|Elvis Express Radio brings news of Elvis releases and provides free online entertainment & news to fans around the world. We DO NOT sell any Elvis products
|CHUCK BERRY DEAD AT 90
March 19, 2017 - Various / Elvis Express Radio
When it came to sex and drugs, rock ‘n’ roll legend Chuck Berry rang all the bells — and then some.
Berry, who penned such classics as "Johnny B. Goode," ''Sweet Little Sixteen" and "Roll Over Beethoven," died Saturday at his home in an unincorporated area west of St. Louis.
He was 90.
Emergency responders summoned to Berry's residence by his caretaker about 12:40 p.m. found him unresponsive, police in Missouri's St. Charles County said in a statement.
Attempts to revive Berry failed, and he was pronounced shortly before 1:30 p.m., police said.
A police spokeswoman, Val Joyner, told The Associated Press she had no additional details about the death of Berry.
Berry's core repertoire was some three dozen songs, his influence incalculable, while Elvis Presley gave rock its libidinous, hip-shaking image, Berry was the auteur, setting the
template for a new sound and way of life. Well before the rise of Bob Dylan, Berry wedded social commentary to the beat and rush of popular music.
"Everything I wrote about wasn't about me, but about the people listening," he once said.
"Johnny B. Goode," the tale of a guitar-playing country boy whose mother tells him he'll be a star, was Berry's signature song, the archetypal narrative for would-be rockers and
among the most ecstatic recordings in the music's history. Berry can hardly contain himself as the words hurry out ("Deep down Louisiana close to New Orleans/Way back up in the
woods among the evergreens") and the downpour of guitar, drums and keyboards amplifies every call of "Go, Johnny Go!"
Elvis would perform / record a few Berry numbers throughout his career. Below is a complete list of Chuck Berry numbers that Elvis recorded or performed.
'Maybelline' [Live 1950's]
'Brown Eyed Handsome Man [Million Dollar Quartet, 1956]
'Memphis, Tennessee' [May 27, 1963]
'Memphis, Tennessee' [January 12, 1964]
'Too Much Monkey Business' 
'Johnny B. Goode' [Various Live & Rehearsal 1969 - 1977]
'Promised Land' 
Elvis never recorded “Johnny B. Goode” in the studio, well not really? In 1972 while filming the Golden Globe winning concert documentary, "Elvis On Tour", a mock recording
session was filmed / recorded, but no "official" studio session saw Elvis record the song. In 1969 'Johnny B. Goode' became a regular performance during Elvis' return to live
concerts at the International Hotel in Las Vegas.
The mock session recording of “Johnny B. Goode” recorded / filmed for 'Elvis On Tour' was picked to play over the opening credits of the documentary. However, when the film was
finally released on DVD in 2010, it was reported that Chuck Berry refused to give permission for Elvis' performance of the song to be included.... actually, it's wasn't a case of not
giving his permission, it was in fact the case he wanted a ridiculously over the top fee for the song. So instead of the excellent opening of 'Elvis On Tour' with that rockin' number,
the powers that be chose to replace that rocker with.... 'Teddy Bear/Don't Be Cruel'.
Elvis recorded “Promised Land” in 1973. Chuck Berry's version was back in 1964, after this classic, Berry went on to have just one more record reach the Billboard Hot 100 chart
and then disappeared, dropping off the charts for around seven years. From '64/'65 the quality of song writing quality declined, holding his career back preventing him from moving
with the times like so many other acts from the 50's.
Elvis friend and confidant, Jerry Schilling remembers one night in 1972 he was walking with Elvis and Sammy Davis Jr. through the Las Vegas Hielton. “We heard a very familiar
Chuck Berry intro,” Schilling recalls. “And Sammy and Elvis just looked at each other, and with a smile, we all just turned around without anything being said, and we headed for the
lounge.” After taking a booth in the lounge where Chuck was playing, Elvis began yelling out song requests at Berry. Some of those songs were what Elvis had himself recorded
over the years. Nobody, not even Berry ever knew Elvis and Sammy were even there.
This 1972 Chuck Berry concert at the Las Vegas Hilton shows the vast differences between Elvis and Chuck's career. In 1972, Elvis was performing to thousands of fans in the
Hilton Hotel's main showroom. But Chuck Berry was performing to 20 - 30 customers who were relaxing in one of the cocktail lounges as he sang his old hits.
Also in comparison, by 1972, Elvis had achieved over 100 Billboard Hot 100 Chart placing's which included 38 top 10 hits and 14 chart toppers. Chuck Berry on the other hand had
just 26 songs make the Billboard Hot 100, 6 of which made it into the top 10, and finally, Berry got himself his only U.S. Chart Topper with "My Ding-A-Ling" also in 1972.
Chuck Berry was born, Charles Edward Anderson Berry in St. Louis on Oct. 18, 1926. As a child he practiced a bent-leg stride that enabled him to slip under tables, a prelude to
the duck walk of his adult years. His mother, like Johnny B. Goode's, told him he would make it, and make it big.
A fan of blues, swing and boogie woogie, Berry studied the very mechanics of music and how it was transmitted. As a teenager, he loved to take radios apart and put them back
together. Using a Nick Manoloff guitar chord book, he learned how to play the hits of the time. He was fascinated by chord progressions and rhythms, discovering that many songs
borrowed heavily from the Gershwins' "I Got Rhythm."
He began his musical career at age 15 when he went on stage at a high school review to do his own version of Jay McShann's "Confessin' the Blues." Berry would never forget the
ovation he received.
"Long did the encouragement of that performance assist me in programming my songs and even their delivery while performing," he wrote in his autobiography. "I added and
deleted according to the audiences' response to different gestures, and chose songs to build an act that would constantly stimulate my audience."
Berry's big break came when he signed with Chicago's Chess Records in 1955.
'Maybellene' reworked the country song "Ida Red" and rose into the top 10 of the national pop charts, a rare achievement for a black artist at that time. According to Berry, label
owner Leonard Chess was taken by the novelty of a "hillbilly song sung by a black man," drawing on the comparison of Elvis where a "blues song sung by a white man".
Despite Berry's success, he would find himself several time in trouble with the law, which started back in 1944. Then, an 18 year old Berry went on a joy riding trip to Kansas City
which would turn into a crime spree involving several armed robberies and car theft. Berry served three years of a 10-year sentence at a reformatory for these crimes.
In 1961 Berry had the first of two trips to the slammer — first at the height of his fame in the early 1960s for transporting a 14-year-old girl across state lines for sex, and again in
1979 for tax evasion and he quickly struck a plea deal in which he admitted cheating the feds out of $110,000 in income taxes. — Berry was busted over a 1990 drug raid on his
estate in Wentzville, Mo.
Although authorities suspected him of transporting huge loads of cocaine in his guitar case as part of a multimillion-dollar drug operation, the search only turned up about two
ounces of pot, some hashish, two rifles and a shotgun, as well as more than $122,000 in cash.
But the cops also found a huge stash of pornography, including dozens of videotapes, trays of photographic slides and books — some of which appeared to show underage girls.
Berry, who publicly denied ever using coke, was charged with pot possession and three counts of child abuse for the underage porn.
He sued the county prosecutor, William J. Hannah, accusing him of filing malicious and politically motivated charges, and later cut a no-jail plea deal in which the child-abuse
charges were dismissed and he dropped his civil case.
The seizure of Berry’s porn collection, however, led to a scandalous 1993 report in the since-defunct Spy magazine that went way beyond the earlier scandals — revealing a
penchant for sexual fetishes involving bodily excretions and a predilection for spying on women in bathrooms.
The magazine described a homemade video in which Berry and “an attractive blond white woman” both relieved themselves during a New Year’s Eve romp in the bathroom of a
hotel suite in Lake Tahoe, Nev.
The report also detailed how Berry allegedly installed hidden cameras in the women’s restroom at the Southern Air restaurant in Wentzville after he bought it in 1987. One camera
“was evidently behind the toilet seat,” according to Spy, while others captured “aerial views of the toilets’ contents during the seconds after the women stood but before they
The recordings were then reportedly “painstakingly” edited and compiled in a pair of “toilet tapes” that showed hundreds of women and girls “in the act of relieving themselves.”
“Sometimes the frame is frozen for a few seconds, lingering on moments that must have been considered particularly moving,” Spy reported.
In 1994, Berry paid out a settlement for $1.3 Million Dollars in a class-action suit filed by dozens of women who were found to be on these tapes using the bathroom, and also
settled a similar suit filed by a former restaurant worker and another woman.
Berry was also publicly shamed when the High Society nudie magazine in January 1990 published photos of him posing naked with different women, with the publication claiming to
be “the only magazine with the balls to show Chuck’s berries.
Berry long cultivated a reputation as a cheapskate, in large part because he used local “pick-up” bands while on tour instead of hiring regular performers, often resulting in sloppy
performances with the musicians he met just moments before hitting the stage.
In 1987 — a year after his induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame — he even admitted that he became a rock ‘n’ roller for the money, and that “the Big Band era is my era.”
“Rock ‘n’ roll accepted me and paid me, even though I loved the big bands,” he told the Los Angeles Times.
Later that year, Berry was accused of punching a woman in the mouth during an early morning dispute at the Gramercy Park Hotel.
Friends described victim Marilyn O’Brien Boteler as a 30-something rock singer who dated Berry — whom she slapped with a $5 million suit that claimed she needed five stitches as
result of the smack.
Berry was also charged with assault but failed to appear in court in June 1988, leading to a bench warrant for his arrest. He later plea-bargained to a lesser charge of harassment
and was sentenced to a $250 fine
"Every 15 years, in fact, it seems I make a big mistake," Berry acknowledged in his memoir.
Still, echoing the lyrics of "Back in the U.S.A.," he said: "There's no other place I would rather live, including Africa, than America. I believe in the system."