Chuck Berry's second single on Chess Records was "Thirty Days (To Come Back Home)." Released in 1955, it added essentially new lyrics to an arrangement nearly identical to that of "Maybelline." It didn't score on the pop charts but reached # 2 on Billboard's R&B singles charts.
Then, the same year, it became a hit for one of country's biggest stars. And that was just the start. Berry had been a country fan for years, and based "Maybelline" on "Ida May," a variation of the traditional fiddle tune "Ida Red," made popular by Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys.
Chuck Berry's death at 90, with a new album looming, closes a chapter on not only the early days of rock and roll but on a master performer, guitarist and composer whose legacy will stand alongside every other major figure in American pop music. A fountainhead of rock, Berry was both original and synthesizer, who like Duke Ellington, Bob Wills, Bill Monroe and others who assimilated ideas from others, added their own ideas to create a distinctive and influential musical identity. In Berry's case, it left an impact whose repercussions have spanned generations and will not end anytime soon. He was one of the first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1984 and in 2000 was part of the Kennedy Center Honors alongside Clint Eastwood and Placido Domingo.
I've discussed Berry on this blog before and I may have a bit more to say. This entry from last October examined at the music sources that influenced him.
Tomorrow: Country Music Loves Berry.
Last year, we looked at Chuck Berry's influence when he turned 89. Hitting 90 this year, with a new album with new material coming next year, it's time to take a look at Berry as a master synthesizer, a genius, like Duke Ellington, Bob Wills, Bill Monroe and others who were able to assimilate ideas from other artists and build them into their own distinctive musical identity. Everyone takes from other players, even those who deny it. We'll look at four aspects of Berry, where they came from and how he integrated them into his sound, and passed it forward.
The announcement the Rolling Stones are recording a new album is, in itself, nothing new. But they've made a big point of noting that this new album takes them back over 50 years to their blues days, before the groundswell of original Jagger-Richards songs began. It sounds like they're coming full circle.
Yesterday, Chuck Berry, one of the architects of rock, turned 89. Still hanging in and living in Missouri, he performed up until a year ago but apparently takes it easy these days. These clips one from 1956 beginning and two later ones of Berry with two of his best-known disciples, say it all.
Time to own up: during the first half of 1964, I too hated the Beatles.