Monday, May 18, 2009

In a Wee Little Room, I Sit Alone and Think-- Hey! Is this Weird?

So what makes a grown man obsess over Chuck Berry?

(It’s mostly men, by the way. Check out his fanatic followers at And we are legion, as far as I can tell.)

I used to feel I was quite alone. I was his “biggest” fan. I had “all” his records. I saw him live a bunch of times. I thrilled over a stray picture in Cream or Rolling Stone. I searched out and read whatever was available at the public library. For God’s sake-- I drove an ailing Fiat 128 5000 miles and stalled it in the driveway of Berry Park!

All that, of course, was when I was young and impressionable—a mere teen. (Except for that Berry Park trip. I was an adult, that day.)

But earlier this year I travelled all the way to St. Louis to see an 82 year old Chuck Berry at Blueberry Hill. It was 300 degrees below zero the day I got there, and I walked from the light rail station to my truly weird hotel room and then back to Blueberry Hill, freezing my ears and ^&#% and burning through two straight work days just to see the 50 minute show.

When I was a kid I’m sure they worried about me. What is this weird obsession? Is treatment recommended?

I worried a bit myself. I rarely admitted the full depth of my derangement.

When I found I realized, finally, that I was not alone. (I’d suspected it at certain concerts. At Monterrey, and again at the EMP, I ran into people who seemed almost as messed up as I was.) On the forum there are a couple dozen contributors who seem to be in similar shape. One is a genius at finding interesting youtube movies of Berry. Another took photographs of historical buildings in Berry’s life—his early homes, his rock star homes, the Cosmopolitan Club. Several have made the pilgrimage to Berry Park. Many have made the more fruitful pilgrimage to Blueberry Hill. One flew from South America to see him play at B. B. King’s. Lots have myspace pages devoted to the man.

So what makes grown men act this way?

I have no clue.

But I felt a little better when I read in the current Rolling Stone that Bob Dylan somehow found and visited the childhood home of Neil Young. He wanted to see what young Neil saw.

I figure, if Bob Dylan can act that way, so can I.

So can we.

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