NPR logo Chuck Berry: Father of Rock 'n' Roll

Chuck Berry: Father of Rock 'n' Roll

On today's show, we took a trip back in time to revisit the "Father of Rock 'n' Roll," Chuck Berry. His bluesy guitar licks, swaggering vocals, and lively showmanship indisputably made Berry an indispensable element in the evolution of rock.

Here's some history about his rise to popularity in the 1950's:

He quickly found out that black audiences liked a wide variety of music and set himself to the task of being able to reproduce as much of it as possible. What he found they really liked — besides the blues and Nat King Cole tunes — was the sight and sound of a black man playing white hillbilly music, and Berry's showmanlike flair, coupled with his seemingly inexhaustible supply of fresh verses to old favorites, quickly made him a name on the circuit.

His influence on rock is undeniable, even Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry tells Rolling Stone that "Chuck Berry is like the Ernest Hemingway of Rock 'N Roll."

Today at the age of 81, he still tours the world and performs his hits "Johnny B. Goode," "Maybellene," and "Memphis, Tennessee" and a new box set Chuck Berry - Johnny B. Goode: His Complete '50s Chess Recordings will drop into record stores and iTunes soon.

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What role do you think Chuck Berry held in American music history? What musicians do you think belong on the list of icons of rock? What musicians are missing from the canon of the "classics?"

See his 1965 performance on French television. His personality certainly comes out as he describes "the blues."

Or you may remember his song, "You Never Can Tell" from the classic dance-off scene in Pulp Fiction (1994).

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