. (AFP File)

2) Despite writing several rock ‘n’ roll classics, Berry’s only No. 1 song was 1972’s “My Ding-a-Ling,” a live recording of a novelty song he had written years earlier. Many radio stations refused to play it because of its bawdy nature.

3) Berry’s trouble with the law started early. A teenage Berry ended up in reform school for armed robbery.

Bruce Springsteen and Chuck Berry perform "Johnny B. Good" to open The Concert for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on September 2, 1995 at Cleveland Stadium. (REUTERS FILE)

He went to prison in 1962 for violating the Mann Act (transporting a minor across state lines for immoral purposes) after a teenage girl, who he met in Texas and hired to work in his St. Louis nightclub, was arrested for prostitution.

In the 1970s, he went back to prison for tax evasion. Several women filed suits in 1990 claiming Berry had secretly videotaped them in bathrooms of his restaurants.

Chuck Berry performs during a concert celebration for his 60th birthday at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis on October 17, 1986 (AP File)

4) In 1972, Berry told Rolling Stone that his anthemic “Johnnie B. Goode” originally had a line saying “that little colored boy could play” but he changed it to “country boy” in order to get it on the radio. The song was partly autobiographical.

Chuck Berry performs his "duck walk" as he plays his guitar on stage on April 4, 1980. (AP File)

5) Berry’s 60th birthday concert, featured in the documentary “Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll,” was filmed in 1986 at the Fox Theatre. The same St. Louis theatre had turned away Berry for racist reasons in his childhood when his father took him there to see the movie “A Tale of Two Cities”.

6) An 8-foot bronze statue of Berry was unveiled near St. Louis in 2011, despite protests that it was inappropriate because of Berry’s criminal record.

First Published: Mar 19, 2017 15:32 IST