Chuck Berry is arguably one of the best rock and roll musicians of all time. He is a talented musician who was able to cross racial lines and appeal to all audiences. In times when racial issues were tumultuous at best, Berry was able to transcend the color barrier that restricted many other black musicians. In the 1950s, Berry played to many inter-racial audiences, with as many as 40 percent of tickets being sold to white fans.
Chuck Berry was born Charles Edward Anderson Berry on October 18, 1926, and grew up in St. Louis. The first time Berry performed was in high school at the All Men's Review in 1941. After an enthusiastic response from the audience, Berry knew he wanted to be onstage. He taught himself to play guitar by emulating the songs he heard on the radio. However, at the age of 18, Berry was arrested and convicted for armed bank robbery. In prison he continued making music and joined a gospel group.
Released at the age of 21, Chuck Berry started playing at small clubs and bars. He performed everything from blues to calypso to country. At this time, Chuck was struggling and held many odd jobs. In 1952, he got his break when he was asked to join the Sir John's Trio. The group consisted of pianist Johnnie Johnson and drummer Ebby Hardy. With his incredible knack for showmanship, Berry eventually took over the band and renamed it the Chuck Berry Combo. Berry put a country-western twist on the blues and R&B for which the band was known.
In 1955, while Berry was on a trip in Chicago, he met up with his idol Muddy Waters and asked him who to see about a recording contract. Waters replied with the name Leonard Chess. Chess was impressed with the band's sound, especially their original song 'Maybellene.' Berry had his first hit, which sold over one million copies, reached number 1 on the R&B charts, and made number 5 on pop charts. Berry was 30 years old.
Chuck Berry's success continued with hits like 'Brown-Eyed Man,' 'Too Much Monkey Business,' 'Memphis,' 'Roll Over, Beethoven!,' and 'Johnny B. Goode.' This success garnered him appearances on television and film, and he toured frequently. Berry has toured all over the world, selling tickets in England, France, Scotland, the United States, and Monaco.
In 1962, Berry was once again arrested and convicted. During his 2-year stint in prison, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and the Beach Boys started to become popular. They all performed covers of his songs, and audiences became interested in his music again. After his release, Berry staged his comeback with the songs 'No Particular Place to Go,' 'You Never Can Tell,' and 'My Ding A Ling.'
Since that time, Berry has continued to tour and write music. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 and released his autobiography a year later. Chuck Berry is heralded as one of the greatest rock and roll musicians alive today. His influence helped to shape the music of the 1960s and 1970s and will continue to shape the music industry for many years to come.