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Chuck Berry, one of the fathers of Rock ‘n’ Roll, died on March 18 at the age of 90. In 1984, the AFRO ran an appreciation of Berry following his induction into the Hall of Fame by ASCAP. He would be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame two years later.

July 21, 1984

AFRO Archives - Chick Berry

Fathers of Rock ‘N’ Roll, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry and Little Richard started it all long before John Lennon, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Called the true king of Rock ‘N’ Roll, Chuck Berry, started it all with his foot-stompings, wailing country sounds, punctuated by his rolling on his back while still playing his wanging guitar. The Beatles recorded numerous Berry songs and Berry himself has been featured many times on television specials and hailed as “the man who showed us the way.”

Berry, in our last interview, told us how it was a fight to hold on to the royalties for his songs. He was recently inducted into the Hall of Fame by ASCAP and given a gold plaque. The last time we talked to Berry was when he did the “Buddy Holly Story.”

In 1955, Berry took his recording “Ida Red” to the Chess Brothers in Chicago. They changed the name to “Maybelline” and got their friend, Allen Freed, a N.Y. Deejay to play it. The record first had the D.J. as a writer and Berry’s name was not on it.

Over the next few years, Berry produced a string of hits, including “Roll Over, Beethoven” and “Sweet Little Sixteen.” In the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, Berry recorded a new set of hits, including “Nadine,” “No Particular Place To Go,” and “You Never Can Tell.” In 1966, he signed with Mercury Records, but three years later returned to Chess, when he wrought still another slew of hits.

His “Back Home” and “San Francisco Dues” LPs are considered by some to be his finest. Appearance at the Lanchester Arts Festival in England resulted in a live recording of “My Ding-A-Ling,” which became Berry’s biggest seller. Meanwhile, Chuck Berry’s music and performing style have influenced two generations of rock stars, The Rolling Stones first single, “Roll Over, Beethoven” (The Electric Light Orchestra similarly had a hit with the song). The Beach Boys reworked “Sweet Little Sixteen” into their monster hit, “Surfin USA.”

And Chuck Berry’s duck walk is virtually endemic to contemporary Blues. From his early influences, St. Louis Country radio and Chicago Blues, Chuck Berry has gone on to create a wholly original musical genre. New Musical Express’ “Illustrated Encyclopedia Of rock” describes Berry’s contribution as the “introduction of a disciplined lyricism” to Rock ‘N’ Roll.