“If you were to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry’. – John Lennon
In the 1950’s one main man sparked the form and feel of rock-n-roll. By mixing country music with blues and aiming his lyrics to a teenage audience, Chuck Berry took a whole generation to new heights. Chuck Berry’s music was so catchy it was played on the radio before anyone asked what race he was. Some called it “instant integration” since music lovers of all colors would come to see Chuck play. Not only was he a phenomenal guitar player, but he cut a fashionable figure onstage in sharp suits and a swanky hairdo. He could dance and the poetry he sang made you want to shake. And when he’d do his famous “duck walk”, squatting down to walk while tearing up a lead on guitar, the crowd would go wild.
The chords he played would become the basis for work by rock-n-roll greats The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. And almost 2 decades later groups like The Ramones would speed up Chuck Berry riffs and add distortion to create punk rock. Not only did he create the form, but he was the first to sing about the dream of a regular kid who became a rock-n-roll star.
KEXP Documentaries are produced by Michele Myers, with assistance from John Felthous, Jentery Sayers and Executive Producer Kevin Cole. Special thanks for this series “Blues for Hard Times” goes to our friend University of Washington Music History Professor Larry Starr. KEXP Documentaries are made possible by a grant from the American Music Partnership of Seattle. To hear all of our series including: Punk Evolution, Pop Goes Electronic, American Sabor, The Heart of Soul and Music Revolutionaries check out our page here. And to share in our research materials as we make the docs, including film documentaries, songs and interviews become our friend on Facebook here.