Chuck Berry : biography
On the 18th of October in 1926 in a town Saint-Louis of the American state Missouri a boy, who would become one of the founders of rock-n-roll, was born. His name is Charles Edward Anderson Berry. A black Berry family, having many children, had a medium sufficiency – Henry Berry, Chuck’s father, was a deacon in a Baptist church and also was occupied in building business, and his wife Marta was a headmaster in a school.
Chuck was interested in music fro early childhood, and nobody considered it surprising. His parents sang in a local church’s choir, and sisters played the piano. At the age of fifteen Chuck bought a lot of student books about music and mastered the guitar perfectly. But this talented and smart boy never had good behavoiur, and when he was in a leaver’s class, he and his friends were arrested on charges of car theft and armed robbery of several shops. The trial sentenced Chuck to three years of correctional facility for underage. When Chuck had served his sentence, he started to earn some money, working as an unskilled labourer in different places, but his main occupation was music – in evenings he played the guitar in Saint-Louis bars and clubs.
In October of 1948 Chuck married Temetta Soddy, and a year later they had a daughter Darlin. Family life sobered him down a little – in order to keep his wife and daughter, he got a job in a car construction factory, and later began to study to become a hairdresser. He earned rather much money and soon bought a small brick house with three rooms. But neither work, nor family life made Chuck give up music, also because he hoped to get additional income – they had had two children by that time.
In 1951 he bought an electric guitar and continued studying, constantly listening to the records of professional guitarists, and a year later he appeared on the stage for the first time with a group of three musicians. They performed different compositions – form simple Chicago blues of Chuck’s idol Muddy Waters to “club-blues”, which was popular on the American West at that time. Chuck turned out to be a natural showman and was able to surprise the audience, adapting his diction and the manner of performance for the audience and sometimes including in his repertory, except usual blues, country music and ballads. Soon Chuck became a leader of the popular local trio of instrumentalists and gave a concert in an elite club of Saint-Louis “Cosmopolitan”. This group played only somebody else’s things too, but Berry entertained the public with funny rhymes, which he composed impromptu.
By the age of twenty nine Chuck was considered practically one of the best musicians in a Saint-Louis club scene, but his musical success didn’t bring much money, and he worked all day as usual. In order to be occupied only with music, he should release records, and it was impossible in Saint-Louis.
At the end of spring in 1955 Chuck went to Chicago on weekends and visited a club concert of Muddy Waters. In the break he came up to Waters and asked, where he could make a studio record. Muddy advised him to go to the audition in the company “Chess Records”, the leading blues label in Chicago. Leonard Chess, one of this company’s owners, appreciated business approach of the young musician and agreed to listen to his demo-record in a week. Chuck nodded his agreement and went home. He never recorded his songs – it wasn’t needed, and now for one week he managed to arrange arrangements and lyrics, recorded them with his group on the cheap tape recorder and visited Chess in the arranged time. There were four songs: slow blues “Wee Wee Hours” and three compositions, in a country style – “Thirty Days”, “You Can’t Catch Me” and “Ida Red”. Chess liked the last song, which was renamed afterwards in “Maybellene”.
They concluded a promising contract, but after recording Chuck returned in Saint-Louis and waited for results for a couple of months, continuing his usual way of life – he worked as a carpenter, played in clubs and learnt hairdresser’s art. In July everything changed, and changed forever: the song “Maybellene” took the fifth place in pop-charts and became a hit. There was blues “Wee Wee Hours” on the other side of the record.