Chuck Berry "The Father of Rock and Roll"
by Jiana Barnes

Childhood and Early Life

Chuck Berry was born Charles Anderson Edward Berry on October 18, 1926, in St. Louis, Missouri. His parents, Martha and Henry Berry, were the grandchildren of slaves, and are were among the numerous African Americans who moved from the rustic South to St. Louis looking for work amid the World War I period. Martha Berry was one of only a handful of black women of her time to gain a college education, and Henry Berry was an enterprising craftsman and also a minister at the Antioch Baptist Church. Berry was the fourth of six children, and had a variety of hobbies as a child which included carpentry, photography, and music. He sang with his church choir starting as early as six years old. While attending Sumner high school, the first all black prestigious private school in St. Louis, he sang Jay McShann’sConfessin‘ the Blues” for their annual talent which was a huge hit with the student body. For this performance he was accompanied by a friend who played the guitar, this performance sparked his interest in the guitar and he started lessons soon after. Jay McShann’sConfessin‘ the Blues” for their annual talent which was a huge hit among his peers. For this performance he was accompanied by a friend who played the guitar, which sparked his interest in the guitar and he started lessons soon after. At the age of 17, he dropped out of high school and go on a road trip to California with three friends. While stopping in Kansas they came across a firearm and decide to go on rob a bakery, barbershop, clothing store, and steal a car. They were ultimately caught by the police and sentenced to ten years. Berry however, was released after three years on good behavior.


Early Career and Rise to Fame

After marrying Thelmetta “Toddy” Suggs in 1948, Berry took up the guitar again in 1951 when he joined a band with his high school classmate Tommy Stevens. They played at local black nightclubs and Berry bagan to build a reputation for himself. In 1952 he joined the band of jazz pianist Johnny Johnson called the Sir John’s Trio. He changed their sound by adding an upbeat country sound to their original jazz and pop sound. In the 1950s Berry started taking road trips to Chicago in search for a recording contract. In 1955 he met Muddy Waters who advised him to go to Chess Records. A few weeks later he recorded “Maybellene” and took it to the Chess executives and was immediately offered a recording contract. “Maybellene” became Number 1 on the R&B charts and Number 5 on the Pop charts within months. Shortly after he released numerous other singles that began to pave the way for Rock & Roll music. Berry became one of the first artists to achieve successfully crossing over. He gained a teenage white audience without neglecting his black fan base. His mix of blues and R&B and ability to tie storytelling into his music appealed universally. In the late 1950s, tunes, for example, “Johnny B. Goode”, “Sweet Little Sixteen”, and “Ditty” all figured out how to break the Top 10 of the pop diagrams by accomplishing measure up to prominence with young people on the two sides of the racial partition.

Struggles and Passing

In 1961 Berry was convicted again under the Mann Act for transporting a woman across state lines for “immoral purposes”. In 1958 Berry opened “Club Bandstand” in a white business district, while traveling in Mexico he met a waitress and brought her back to work at his club. After her termination she was brought up on prostitution charges and charges were pressed against Berry as well. This stint wounded him up in jail for twenty months. In 1963 when Berry was released his career picked back up where it left off and he recorded several major hits. His friends said that his second time serving in prison really changed him completely, a man who was once always happy and easy-going was now cold and focused. Berry died on March 18, 2017 at the age of 90. He is remembered as a founding father of rock ‘n’ roll, whose pioneering career influenced generations of musicians.

Contributions to Rock and Roll and Accolades

Berry still stays one of the genres’ most prominent performers. In 1985, he received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. After a year, in 1986, he became the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame first inductee. Maybe the best measure of Berry’s impact is the degree to which other well known artists have duplicated his work. The Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones and the Beatles have all recreated different Chuck Berry tunes, and Berry’s impact both subtle and significant spread through the majority of their music.

Chuck Berry's Greatest Hits


2002Chuck Berry – In Concert
2001Johnny B. Goode (Columbia River)
Blast From The Past: Chuck Berry
2000Live On Stage
Johnny B. Goode (Legacy)
Chuck Berry – Anthology
199920th Century Masters – The Best Of Chuck Berry
1998Rock & Roll Music
Live: Roots Of Rock ‘N’ Roll
The Latest & The Greatest / You Can Never Tell
1997Guitar Legends
Chuck Berry – His Best, Vol. 1
1996Let It Rock
Roll Over Beethoven
The Best Of Chuck Berry
1994On The Blues Side
Live At The Fillmore Auditorium (Bonus Tracks)
1988The Chess Box (Box Set)
1987Hail! Hail! Rock ‘N’ Roll
1986Rock ‘N’ Roll Rarities
198320 Hits
1982Chuck Berry (picture disc)
Chuck Berry
Reelin’ And Rockin’
“Retro Rock” – Chuck Berry – Broadcast Week
The Great Twenty-Eight
Toronto Rock ‘N’ Roll Revival 1969 Vol. III
Toronto Rock ‘N’ Roll Revival 1969 Vol. II
1981Chuck Berry Live
Alive And Rockin’
1979Chuck Berry All-Time Hits
Rock It
1978Chuck Berry Live In Concert
Chuck Berry’s 16 Greatest Hits
The Best Of The Best Of Chuck Berry
1976Chuck Berry’s Greatest Hits
1975Chuck Berry
1974Chuck And His Friends
Chuck Berry’s Golden Decade Vol. 3
Wild Berrys
1973Sweet Little Rock And Roller
Chuck Berry’s Golden Decade Vol. 2
1972Johnny B. Goode
St. Louie To Frisco To Memphis
The London Chuck Berry Sessions
1971San Francisco Dues
1970Back Home
1969Concerto In B. Goode
1968From St. Louie To Frisco
1967Live At The Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco
Chuck Berry In Memphis
Chuck Berry’s Golden Hits
Chuck Berry’s Golden Decade
1965Fresh Berry’s
Chuck Berry In London
1964St. Louis To Liverpool
Two Great Guitars – Chuck Berry And Bo Diddley
Chuck Berry’s Greatest Hits
1963Chuck Berry On Stage
1962Chuck Berry Twist
1961New Juke-Box Hits
1960Rockin’ At The Hops
1959Berry Is On Top
1958After School Session
One Dozen Berrys
1957Rock Rock Rock


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Doherty, Thomas. Popular Music 8, no. 2 (1989): 199-202.

Fryer, Paul H. “”Brown-Eyed Handsome Man”: Chuck Berry and the Blues Tradition.” Phylon (1960-) 42, no. 1 (1981): 60-72. doi:10.2307/274885.

Gilmore, Mikal. “Chuck Berry 1926-2017.” Rolling Stone, April 20, 2017., 22-56, Music Index, EBSCOhost (accessed February 19, 2018)

Taylor, Timothy D. “His Name Was in Lights: Chuck Berry’s ‘Johnny B. Goode’.” Popular Music 11, no. 1 (1992): 27-40.

Richards, Keith. “‘The Granddaddy of Us All’.” Rolling Stone, April 20, 2017., 34, Music Index, EBSCOhost (accessed February 19, 2018).

Rutherford, Kevin. “CHUCK BERRY TOOK HIS ‘DING A LING’ TO NO. 1.” Billboard 129, no. 24 (October 28, 2017): 176. Music Index, EBSCOhost (accessed February 19, 2018).

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