Chuck Berry, Rock ‘n’ Roll Legend, Dies at 90

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Chuck Berry, singer and songwriter of rock and roll classic such as “Maybellene,” “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Johnny B. Goode” has died. He was 90.   The singer/songwriter, whose classic “Johnny B. Goode” was chosen by Carl Sagan to be included on the golden record of Earth Sounds and Music launched with Voyager in 1977, died Saturday afternoon, St. Charles County Police Department confirmed. The cause of death was not revealed.

 

Police responded to an emergency call at approximately 12:40 p.m. Saturday afternoon.

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During his 60-plus years in show business, Berry in 1986 became one of the first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He entered The Blues Foundation’s Blues Hall of Fame in ’85 and that year also received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

 

He performed in 1979 for President Jimmy Carter at the White House, landed at No. 6 on Rolling Stone’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” and trademarked his stage showmanship with his famous “duck walk.”

 

Muddy Waters, Berry’s idol and musical influence, gave him some constructive backstage advice: contact Leonard Chess. Chicago-based Chess Records, primarily a blues label run by Polish brothers Leonard and Phil Chess, had a series of transplanted blues artists on its roster, including Howlin’ Wolf, Bo Diddley, Jimmy Reed and John Lee Hooker.

 

The Chess brothers signed Berry in 1955 and produced and released his first single, “Maybellene,” an adaption of the Bob Wills song “Ida Red.” It sold more than a million copies, reached No. 1 on the Billboard R&B charts and hit No. 5 on the Pop charts, allowing Berry to build crossover appeal beyond the R&B audience.

 

Berry married Themetta Suggs in 1948 and had four children with her. He supported his family by becoming a factory worker, janitor and cosmetologist before pounding the pavement in the club circuit to earn extra cash. He partnered with pianist Johnnie Johnson, joining his group Sir John’s Trio, which later became known as the Chuck Berry Combo.

 

His debut album, After School Session, produced by the Chess brothers, featured a variety of musicians including Johnson, Ebby Hardy, Jimmy Rogers, Willie Dixon, Otis Spann and Fred Below. The effort was tailored toward a youthful market featuring comedic cut-up lyrics, rhythmically intricate guitar parts and stand-alone solos in effortless anthems like “School Days,” “Too Much Monkey Business,” “Wee Wee Hours,” “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Thirty Days.”

 

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Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett

Photographs are Courtesy:  AP

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