When I talk about Chuck Berry's "influence," I'm not just talking about his influence on Keith Richards, or Jimi Hendrix, or Eric Clapton, or John Lennon. I'm also talking about his influence on us, his every day fans. And his not so every day fans, like Peter Kaleta. Back by popular demand: an old post about an incredible fan.
Peter Kaleta, of Sweden, is a visual historian. He researches. He goes. He records and documents—beautifully.
His backyard is enough. (Must be a helluva backyard!) On his myspace site you’ll find pictures of wildflowers, deer, snow, slugs, hummingbirds-- even a clothespin. (These two are by his talented 12 year old daughter!)
Peter's 38 years old. He lives in Sweden with his wife and daughter.
For Peter, the Chuck Berry thing began with a television show.
“Everything started back in 1981 when I was 11 years old. We had a Swedish TV program called “Rock Rullen” hosted by the Swedish Kings of Rock’n’Roll Jerry Williams and Svante Grundberg. They showed people how everything started in the 50’s using clips with Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and more. We didn’t have a video recorder then but it was favorite program and I saw it every week. After that I started to buy records with different 50’s artists, and I soon realized that Chuck not only sang my favorites, he also wrote them and he was most important artist of them all.”
Most of us would be satisfied with a record collection. Or seeing our hero in a few shows. Not Peter. 22 years after first seeing Chuck Berry on Swedish television he and his family head to the United States. For his wife and 12 year old daughter, one of the goals is to see a “killer whale show” somewhere in Texas. But this puts Peter in proximity to all sorts of the USA's best musical locations—Memphis, with Sun Records and Beale Street; Nashville; Clarksdale, Mississippi; and New Orleans.
Now, I recently went to Mississippi. I “researched” it by asking three people—my brother, and the owners of the Shack Up Inn-- what I should do. Most of the advice concerned eating (which suited me fine.) For the rest, I stumbled around, seeing what I saw, missing what I didn't see, and loving it anyway.
He finds Fats Domino’s new home. He marches past the cars (poses with the Rolls!) and knocks on the door.
And Fats answers!
And even sings a song to Peter’s daughter!
“He came out and sang “Hello Josephine” to our daughter and was very friendly to all of us. We took some pictures and drove back to French Quarter where we also met Cosimo Matassa, the former owner of the J & M Studio. Matassa recorded Fats Domino’s first recording in 1949.”
And then, eventually, off to St. Louis, via Route 66.
“We had been to Sea World in Texas and drove from Texas to St Louis on Route 66 with one stop at Days Inn in Oklahoma. When we first came to St. Louis I was in hurry because I wanted to see the concert at Blueberry Hill the same evening we arrived. I had my family with me and my 10 year old Daughter who wanted to see Chuck but it was impossible because of her age. We drove fast to the hotel and I took a taxi by myself to Blueberry Hill. My wife stayed at the hotel with my daughter. It was an evening I never will forget. My dream came true and I felt like Louis Armstrong on the moon!”
(Editor’s note: Peter meant “Neil Armstrong.” But I didn’t ask for clarification. I liked “Louis,” who fits as well or better. Louis— one of Chuck Berry’s rare peers in the world of musical genius-- showed his joy better than Neil, and once sang about the Moon in a way that strikes me as very fitting:
Moon river, wider than a mile
I’m crossing you in style some day
Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker
Wherever you’re going, I’m going your way
Two drifters, off to see the world
There’s such a lot of world to see!
We’re after the same rainbow’s end, waitin’ ‘round the bend
My huckleberry friend, moon river, and me.
What song could be more appropriate to describe Peter Kaleta, off to see the world and rainbow's end?)
After the show Peter met his hero. “I met him that evening in August 8, 2007 after the show. I had some photographs with me from the recent Swedish tour that I gave him. He smiled and asked “So this is for me?” then I got my first autograph on a picture I got from a guy at Blueberry Hill same evening. I also met Charles before the show and he was very kind to me.”
A lot of those places will be gone some day, and most of us probably won't use the GPS to go find them. But we've got Peter's photographs.