Chuck Berry is a musical icon who established rock ‘n’ roll as a musical genre and was a pioneer in the racial integration of music audiences. Berry was born in St. Louis on October 18, 1926 and departed this world from his Missouri home on March 18, 2017. Berry was a Missourian for the entirety of his 90 years.
His music has made a historic and cultural impact on every genre of American roots music since 1955. Upon witnessing the innovative musical genius of Chuck Berry at the Cosmopolitan Club in St. Louis in early 1955, Muddy Waters encouraged Berry to meet Phil and Leonard Chess in Chicago. On May 21,1955 Berry recorded a song called Maybellene at Chess Studios. Phil Chess described first hearing that song as “like nothing we’d heard before. We figured if we could get that sound down on a record, we’d have a hit.”
Two months later, Leonard Chess gave Alan Freed an acetate of the record while meeting with him in New York. Chess recounted the immediate response of the record, saying “By the time I got back to Chicago, Freed had called a dozen times, saying it was his biggest record ever.” Freed is most often referenced for naming the genre of “rock ‘n’ roll,” and, legend has it, he coined it to describe Maybellene. One thing is certain, Chuck Berry is the father of rock ‘n’ roll. The rest, as they say, is history.