Chuck's out of this world

Somewhere out in space billions of miles from earth two tiny probes follow a lonely course to eternity.
No human being will ever see them again. They are lost from man for ever.
But some day. Somewhere, another creature on another unheard of world may, by chance, discover one of them and search its interior seeking out its precious cargo.
Perhaps the curiosity of that creature will be aroused by the gold plated, disc shaped object the space probe carries. Perhaps he will be able to produce sophisticated equipment which will produce sounds from the disc.
And perhaps people from another galaxy far, far away will bop to the sound of rock 'n roll...

No particular place to go

On those two space probes each with no particular place to go, is a special recording containing sounds and noises reflecting life on planet earth. Among those sounds is music from one the teenage heroes from the middle years of the 20th Century - Chuck Berry.
Berry can justifiably claim to be one of rock's founding fathers, a powerful, brash performer whose hard driving beat music inspired popular song writers for 25 years.
Such was Berry's impact on the American scene from the Fifties onwards that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration regarded it as a vital part of US culture, hence its inclusion on the discs carried aboard Voyagers 1 and 11.
Berry, a reticent man with interviewers, was born on October 18, 1926 in San Jose, being one of six children. His family background was stable, his father working as a carpenter, a religious man who also preached the gospel.
In the depression times became hard for the Berry family. Young chuck - christened Charles Edward- and the rest of the family moved to Sty Louis, Missouri in search of a new life.
At their new home things soon fell into a comfortable enough rut, but young Chuck was a bit of a rebel, at 14 being sent to reform school after being convicted of attempted robbery. It was the first of three convictions faced by him over the coming years.
Berry started his career as a singer in high school clubs and also learned as a teenager to play the guitar. He loved music and St Louis was rich in varied styles, among them gospel, country, jazz, hillbilly and, of course, the blues.

Fame - and shame

Charles Edward Anderson berry was born on October 18, 1926 in San Jose, California, the son of a carpenter who also preached the gospel. The family later moved to St Louis.
One of six children, he had a rebellious streak which landed him in reform school at the age of 14.
In 1962 he was sent to prison for three years (he served two) taking a 14 year-old Apache girl to work in a nightclub he owned, allegedly firing her after he discovered she was working as a prostitute.
Other hits included Rock and Roll Music (1957), Sweet Little Sixteen (1958), Memphis Tennessee, Roll Over Beethoven, My Ding-a-Ling and Johnny B Goode.
Chuck Berry made his first UK tour in 1964, staring with The Animals, Nashville Teens, Swinging Blue Jeans and Karl Denver.
In 1979 he was sentenced to five months in jail for tax evasion.
In 1985 he was given a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 27th annual Grammy Awards. The citation said he was “one of the most influential and creative innovators in the history of American popular music, a composer and performer whose talents inspired the elevation of rock ‘n’ roll to one of music’s major art forms.”
In 1990 Berry was back in trouble, pleading guilty to possessing marijuana and placed on two years unsupervised probation, given a six month jail sentence and ordered to donate $5,000 to a local hospital.
Chuck Berry's big break came in 1955.
The song was originally called Ida Red, but had been re-named Maybellene after a popular hair lotion. The song was an old country favourite, but given the Berry treatment sounded nothing like country. It became a national hit and sold a million copies. Chuck Berry had arrived.
Berry's second major hit came with his fourth record release, a hard driving number called Roll Over Beethoven. Made in 1956, it established him as a major force in rock 'n roll.
From that point on he was hailed as a superstar, revered by fans and fellow artists alike, the hits came thick and fast… Sweet Little Sixteen, Johnny B .Goode, Rock 'n Roll Music among them. Many have become rock classics.
In 1959 the whole beat scene was changing. The original wild men of rock 'n roll had faded into the background.
A new wave of singers, smooth white men with names like Fabian and Frankie Avalon were challenging the supremacy of the original rock greats. But Berry sailed on, his talents unchallenged.
The crisis which was to lead him into trouble with the law for a second time came the day he picked up a cute little Apache Indian girl in Mexico and gave her a job in his St Louis club.
What he didn't know was that she worked as a prostitute. And she was only 14 years old.
Berry soon found himself in deep trouble. He was arrested and charged under a law which made it illegal to transport a minor over the state line. He was sent to jail for two years.

Written by The Editor - 04/09/2001 18:47:06

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