Sad to hear that Chuck Berry, the Father of Rock & Roll, has died at the age of 90.
The great early rock bands owe their very existence to Berry—including The Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Beach Boys. Rock & roll may have never gained traction in the 50s and 60s without his signature guitar style (both on lead and rhythm). It was the DNA of his many hits, including “Johnny B. Goode,” “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Sweet Little Sixteen.”
Berry—along with his boogie-woogie pianist Johnny (B. Goode) Johnson—played a key role in the alchemy of R&B, rockabilly, Gospel, and jazz that was taking place in the 1950s and given the name of "rock & roll." The infectious rhythm—combined with Berry's innovative lyrics that celebrated the consumerist culture of fast cars and fast food—attracted white teens to this emerging genre, helping to launch a new musical form—and even a new demographic.
For purposes of this blog we should note that Berry, unlike many early rockers, developed his business acumen quickly, after being cheated by his first manager. Berry took charge of his own career and became so focused on cost-cutting that he was known to sleep in his Cadillac rather than pay hotel bills. (Of course, when touring the South a black man didn’t have the option of sleeping in most hotels or motels anyway.)