Chuck Berry Monday

Sometimes a guy’s got "No Particular Place to Go" on the Internet and just finds himself YouTubing Chuck Berry videos for a few hours.

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Why Chuck? Well, in addition to people like John Lennon and Bob Dylan saying he’s probably the biggest single influence on rock ‘n’ roll, Berry happens to be still alive. He’s 83.

It stands as a huge regret that I missed him perform at Win-River Casino back in 2006. At the time, I justified missing the show because I thought I didn’t want to see him as an old man so far removed from the height of his powers. My friend Derral Campbell saw that show and I hope he comments here about what he remembers. Anyone else?

Anyway, you don’t judge a legend by whatever means I was using, you just go see him (or her). Chuck Berry was in Redding California for crying out loud.

On the rare occasions I caught Chuck Berry on TV while growing up, he completely electrified me. Watching old clips of him, it’s easy to see why: There’s just something so exciting and compelling about him as he performs.

Below are three videos — one of him doing "Roll Over Beethoven" in 1972 (one of my favorite eras for him); one of him doing "Johnny B. Goode" with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in 1995; and a classic segment with Chuck and Keith Richards struggling through a recording session that shows a bit his temperamental personality.

By the way, my favorite Chuck Berry songs are "Nadine" and "Memphis." Yours?

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is a journalist who focuses on arts, entertainment, music and the outdoors. He is a songwriter and leader of the Jim Dyar Band. He lives in Redding and can be reached at jimd.anewscafe@gmail.com
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7 Responses

  1. Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

    How can you pick just one Chuck Berry song as your favorite?

    "Maybelline" has one of the all-time great lines, "as I was motivatin' up over the hill.." Motivatin'! A great word. "Back in the USA" – anyone landing from a stay overseas is singing that one. "You Never Can Tell," "Let it Rock," "Brown Eyed Handsome Man," "Almost Grown"…

  2. Avatar Derral says:

    Dude. It was sad, in a way. He was watching his hands and seemed a little unsure about which chords to play and when. And this was a master musician, who arranged and recorded himself with impeccable skill during his Chess glory years. He wasn't falling out on every tune, but that he struggled at all was striking.

    I backed him up at a concert at HSU in '71, and he was all about being professional and The Man. At the Win-River gig it looked like he couldn't remember what key he was in from time to time. It was still a lot of fun, and I heard he hit a slot machine for 5 grand after his gig.

    Nadine. That's the one that really set me off as a kid, that and the follow-up release Promised Land. I have the classic radio-under-the-covers memories of those tunes, listening to KYA San Francisco. Love the horn lines on Nadine.

  3. Avatar Dick Richards says:

    I saw him at the now defunct Sacramento Blues Festival in about 93 or 94. He was real adamant about no video cameras, had the promoter tell the audience he would stop the show if anyone tried to video. He gave the back up band an extremely hard time. It was obvious he was temperamental about his music and performances. But when he finally got into the groove, pure magic. Real star power like few have, Ray Charles comes to mind. A mention needs to be made about Johnnie Johnson, the awesome keyboard player that collaborated with Chuck on many of his hit records. One of the best, saw him in Sacramento too, Johnnie B Goode. Can't go wrong with Rock and Roll Music and Roll Over Beethoven.

  4. Avatar Peter says:

    The best place to see Chuck Berry now is a restaurant in St. Louis called Blueberry Hill. He plays there once a month on a Wednesday. Nothing sad about it. The room he plays holds about 400 people. They come from all around town and all around the world. They love him. And so does his band (which includes his son, Charles, and often his daughter, Ingrid.) He puts on a great show, and just looks happy. No problems with the band. No problems with the contract. No problems with the promoter. His fingers? Well– sometimes there are problems. But it doesn't matter. Even when he misses notes, he punches so much wisdom into his rythm guirar playing that it's a revelation. My wife bought me a ticket to one of these shows and I used airline mileage to get there. I've seen the guy 10 times since 1970– and although it was completely different than the others, this was up there with the best of those shows. (By the way– for anyone interested in Chuck Berry, I invite you to check out http://goheadon.blogspot.com. It's a site devoted to him. Or http://www.chuckberry.com.) Peter

  5. Avatar Steve Fischer says:

    Chuck Berry – the soundtrack of my youth!
    And Bruce never sounded better – sorry, E Street Fans.

  6. Avatar Larry Sparman says:

    My son and I attended the Win River concert in 2006. And yes, it was some what sad to see Chuck struggle at times, but still a night to remember. My niece's band opened for Chuck in Chicago two years previously and had nothing but rave reviews for his performance. They had their picture taken with him for their Christmas cards.
    Does anyone recall Chuck performing at the Shasta Fair grounds in the late 50's? I seem to recall him preforming in the building where the horse race venue used to be.How about Louie Armstrong at Nova HS auditorium? I still have a bunch of black and white photos that I took that night. Friend and fellow worker, Lou Kekoa and I met up with the band at Lim's Cafe and got to meet and talk with Mr Armstrong. A night to remember!

    • Avatar Dick Richards says:

      Jim,
      Nice set at the Vintage Wine Bar last night, some new songs and some new players. On a Tuesday night no less. I really liked Two More Bottles of Wine and Dry River.
      Rick Larsen