Composer of the Week: Chuck BerryCharles Edward Anderson “Chuck” Berry was a modern American singer, songwriter and guitarist. He was born in 1926 in St. Louis, Missouri. His family was middle class and lived in a nice part of the city. His father was a Deacon at a church, and his mother was a public school principal (schools were segregated at the time). He started performing when he was in high school.
Berry got himself into trouble in his later high school years. He was arrested for armed robbery when he was 18 (he used a fake gun) and spent time in prison. There, he formed a singing group, which got so good that the prison warden let them perform outside the prison at times. He was released from prison on his 21st birthday. Throughout the 1940’s and 1950’s he worked as a janitor and a factory worker. He got married and made enough to buy a small home. In his spare time, he would play and sing with local Rhythm & Blues bands.
In 1953, he met the pianist Johnnie Johnson and started performing with his trio (a band of three people). The two worked on a sound that was a mix of blues and country music. This eventually became known as an early version of “Rock ‘n Roll.” By 1956, his music was becoming popular among black and white audiences. Songs such as Maybellene and Roll Over Beethoven made him a star. In 1958, he released perhaps his best-known song, Johnny B. Goode. He toured and composed over the next 40 years, including performances at the White House and on national TV.
Map of St. Louis, MO
The Music of Chuck Berry