Saturday, June 30, 2012


Here's a repost of a piece about Angus Young.  I post it again because a few days ago Angus Young won Guitar Player magazine's playoff between himself and his hero.  Anyway, this is what Young had to say a while back  in a story where guitarists picked the top guitarists:

CHUCK BERRY by Angus Young

When I was growing up, everyone used to rave about Clapton, saying he was a guitar genius and stuff like that. Well, even on a bad night, Chuck Berry is a lot better than Clapton will ever be.

Rock music has been around since the days when Chuck Berry put it all together. He combined the blues, country and rockabilly, and put his own poetry on top, and that became rock and roll. And it’s been hanging in there.

I looked it up.  Young is a year older than me. 

When I was a teenager and first enamored of people like Chuck Berry and B. B. King friends used to say Eric Clapton was better.  In those days it made me gag.  Since then-- well, it seems to me that Mr. Clapton has come into his own as a grownup.  He plays well.  (On the Chuck Berry side, his solo on Wee Wee Hours in the movie "Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll!" is stupendous.)  He has one great song, born of tragedy.  He did some interesting twists on the blues with Cream.  (He killed reggae.) 

But he's no B. B. King. 

And he didn't change the world-- like you know who.

Picture by "Steady Rollin' Bob Margolin"

Friday, June 29, 2012

Daryl Davis Tonight in D.C.

Tracy A. Woodward, Washington Post
 HERE's a story from The Washington Post about Daryl Davis's show tonight at the Carter Baron Ampitheater in Washington, D.C.  Davis has backed Chuck Berry along the eastern seabord for 31 years, and shared piano duties at Berry's recent show at Washington's Howard Theatre.  The money quote about our hero:
"Davis learned from one of the masters of changing things on the fly: Chuck Berry. Davis has been playing with the rock-and-roll pioneer for 31 years, often sharing the stage with Berry when he makes his way to the East Coast (including as recently as an April gig at the Howard Theatre). To play that long with Berry is a testament to Davis’s talent, as Berry doesn’t tolerate players who don’t know his material or aren’t able to keep up with him onstage.

“'But he’s right, though!' Davis says of Berry’s demands for perfection. 'That’s rock-and-roll. If you can’t play Chuck Berry, you can’t play rock-and-roll! He invented it -- it’s only three chords! Who cannot play ‘Johnny B. Goode’?'"

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Some People Say "Why don't you give it up?"

"People say ' Why don't you give it up?'  I can't retire till I croak.  I don't think they quite understand what I get out of this.  I'm not doing it just for the money or for you.  I'm doing it for me."  Keith Richards, Life, p. 241.  (I like him more every page.  So far, anyway.)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Catching the Rolling Arthritis

Chapter Three of my "book", wherein our young hero enters a nearly empty hall and sees his future hero playing the blues, for sure.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Thursday, June 21, 2012

One of the Coolest Things You'll Ever See

Chuck Berry inducting Willie Dixon into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Dixon's wife and daughter give the acceptance speeches.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Keith on Jazz on a Summer's Day

I'm finally reading Keith Richards' book Life and got to his wonderful description of Chuck Berry's performance in Jazz on a Summer's Day:
I think it was Chuck's proudest moment, when he got up there.  It's not a particularly good version of of "Sweet Little Sixteen," but it was the attitude of the cats behind him, solid against the way he looked and the way he was moving.   They were laughing at him.  They were trying to fuck him up.  Jo Jones was raising his drumnstick ater ever few beats and grinning as if he were in play school.  Chuck knew he was working against the odds.  And he wasn't really doing very well, when you listen to it, but he carried it.  He had a band behind him that wanted to toss him, but he still carried the day.  Jo Jones blew it, right there.  Instead of a knife in the back, he could have given him the shit.  But Chuck forced his way through.
I love it because it parallels my view of the performance, which I wrote about here. (You can check out the performance here, too!)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Looked at my Watch

When I was a kid I wanted to promote a Chuck Berry show.  The rumor was that he charged about $2000 a show in the days before "My Ding-a-Ling" brought him back to the top.  I figured that was doable.  My plan was to do it at my school, which was outside Sacramento.  It was a small school, but I thought that if all the students brought their friends and families, we could have a nearly private Chuck Berry show.

What saved me was a line from an interview by Ralph Gleason of the San Francisco chronicle.  Berry told Gleason that he'd never, ever play for less than $1000 a night, and that if some "punk promoter" told him that he really wanted Chuck Berry but could only pay $900 Chuck would tell him, "Son, you just retired the great Chuck Berry."  As a person who enjoys the thrill of irrational fear I was terrified of hearing those words be directed towards me.  

Yesterday Chuck Berry was supposed to play his "last concert in Europe" at a theater in Cannes.  Lots of my friends in Europe made plans to go.  Others suffered over their inability to do so.  But the show was cancelled at the last minute.  I have a feeling that the minimum cash in advance didn't arrive in St. Louis, so the show didn't go on.  It's a shame.  Don't promote a show unless you're willing and able to take a bath on it.

But happily, no one's retiring anybody.  Chuck Berry will be at Blueberry Hill on Wednesday June 20, and at The Argosy Casino in Alton, Illinois this coming June 23.  Read about it HERE.