(Doug Spaur is one of Chuck Berry's biggest fans. A couple times a year he leaves his home in Bussey, Iowa with Chuck Berry on his mind. And just about now, he's doing it again in time to help Chuck celebrate his upcoming 86th birthday. It's a big week for Chuck, with three shows in short order, and a big week for Doug-- so I may have to publish some other Doug Spaur stories. This one was originally published July 6, 2010.)
Doug Spaur was too busy to respond immediately when I sent him some questions-- and when I saw his video from Bussey City Park I sent even more. Here are some responses to my original e-mail
Tell people about the Blueberry Hill shows. What makes them special?
You also attended a show at the Pageant Theater in St. Louis-- what was that one like?
Joe Edwards out did himself here. The Pageant is a beautiful facility with a balcony that looked like it would be a great spot to watch the show from. A bigger venue than Blueberry Hill, but yet not some big arena that you would seem miles away from the performer. I don't believe there's a bad seat at the Pageant either. The All Ages show I attended there was very special. I wanted to see 3 generations of Rock's first family performing together and I also wanted to take my children of 10 years of age to see Chuck perform. The highlight of the night for me was Chuck singing Nadine by request from me and then handing the solo over to his grandson Charles the III who did a fantastic job with it!!
After hearing CBIII do that killer solo I knew the future of Rock & Roll was well in hand for generations to come, Grandpa and Papa have taught him well. CB didn't start the show with Roll Over Beethoven like he does 9 times out of 10, but with my son's favorite song - Let It Rock - I knew it was going to be a special evening. Mrs. Berry was there and Chuck announced that her being there "made him feel so good"!! My wife and daughter sat directly behind Mrs. Berry and the rest of the family. My son and I stood right in front of Chuck. Chuck's concerts are similar but yet each are so different to me. The one at the Pageant had a flow to it that seemed like a stroll through the park for him. CB is always generous with handing out solo's to the rest of the band but this night he was handing them out to them like candy!! The versions of Carol that night and School Days were superb.
I think of you as almost a greeter at the Chuck Berry website-- Do you think you'll ever try to meet some of the folks in Europe and elsewhere that post on that site?
Heck Tulane, it would be a pleasure to meet you!! Maybe we could co-ordinate at trip to BB Hill someday!!
(Note from Peter: I keep trying! My current fantasy is to do a birthday tour with stops in St. Louis and Washington, D.C. for the Strathmore show. Depends how close they are together, maybe.)
What's your favorite Chuck Berry moment or memory?
My first Chuck Berry concert was at a casino in Tama, Iowa. My wife's friend and her husband came along with us. After the show was over Randy and I went and ate the buffet while the girls went and played the slots. After we got done eating we went to find the girls in the casino when who comes strolling right toward me but Chuck!! Now I know Chuck likes his privacy and I didn't want to make him mad or cause a scene - so it all happened in the blink of an eye, like two ships passing in the night. As he got close I reached and grabbed his arm gently by his right bicep, leaned and whispered in his ear as to not draw attention. I said - "Excellent Show Chuck". He replied to me softly and sincerely - "Thank You".. and that was it. Neither one of us missed a step. We each kept going our own way, I was on cloud 9. It was nothing really special but it meant the world to me, I'll never forget it!! A little later we found the row that he was in playing the slot machines and we quickly walked by a couple times and gave a fast glance down the row at him. I thought about sliding him a $50 and asking for his autograph but I didn't want to upset him so I didn't!! Another special moment was when I picked Chuck's guitar pick up for him and handed it back after he dropped it during the Sept. 2009 BB Hill Show, and he said, "Thank You Brother"!! CBII even gave his approval, and it was such a thrill. I mean what more can I do for him??!!
And I think I know the answer to this one-- what's your favorite Chuck Berry song? And what is it about the girl that intrigues you so?
It’s very tough to choose one over another, they all are so good. I think Johnny B. Goode has an unfair advantage over the rest. Kinda like who's a better baseball player than Babe Ruth?? But yes I do love Nadine, its a fantastic song, great lyrics, the live versions with the great solo's in the middle. The story of the girl you love so much and the ache in your heart because she's out with someone new, but yet you try anyway to chase her down and catch her. And also a great achievement for the time period of his life that he wrote Nadine....He could have set around feeling sorry for himself but no, he put his nose to the grindstone and he took advantage of the time and wrote several classics......
I can see it now - I go to Wentzville and meet Chuck out at his place in the morning. I'm all excited acting giddy like Bruce Springsteen and I ask Chuck, "What properties are we going to mow today"?? Chuck would say, "We're going to mow some Chuck Berry properties".... I'd giggle and say - Yeah!! That would be some day.....