Rock ‘n’ Roll’s eldest statesman, Chuck Berry, died today at age 90. I won’t waste your time by adding to all the news reports discussing how influential he was. I first discovered this fact through the admiration he received from other artists when I first started to follow the music scene. Back in the 70s, hearing a band do a Chuck Berry song during its encore was quite commonplace.
One of my most treasured live music moments was seeing Chuck play back in 1987. Needing to make a last-minute business trip to Phoenix from my then home of San Antonio, I decided to make up for the inconvenience by spending the night in Las Vegas in route. On my way from the airport, I asked the cabbie what the best show in town was that night. Without blinking an eye, he said “Chuck Berry at Bally’s!” I somehow managed to score a decent seat, and much to my surprise, Chuck’s opening act was Jerry Lee Lewis with Mr. James Burton on guitar.
Thinking back, my memories about the show are faint, although I do recall how un-disappointed I was. Chuck Berry, who at the time, was the same age I am now, was absolutely everything I could have ever expected. He sang, played and duck-walked as good as he ever did. It was a night I wish I could relive.
Thanks, Chuck for all you gave us. Hail, hail, rock ‘n’ roll.