Hail Hail Rock and Roll
John Lennon said that another word for rock and roll could be Chuck Berry. Right On. Though Maybellene, Rock and Roll Music and Johnny B Goode are quoted by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as his most significant hits, for me they are You Never Can Tell and Memphis Tennessee . But what a star. Afro American to his hair and the smile, his style and the rhythm, and his brushes with the law.
When it comes to Afro Americans it is isn’t only the time of their lives that counts its the time they do in their lives. And Chuck certainly did his. He may have had No Particular Place to Go but he was in and out of court all his life.
Although he came from a middle class St Louis family-dad a businessman, mum a head teacher- while still at high school he went down for armed robbery. Let out in 1947 he quickly married. Spells in a car plant ,hair dresser and as a janitor while learning to play were followed by a string of hits in the 50s.
He opened a club,oops. One of the girls he employed and had a bit of fun with was underage. No doubt she wore tight dresses and lipstick and sported high heel shoes. But this was one teenage affair the old folks didn’t wish well. He won the first appeal but not the second. Three years son. No digging the mambo where he was going.
He liked his Monkey Business. He may have walked like a duck but the rest of him was pretty normal. He is a rock n’ roll star so he gets lots. Nevertheless the mother of his four children stayed by his side to the end. He might have been up to something new, she weren’t.
But the great poet knew about separation “She could not leave her number, but I know who placed the call/Cause my uncle took the message and he wrote it on the wall.” Who doesn’t feel the tears or hear the wail of the last train to Memphis.
Roll over Beethoven. Chuck doesn’t like paying tax, who does. Especially after an early manager ran off with the loot ,he is famously penny wise. He demands to be paid in cash. In 79 he is done for tax evasion. In the slammer he must go. He is getting on but his Dingaling didn’t stop working. He opens a restaurant and puts a video in the women’s rest room. The ladies sue and he settles out of court. Costs over $1m in 1990.The police raid his place and he is done for possession. Sentence suspended.
But his trips to the court house don’t end. Fellow musician Johnnie Johnson pops up in 2000 and claims he co wrote Sweet Little16, No Particular and Roll Over. Case thrown out for being out of time. Berry was lucky ,if he had been caught speeding in Los Angeles he would never had made thirty let alone ninety.
My clip shows the famous scene in Pulp Fiction as they dance to You Never Can Tell. The King is Dead. Long Live Rock and Roll.
I am off for three weeks to Tamil Nadu. Normal service resumed on return.