Pop Culture

Chuck Berry: Rock ’n’ Roll’s First Guitar Hero

Chuck Berry leaves behind a core of rock classics and countless hits clearly indebted to him.

A couple visits the statue of singer and musician Chuck Berry with their grandchildren in University City, Missouri, on March 19. 

Tributes to Chuck Berry, called the "father of rock 'n' roll," continue to pour in after the legendary musician's death on March 18. Berry, who lived in St. Louis, was 90.



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Chuck Berry poses for a portrait holding his Gibson hollow body electric guitar circa 1956.

Charles Edward Anderson Berry was present at rock n' roll's infancy in the 1950s and emerged as its first star guitarist and songwriter. 

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Chuck Berry's Chess EP "Sweet Little Rock And Roller" was released in 1958.

A gifted guitarist and songwriter, Berry crafted lyrics that spoke to the experiences of 1950s teenagers.

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Chuck Berry poses for a portrait circa 1965.

"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 and, at least, partly autobiographical. Berry told Rolling Stone that the song originally had a line saying "that little colored boy could play" but he changed it to "country boy" in order to get it on the radio. 

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Chuck Berry performs a split as he plays circa 1968.

Like early contemporaries Elvis Presley, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, Berry put his music over with a showman's flair.

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Chuck Berry in Amsterdam in 1972. Gijsbert Hanekroot / Redferns

Chuck Berry performs at the Las Vegas Hilton in 1972.

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Chuck Berry performs with Bo Diddley in 1974. ABC Photo Archives/Getty Images
Michael Jackson and Chuck Berry pose at an Grammy Awards reception in 1978. Brad Elterman / BuzzFoto/FilmMagic

Chuck Berry performs in 1980.

His "duck walk" -- a crouched, head-bobbing march across the stage -- was an onstage trademark. 


Chuck Berry performs at a concert celebration for his 60th birthday at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis on Oct. 17, 1986. James A. Finley / AP

Chuck Berry talks with Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones at The Fox Threatre in St. Louis in 1986.

The Rolling Stones' first single was a cover of Berry's "Come On." 


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From left, guitarists Eric Clapton, Chuck Berry and Keith Richards pose at Chuck Berry's Los Angeles home during the filming of Taylor Hackford's documentary "Hail! Hail! Rock n Roll" in 1986.

The film documented the concert in St. Louis to celebrate Berry's 60th birthday.

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Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry and Ray Charles attend the 1986 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in New York City.

Berry was the first person inducted into the hall. 

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Bruce Springsteen and Chuck Berry perform "Johnnie B. Goode" to open a concert for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. Reuters

Chuck Berry performs in 2008.

Berry's death came five months after Berry announced plans to release his first album of new music in 38 years some time in 2017 - a collection of mostly original material recorded and produced by Berry, titled "Chuck" and dedicated to his wife of 68 years, Themetta "Toddy" Berry.

Related: Chuck Berry Remembered: Long Live the Bard of Rock 'n' Roll. 

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