Often cited as the man who "defined" rock and roll, African American singer/musician Chuck Berry was born Charles Edward Anderson Berry in St. Louis in 1926. Berry was guitarist for several Rhythm & Blues groups in the 1950s, notably Johnny Johnson's. In 1955, Berry recorded his first hit, "Maybelline." While many of his songs were "covered" by white artists in the race-conscious 1950s, Berry himself could still be heard on some emboldened radio stations who weren't concerned about offending the bigots. In movies almost from the moment he hit the charts, Berry was given guest spots in Rock Rock Rock (56) Mr. Rock and Roll (57) and Go, Johnny Go (58). Having appeared with disc jockey Alan Freed in the last two films, Berry was a logical choice to appear in the 1978 Freed biopic American Hot Wax, which starred Gary Busey. Chuck Berry was the whole show in the 1987 "rockumentary" Chuck Berry: Hail! Hail! Rock 'N' Roll!. Berry died in 2017, at age 90.
Biography by Hal Erickson
- Won his high school's talent contest with a performance of Jay McShann's "Confessin' the Blues."
- Worked as a beautician by day and guitarist with various blues bands at night before his career took off; eventually became one-third of a trio with pianist Johnnie Johnson and drummer Ebby Harding.
- While at a tour stop in Chicago, met Muddy Waters, who suggested Berry approach Chess Records; after submitting a demo tape, Berry went on to score his first Top 10 hit with the label, "Maybellene."
- Released his first studio album, After School Session, on Chess in 1957.
- Opened his Berryland amusement park in St. Louis, MO, in 1961.
- Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, the hall's inaugural year.
- Honored at the 2000 Kennedy Center Honors by then-President Bill Clinton.
- Scored numerous Top 10 and Top 40 hits throughout his career, but only one No. 1: "My Ding-a-Ling."