It’s pretty remarkable to me to think that it was 40 years ago that I went to my first Chuck Berry show. I wish I could go back and see it again! And all of the others that I was lucky to attend.
I’ve written about that first show plenty of times. I only know the exact date (February 13, 1971) because of an amazingly helpful public employee in Sacramento-- a city archivist.
By blogging for a couple of years (that anniversary is also approaching), searching the internet, and looking at books like Morten Reff’s “Directory” I’ve been able to reconstruct bits of my personal memory and build a chronology of my Chuck Berry addiction. The first two exposures, in October and December of 1970, were on television. They didn’t get me hooked, but for reasons I can hardly fathom they remained in my fading memory banks ever since. Then the first live show in February, and then two more in July and November of 1971. (There was another one stuck in there right about that time, but even the archivist couldn’t find it. It was a Richard Nader Rock and Roll Revival-- one of two I attended in a matter of months. Maybe the whole show was kept off the books!)
That was a lot of really good Chuck Berry in a short amount of time. And then, of course, the splendid Mike Douglas show with John Lennon (total validation), the movie “Let the Good Times roll,” and finally the huge success of The London Sessions (more validation.) And then he was everywhere-- on shows like “In Concert,” and “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert,” and the “Midnight Special.” The only one I didn’t see at the time was his appearance on “Soul Train,” which I now find to be one of the most special.
It’s cool that so many of those performances are now on youtube. If Chuck were Bob I’d even be able to get recordings of all those shows I saw. There’s an incredible web of people recording and sharing every Bob Dylan concert. Someone even gave me a copy of one I saw in 1978. Pretty neat to hear it again. I'd love to hear the early Chuck Berry shows that I attended with my more expert ears and see how good they really were. (I think some of them were pretty danged good!)
That won't happen--but tidbits of history remain. So if anyone wants to give me a 40th anniversary gift, (a sentiment I recommend!) I know what I want. I have a hankering to see the television special he did with Bo Diddley and Ingrid and her band on ABC. I only saw it once, laying on my stomach in a room crowded with in-laws. At the time I loved it-- especially a segment with Bo and Chuck together that I recall as just as sweet as the wonderful scene in “Let the Good Times Roll.”
Later day reviews of the show, including Chuck’s own review in his Autobiography, suggest that it wasn’t his best performance. Oh well-- at least one person is sure to enjoy it.