Monday, January 31, 2011


Thank you Wolfgang for spotting the DATE on that last article!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Charlie Louvin and The Louvin Brothers

I read somewhere recently where CBII said that Chuck Berry is a big fan of the Louvin Brothers.  Charlie Louvin died January 26 at the age of 83.  He performed at The Tractor Tavern a few years ago and I remember considering getting over there, but I didn't.  Just goes to show.  Anyway, no real surprise that Chuck is a fan.  It's hard to listen to this one without thinking of Chuck Berry's harmonies on the song "Rain Eyes."

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dang! Sugar Pie's a Honey Bunch all Right, (With Hubert Sumlin on Guitar)

I was looking up who this "Sugar Pie" was who was on the bill with Louis Jordan and Chuck Berry at the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium in August 1957.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Marshall Chess on Chess and Chuck

Bob Lohr posted the interview on facebook.  I stole it.

JW: Chuck Berry has a reputation for being difficult. Was that your impression of him?

MC: I met a lot of eccentric people working at Chess but Chuck was by far the most extreme in that sense. He has lived life by his own rules and doesn’t really care about other people’s rules. In a way you have to respect that. But it’s hard to deal with at times. He’s a true outlaw and laid the foundations for that rock’n’roll lifestyle. He went to jail for a second time in 1979 because he refused to pay his taxes. He could have paid up and avoided prison. But he didn’t care. I didn’t personally have any problems with him. It helped that I didn’t have to deal with the business end of his career.

Me and Chuck go back a long way. I was thirteen when he signed to Chess, having been recommended by Muddy Waters. He’d stop over at our house. He’d sleep in my bedroom. I used to take him out for breakfast and he’d always amaze me by ordering a strawberry shortcake as a starter. Chuck did everything differently to other people. Mostly we talked about cars and girls. He especially loved girls. He had one of the world’s first Polaroid cameras and had hundreds of pictures of beautiful girls. He was a creative guy. A poet. A genuine artist. He was a great musician and an inspired lyricist. He really understood the psychology of white teenagers. The teenage revolution began in 1955. Suddenly kids were driving around in flash cars, going to drive-in movies, drive-in hamburger joints. This was a whole new crazy cultural shift in America. It wasn’t happening in the black population but Chuck instinctively understood what was happening with the white kids and he captured that entire upheaval in his songs.

Chuck revolutionised the fortunes of Chess Records. From 1950 to 1955 we’d had blues hits. But even a number one record on the blues chart sold no more than 20,000. Then we signed Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley. Suddenly it all changed. I met Chuck recently in New York, hadn’t seen him in twelve years. I was telling him about the time in 1955 when my dad was driving through Chicago and we heard Maybellene being played for the first time on the biggest white radio station. My dad was so happy at that moment because he knew he’d got his first crossover hit. Life was different for us after that. We’d always been poor. Any profits from Chess were ploughed back into the label. My mother didn’t have a dollar to buy me a water pistol when all the other kids in the neighbourhood had them. As soon as Chess were having hits on the pop chart, my parents got lavish in terms of buying stuff for their kids. I was telling Chuck all this and saying that he’d radically changed my life. He said, “It wasn’t one-way traffic, Marshall. You guys made my life great. I couldn’t have gone anywhere without Chess Records.” That was an emotional meeting for me. I think it was emotional for Chuck too.

Read the rest of it HERE.


Out at the Apple store.  I think people are just happy to know he's doing so well.

Friday, January 21, 2011

18 Days Later?

Looks like the same shirt.  What a great photo!  My thanks to whoever took it, and to Ida May for sharing it with us.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

18 Days Later: Chuck Berry and Family at Blueberry Hill

Thank Bob Lohr for the entire succession of links I've just put up-- and for this wonderful review of the show from St. Louis's Riverfront Times.  And thank Ida May for the photograph (taken by an unknown photographer I also thank!)  According to Lohr: "The show was cool and Chuck played well. Chuck said earlier that he was getting tired of people calling him and asking him how he was feeling...LOL..."enough is enough!!!" he said."

A Story

Here's a great writeup in the Chicago paper:,0,343682.story


Here's a LINK to some great shots of the January 19 show by photographer Todd Owyoung.

"One and Only" is Right

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Chuck Berry at Bumpershoot, September 1980

Today a brown package arrived from distant lands with local sounds from distant times-- an 80 minute Chuck Berry show at the Seattle Bumpershoot arts and music festival from September 1980.  I missed it.  I wasn't in Seattle in September 1980-- I was somewhere between Sokode and Kougnohou, Togo when this show took place-- but I'd heard about it in the local press from time to time.  It was rumoured to be a good one.  And guess what?  It was.

And so is this recording-- so clear it sounds like it came straight through the soundboard.

Which makes me think someone was naughty!

The recording is almost all vocal, guitars and bass, with just enough drums a few (mercifully) short keyboard solos.  I read somewhere that Chuck kicked Heart's bass player off stage at this show.  If true, I'm betting that it was because Jimmy Marsala travelled with Chuck to do this show.

There are 16 1/2  songs ("Reelin' and Rockin'" becomes "House Lights" at times) including most of the big ones, plus "Bio" and a good version of "Promised Land."

Once upon a time I was able to find pictures from that show on line, but this time I came up blank.  I'll keep looking.  And listening.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Go Daryl, Go! Go!

Davis and a 16 year old named Andy Poxon play a number by Daryl's friend.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Johnnie Johnson Duet

Jan (or John-- our other J.J.) posted this on facebook.  What a treat to hear Johnnie Johnson without all the other instruments.  And a double treat when they switch sides and you hear him attack the lower keys.  Danke, Jan!

My musical education has major holes, so I had to google David Krull.  Here's a link:

From the News Wires...

I love when old theaters get used.  Here's an interesting story about The Congress Theater in Chicago where Chuck Berry had such a rough time.  The theater is a year older than Chuck and is working as hard as he is.  Read about it HERE.

Of course, Blueberry Hill is in an old building, too-- but it's in much nicer shape.  And Chuck plans to do his January show there next Wednesday.  I'd like to see that one.  Read about it HERE.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

He May Go Down Sometimes but he Comes Back a Rock and Roller

My 40th anniversary is coming up.

Don’t tell my wife. She and I have a much shorter history. I’m talking about the fortieth anniversary of my first Chuck Berry show—which was about 20 years after Chuck Berry’s first Chuck Berry show.

In those days people already thought he was an old guy.

He was 44! He’d been a star (a variable star) for about 15 years. Even though they were nearly brand new, I purchased the albums “Back Home” and “San Francisco Dues” in the Oldies section.

But he was “old,” and he called us all his children.

Flash forward 40 years. He’s still an old guy—just an old guy who’s in better shape than his “children.”

I’m not talking about his real children, of course. They benefit from the same genes that have their parents getting ready for a 70th anniversary sometime not to far from now.

I'm talking about the kids like me, who've got the rolling arthritis big time, and maybe an extra chin or two.

But even though he’s in good shape we can see that time marches on. He began his 70th year in show business by collapsing with exhaustion after attempting three shows and who knows how many flights in two cities in 24 hours. And he still insisted on “scooting” off stage.

Bob Dylan called him a “force of nature.”

I remember finding my own 80 something mom on a step ladder changing the lights at her house. Her bones were like eggshell but her will was like iron.

I’ve said before that I adopted Chuck Berry as a sort of spiritual father soon after I first saw him. It was only last year that I was able to put the timetable together and see that my first Chuck Berry show came about three weeks before my father died. So it all makes sense now.

And I don’t think I’m the only one who’s done something like that. When the young Chuck Berry walked back and forth across the stage feigning surprise at an ovation and hollering “all my children!” at the screaming hordes a lot of us accepted the gift. He’s the Father of rock and roll.

And his fans are younger. If he’d been strictly a blues musician he would have attracted fans his own age. That’s undoubtedly who came to the Cosmopolitan and the Crank Club. And his first few recording sessions didn’t really tip the scale one way or another. But as his recording career progressed he began singing more and more about and for the kids who came to his shows.

(By the time I found him he was singing to grown ups again—at least on records. I always thought “Lonely School Days” sounded a little funny on “San Francisco Dues.” Turns out it was an old recording of an old song.)

When he had trouble a few weeks ago in Chicago my little blog felt the uptick in googling about his condition. People were worried.

We’re all caught in a funny place. We want to keep seeing and applauding the man we love, and we want him to slow down and take care of himself. I posted a vision about a Chuck Berry show that included a chair on stage, lots of stories and poems, and maybe a few ballads or blues numbers. A friend just pointed out that this is what B. B. King’s doing these days.

But what makes Chuck Berry great is that he’ll do it his way and always has.

He started his career with an argument over lip-synching. He didn’t want to do it. And he’s kept it real ever since. Raggedy at times-- but real.

And 40 years after I first saw him he’s gearing up for his regular Wednesday night gig at Blueberry Hill.


Monday, January 10, 2011

A Show Stopper!

Chuck coaxes his son into doing the "scoot" in this clip from April of last year.  Thanks to Jean Million for posting this on on facebook-- I'd never seen it, and it's a lot of fun. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Ringing Clear as a Bell

This is what it looks like when you're sitting up front at Blueberry Hill.  What's amazing, besides the clarity of the video, is the clarity of the sound mix.  The guitar is clear as a bell, and when he lets Bob Lohr take over on the solo, so is that.  Pretty nice.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Carmelo, Chuck and Billy Peek (e molti bambini italiani)

Doug found it for you to dig.  (But is that a Confederate flag they're waving?  And Why?  Could give "Go" a whole new meaning!")

Monday, January 3, 2011

Ronny Elliott talks about working with Chuck Berry

Ronny Elliott is a Tampa, Florida musician who recently posted that Chuck Berry is "the greatest living American."  That's my kind of thinker!  If you've read this bog you've seen my interview of him, which I can probably dig up and repeat.  But here he is, almost "live," answering questions about his work with Chuck Berry and a host of others.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

This is for every critic or commentator who ever said he "doesn't care" or that he "mails it in."  After attempting three shows in 24 hours in two cities Chuck Berry collapsed at his piano and was seen by medics.  Then he insisted on coming back on stage.  In this clip he talks to the fans afterwards.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

We Love You Chuck

Our prayers and thanks to Chuck Berry, who apparently had a very hard time at the Congress Theater in Chicago.   Here's a link to an article from the Chicago Sun Times.    Here's another version of the story from NPR.  For those that don't know, Mr. Berry--84 years old-- was doing his third show in 24 hours.  (A short piece in the Chicago Tribune on December 30 said he'd been out pushing wheelbarrows and building a concrete walk at Berry Park a few days before these shows!)

Hope he feels better soon or sooner.  We love you Chuck!  And please-- take it easy!

(The articles mention a "scoot" when he finally left the stage.  Here it is.)

Wee Wee Hours of New Years Eve

This is what I wanted to see!