Charles Edward Anderson Berry – born 18th Oct 1926; died 18th March 2017
I met Chuck Berry once. It was early one morning in a deserted terminal building at Heathrow. Like me he was probably waiting to catch the first plane out to somewhere. He was sitting on a bench wrapped up in a greatcoat, with a guitar case at his side and a sour look on his face. It was him alright. He had been a hero of mine for years and was unmistakeable. Sombre, coiled like a spring. For all his success and genius he had had a hard life and now it was pay-back time for Chuck. Money up front in cash, no large touring crew- just him, his guitar and a local pick-up band, no sound checks or run-throughs, little time for showbiz hobnobbing, no time for fools who wanted his autograph at 5.00 in the morning .
I wandered across, waved my notepad and pen in front of his nose and asked him if he would honour me with his autograph. He took the pad and pen and began writing. For a moment I thought that the clouds had parted and Chuck Berry had suddenly been resurrected as ‘Mr Nice Guy’. Then he handed me back my note pad and said… “Now f—k off!”
Ah – the poet laureate of rock.
His mother told him, “Someday you will be a man,
And you will be the leader of a big old band.
Many people coming from miles around
To hear you play your music when the sun go down.
Maybe someday your name will be in lights
Saying ‘Johnny B. Goode tonight’.”
It was the sound of U.K dance halls, hops and youth clubs in the early 60’s as local bands wound up for the night with a final toe tapping crowd pleaser. From the Beatles to the Rolling Stones and every beat group in between, we all did it …and still do!
— from Martyn Day