Charles Berry or popularly known as Chuck Berry was a legend of Rock and roll music. He created a new genre of music by putting together different elements from country music and R&B, which influenced the music scene of America for decades. Divulging into the life and achievements of Chuck Berry is a reminder of how he changed rock music in America and made it an accessible and inclusive genre of music during times when White supremacy was at an all-time high.
Early Life of Chuck Berry
Chuck was born in the city of St. Louis in Missouri on 18th October 1926. He spent most of his childhood in a conservative neighborhood named the Ville. He came from an affluent family with his father being a builder and mother a school principal. Chuck fell in love with the genre at a very young age and began his stage performances at the school level. Not everything was perfect in his early life; he had spent three years in a reformation center for being involved in a robbery when he was 18. During his time at the reformation center, Chuck continued with his music and formed a small band in the center. After getting out, he tried his hands at various jobs but couldn’t hold on to any for long enough. Chuck then again went back to the music and started working with Johnnie Johnson, the guitarist in 1953.
Career breakthrough at Chess Records
Chuck decided to travel to Chicago in 1955 to meet Muddy Waters, the blues legend. Muddy helped him in setting up a meeting with Leonard Chess, the music executive of Chess records. Chuck recorded a song with the chess records called Maybelline, which was an adaptation of a Bob Wills song. The song was an instant hit went on to sell a million copies. This was the start of a golden phase for Chuck as he went on to produce hits after hits till 1959.
The toughest phase of his life
The 1960s wasn’t the best decade for Chuck Berry, both personally and professionally. In the last month of 1959, Chuck got arrested by the police for allegedly being involved with a minor girl sexually. He went through the trial and served one and a half years in prison. During his trial, he didn’t give up his music, but the controversy had affected his popularity severely. The emergence of the new bands like Rolling Stones and the Beatles during this time also didn’t help his cause.
In 1970, Chuck Berry collaborated with Chess records again with a hope of regaining his popularity. This partnership worked pretty well as Chuck came up with a #1 hit on the music charts in 1972, the only number one hit of his career. The song was called, ‘My Ding-a-Ling.’ Chuck did a lot of music tours during the early 70s, riding on the success of his comeback hits. He also got a chance to perform in the White House in 1979, when the president himself requested him to play there.
Chuck Berry received a lot of notable awards during his career. He won a Grammy in 1984 for his achievements in the music field. But more than anything, he would always be remembered for the experiments he did with the music and his showmanship on the stage.