Thursday, April 1, 2010

It Goes To Show You NEVER Can Tell! (A recycled post about Family)

When three generations of Berrys and probably several branches of the family tree showed up on stage at the Pageant Theater the other day, it made me think of that consistent theme:  Family.  (Think "Memphis."  Think "Back To Memphis."  Think "Rain Eyes."  Think of Johnny's mother and the pawn shop loans.  Think of the family "standin' and waivin' at the kitchen door."  Think of the "hurry home drops" and the "tears from her happiness."  Think of the great scene with Chuck's own father in "Hail! Hail!)  So here's a repeat of an earlier post.

Chuck Berry’s often described by tired writers as a quiet, closed up, surly sort of fellow, a loner who’s stingy with interviews and stingier with details of his personal life. (This despite a 300 page Autobiography).

There’s a famous scene where he shuts down an interview with his wife during “Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll!” (Good for him. The interview was turning into a sensationalized surprise attack worthy of Fox Cable “News.”)

My theory is that everything he really wants to give us is in the music—either on record, or live.

But shutting down the impudent questioning of his wife shows another side of the man. And it’s there in the music, too.

One of his early songs is bouncy, sweet instrumental called “Ingo.”

My guess—and that’s all it is—is that the song is named after his daughter, Ingrid, who was featured in the movie “Hail! Hail!,” on the album “Chuck Berry,” at the inauguration of Bill Clinton, and who frequently performs with Berry in St. Louis and elsewhere, singing backup and blowing harmonica-- right next to her brother, Charles, Jr., who plays backup guitar, emcee, and personal bodyguard to Berry at every show now. Charles, Jr. is always there to help his dad with a forgotten lyric, and sidles close when, at the end of the show, the women and girls get on stage and dance for Chuck Berry’s attention.

Charles, Jr. is the very accessible moderator on, where he often shares the enthusiasm of fanatical fans, and sometimes offers amazing tidbits of history. My favorites have been his descriptions of a an old redish brown Gibson that Chuck Berry has played for the last 35 years or so (as old as those red pants he’s worn half the times I’ve seen him!) The guitar is bandaged, taped, scratched, busted, with missing knobs and other parts tossed as useless for the purpose.

Charles, Jr. says it’s the best guitar ever made—an accident of the assembly line, probably, with the tone of a railroad airhorn. (There’s a video on youtube of Charles, Jr. and the band doing a sound check in France. With the Gibson in hand, the genetic link becomes clear. Charles bends those double string notes in a way that would make me jerk with recognition from down the street.)

When Chuck Berry celebrated his birthday at the Pageant Theater in St. Louis last fall, Charles, Jr. brought his own son to play. The trio were featured in a wonderful photograph in Rolling Stone. And the kid can play. Search, and you’ll find a home movie of (Charles III?) playing blues like an elder. Watch out for that one.

Other grand kids have shown up on news shows. One granddaughter is evidently a singer. Another described what it’s like to have such a famous grandfather.

There are less public kids, too. Just a couple weeks ago I read somewhere about a daughter named Isalee. That’s also the name of Chuck Berry’s music publishing company.

It’s nothing new. Chuck’s sister sang backup on some of his records. And check out the family scenes in Hail! Hail!, with Chuck and his sister surrounding their dad and telling stories. (I’m doing this from memory, but the man was either deaf or blind as a child, until they pierced his ear, and cured him!)

There’s a British news segment about Chuck Berry with a short interview of Charles and Ingrid. It’s pretty wonderful. Again, I’m doing this from memory, but they talk about their dad still mowing his own lawn at age 82. And then, I think I heard something like:

"Yeah, he makes crop circles!"
"Pretty weird, right?"
"I think they’re beautiful."

Me, too. And I haven't even seen them.


Anonymous said...

That is what this last concert was all about - Family... I have been trying to find the right words to descibe the evening at The Pageant, You just touched on a major part - Family......When Chuck announced his family and wife was present, there was no spotlight shown, no one standing up or waving and Chuck never pointed any family out. My wife and daughter sat the next row back, directly behind the Berry Family. After the Concert I made my way over to my family. Chuck's family was starting to slowly file out. I saw Mrs. Berry, I so wanted to get a picture of "Suggsy" I beleive Chuck calls her. But my wife said when Chuck announced she was there, Mrs. Berry hunkered down wanting no part of any limelight or attention. My wife said don't be taking her picture she wants none of that very sternly. So as much as I wanted to go up and say Hello and get a picture I didn't. I respected her public privacy and watched this grand lady slowly file out......
CB Forum member - Busseybootlegger

Stefano said...

Hi Doug , Page 73 it's Toddy ! keep up the good work buddy some great posts and excellent contributions to the forum , I read them all...!
Best Regards,

Anonymous said...

Hello Stefano, I like reading your posts also!!
Peter - you have a video with CBII, Jimmy, and CB fan RedChuck doing the soundcheck in France. You talk about genetic link with the sound - also as you can see from the stop action shot of the video it pefectly shows CBII has some showmanship like his Father as the still photo shows CBII "Hamming it up" for the camera.....

Peter said...

I just looked at the video of CBII and Red Chuck at the sound check for the first time and realized that I attached the wrong one! I'm pretty sure there's another that is slower and blusier that was attached to the CB forum where CBII's playing sounded very close to his dad. I'll have to check for it someday. Meantime-- this is a good one, too! Peter

Anonymous said...

Thank You Peter for posting the sound check from Amiens France. Here is the full version made by myself. It was a great evening.
Thank You CBII !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I hope they will be back in europe some day!


stefano said...

Hi Peter

Another really good track that Chuck wrote and sang "mind your own business" the Lyrics are just supberb , and for me some up his mind set re "What is public and what is private " again the man is right. Can u upload that track some how ?

Anonymous said...

Go to my MySpace page it the link does not work.


Anonymous said...

Couldn't find it on youtube, but I posted some covers and put up some other, similar songs. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Yes your so right, Themetta's nickname is Toddy. I got all sorts of mixed up. Sorry to all for being a fountain of mis-information...

CB Forum ID - Busseybootlegger