Chuck Berry is the King of Rock and Roll Music

Chuck Berry’s Rock and Roll Music with Etta James, Eric Clapton and Keith Richards, Robert Cray is the epitome of rock and roll

“If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry’.” said John Lennon about his hero Chuck Berry.

Chuck Berry is the King of Rock and Roll and he was also a character. He toured with just his guitar and no band. Everybody can play Chuck Berry standards and a local pickup band is cheaper than a touring troupe. Listen to the groove on ‘Rock and Roll Music’. Can you feel it?

The late Etta James belts out ‘Rock and Roll‘ music from somewhere deep in the solar plexus. She is pretty darn close to a bump and grind, the sex fueled place where rock and roll began.

The song ‘Rock and Roll Music’

When Chuck Berry wrote ‘Rock and Roll Music’ in May 1957, he was already a star of the R&B charts.

Chuck Berry, One Dozen Berries, the classic album with 'Rock and Roll Music'

While Elvis Presley was crossing over from country to blues in Memphis, Chuck Berry was incorporating country and western with ‘Maybelline’ up north in St Louis and Chicago.

‘Maybelline’ was a million selling hit in 1955, # 5 on the Billboard Hit Charts and #1 on the R&B chart.

In 1956, Elvis song ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ went to # 20 on the hot list. Chuck Berry charted #29 with ‘Roll Over Beethoven’. These were the says when rock and roll was being formed.

‘Rock and Roll Music’ is almost an answer to the critics back then that rock was not music, and there were plenty of those naysayers.

The song was written and recorded in 1957 at Chess Records in Chicago. Backing Chuck on guitar and vocals were Chess house musicians, “pianist Lafayette Leake, bassist Willie Dixon, and drummer Fred Below.” ‘Rock and Roll Music’ made #6 on the Billboard R&B Singles chart and #8 on the Hot 100 chart.

In Halifax Nova Scotia, where I grew up, ‘Rock and Roll Music’ was a hot tune and I remember buying the 45 single at Phinneys Music. My favorite Chuck Berry songs back then were ‘Johnny B. Goode’ and ‘Maybelline’. I also bought the “One Dozen Berries” album.

Rock and Roll Music lyrics

In the first verse, Chuck says that “It’s gotta be rock – roll music..If you wanna dance with me” because the music has “a backbeat, you can’t lose it. Dance music with a backbeat is the essence of rock. It it doesn’t have a backbeat, it’s not rock and roll.

Just let me hear some of that rock’n'roll music
Any old way you choose it
It’s got a backbeat, you can’t lose it
Any old time you use it
It’s gotta be rock – roll music
If you wanna dance with me

Then he drop kicks the big popular music of the time – jazz and classical as “too darn fast”

I got no kick against modern jazz
Unless they try to play it too darn fast
And lose the beauty of the melody
Until it sounds just like a symphony

The juke joint, naughty side of rock and that classic sax sound are the topic in verse three.

I took my loved one over ‘cross the tracks
So she could her my man a – whalin’ sax
I must admit they had a rockin’ band
Man they were blowin’ like a hurricane

To show he’s hip, Chuck makes a direct reference to the southern rock of Elvis with his “down south” and “all shook up”. Elvis has just recorded “All Shook Up” four months earlier in January 1957.

Way down South they gave a jubilee
Them jojo folks they had a jamboree
They’re drinkin’ home – brew from a wooden cup
The folks they dancin’ they got all shook up (words and music copyright Chuck Berry)

Rock and Roll Music charting

‘Rock and Roll Music’ was # 129 on the Rolling Stone Magazine list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Chuck Berry has four other songs on the 500 list – # 7 Johnny B. Goode, #18 Maybellene, #97 ‘Roll Over Beethoven‘, and #277 ‘Sweet Little Sixteen‘.

Rolling Stone Magazine just named “Chuck Berry – The Great Twenty-Eight” # 21 on the list of all time great albums. It has all of Chuck’s greatest hits.

Hail Hail Rock and Rock Movie

Chuck Berry, Hail Hail Rock and Roll

This clip is from Chuck Berry – Hail! Hail! Rock N’ Roll. Taylor Hackford produced the video as a tribute to Chuck Berry, who of course inspired every rock guitarist, singer and songwriter.

The band, which includes Clapton, Richards, Cray and Chuck Berry can only keep the groove. Etta James owns that performance.

Ironically, Chuck dissed her in rehearsals but changed his mind when she did that down and dirty boogie for him. Stories about Etta’s bad behavior are plentiful and Chuck thought she was unprofessional.

Keith Richards is along for the ride in the film as musical producer and to keep Chuck Berry, who was 60 at the time, in line musically. What a laugh that proved to be.

Richards was barely in the moment himself during some of the interviews. The concert that finally ends the original release of the film is hot, proving once again that Chuck Berry is the King of Rock and Roll. The joint was jumping as the band progressed through the concert.

I got distracted this morning researching Too Much Money Business. The video is great to watch. I have the VHS but I have upgraded it to the 4 disk DVD for all the bonus material.

Chuck insisted on getting paid every day in cash for the filming. Cheapskate or not, he was the King. Hackford and his producer complain bitterly in the supplementary DVDs that Chuck got more than $800,000 for his part in the movie, despite the initial agreement of about $200,000 in fees.

Chuck Berry and covers

Rock and roll musicians were not only were inspired by him, they stole whole licks, choruses and songs from Chuck Berry.

The Beatles stole from Chuck Berry, the Beach Boys, even Bob Dylan stole from him. Subterranean Homesick Blues is based on “Too Much Monkey Business

Rock and Roll Music

The song was written and recorded in 1957 at Chess Records in Chicago. Backing Chuck on guitar and vocals were Chess house musicians, “pianist Lafayette Leake, bassist Willie Dixon, and drummer Fred Below.” ‘Rock and Roll Music’ made #6 on the Billboard R&B Singles chart and #8 on the Hot 100 chart.

Rock and Roll Music Covers

‘Rock and Roll Music’ has been covered by The Beatles, The Beach Boys, REO Speedwagon, Humble Pie, Manic Street Preachers, Bill Haley & His Comets,, Mental As Anything, and Tenpole Tudor.

‘Rock and Roll Music’ was a staple of The Beatles club shows from the days in Hamburg, Germany.

The video clip has The Beatles performing “Rock and Roll Music” circa 1964. They released the song on “Beatles for Sale”, which had 8 new songs by the Beatles and 4 covers.

Portions previously published as The King of Rock and Roll

By Stephen Pate, NJN Network


DVD CD Vinyl MP3
DVD CD Vinyl MP3
4 DVD Version The Ultimate Chuck Berry Box Set
Top Rated Chuck Berry compilation

1 Comment

  1. Elvis Presley was the King Of Rock ‘n’ Roll. He was the whole package – the voice, the looks, the charisma, the stage act and he could sing in virtually every musical genre he cared to. Further, it was he alone who broke down social and cultural barriers in 1950’s U.S.A. thus enabling such artists as Chuck Berry and Little Richard to be accepted by white audiences. Although dead for nearly 35 years his influence worldwcomment_IDe is still immense.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


Confirm you are not a spammer! *