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Chuck Berry

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Chuck Berry at the Long Beach Blues Festival

Chuck Berry at the Long Beach Blues Festival (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chuck Berry (1926-) is one of the first great American Rock and Roll performers. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, as Charles Edward Anderson Berry, in his early life he sang Baptist hymns, swing and the blues. He later adapted these styles to songwriting.

In 1962 Berry was sentenced to three years in prison for transporting a young 14 year-old native American woman, Janice Escalanti, across state lines. He was freed on bail by his friend and record producer, Guy Stevens, who then introduced Berry to the UK.

Berry’s 50s hit “Roll over Beethoven” was recorded less successfully by the Beatles. But his “Sweet Little Sixteen” was a runaway hit with the Beach Boys. His songs “Maybelline,” “School Days,” “Nadine,” “Rock and Roll Music” and “Johnny B. Goode” were also crucial to the development of early Rock, as was his oft copied style of playing the electric guitar.

Little Richard often claimed to be the originator of Rock and Roll. But Berry’s equally important role in the formation of this pervasive musical genre is rarely contested.

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