Chuck Berry's music has transcended generations. Tunes like
Johnny B. Goode, Maybellene, and Memphis are some of the most easily
recognizable rock and roll songs of the century, and have become anthems to
American youth and popular culture. The artist behind these hits, Chuck Berry,
is a musical icon who essentially established rock and roll as a musical form
instead of a hybrid of R&B and country. Chuck Berry's incredible success is due
to his ability to articulate the concerns and attitudes of his audience in his
music. At the height of his success, Chuck Berry was a thirty-year old black man
singing to a mostly white, teenage audience. Dubbed the "Eternal Teenager,"
Chuck Berry's knowledge of the pop market and what it wanted to hear, made it
possible for him to break color barriers and play to an integrated audience.
Born in St. Louis on October 18, 1926, Chuck Berry had many
influences on his life that shaped his musical style. He emulated the smooth
vocal clarity of his idol, Nat King Cole while playing blues songs from bands
like Muddy Waters. It was in 1953 that Chuck Berry joined the Sir John's Trio
which eventually was renamed the Chuck Berry Combo as Berry's humorous singing,
playing, and stage act began stealing the show. After becoming a hometown
success at the popular Cosmopolitan Club, Chuck Berry headed to Chicago to try
and get a recording contract. In May of 1955, Chuck Berry auditioned for Leonard
Chess of Chess Records, a blues label. Much to Berry's surprise, it was a
hillbilly number, not a blues number that caught Chess' attention. Berry was
signed to Chess Records and in the summer of 1955, Maybellene reached #5 on the
Pop Charts and #1 on the R&B Charts. Through Chuck Berry, Chess Records moved
from the R&B genre into the mainstream and Chuck Berry was on his way to
stardom. Berry continued his success with such hits as Brown-Eyed Man, Too Much
Monkey Business, Memphis, Roll Over, Beethoven! and Johnny B. Goode. Johnny B.
Goode is Berry's masterpiece, as it brought together all the elements of Berry's
unique musical sound. It cemented his place in rock history and led to fame in
the fifties. His popularity garnered him television and movie appearances and he
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