Guitar Gallows Bio Information - Chuck Berry
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Chuck Berry (born October 18, 1926) is an American guitarist, singer, and songwriter, and one of the pioneers of rock and roll music. With songs such as "Maybellene" (1955), "Roll over Beethoven" (1956), "Rock and Roll Music" (1957) and "Johnny B. Goode" (1958), Chuck Berry refined and developed rhythm and blues into the major elements that made rock and roll distinctive, with lyrics focusing on teen life and consumerism, and utilizing guitar solos and showmanship that would be a major influence on subsequent rock music.
Born into a middle class family in St. Louis, Missouri, Berry had an interest in music from an early age and gave his first public performance at Sumner High School. While still a high school student he served a prison sentence for armed robbery between 1944 and 1947. On release Berry settled into married life, and worked at an automobile assembly plant; but, influenced by the guitar riffs and showmanship techniques of blues player T-Bone Walker, by early 1953 he was performing in the evenings with the Johnnie Johnson Trio. His break came when he traveled to Chicago in May 1955, and met Muddy Waters, who suggested he contact Leonard Chess of Chess Records. Chess recorded Berry's adaptation of the country song "Ida Red" - "Maybellene" - which sold over a million copies, reaching #1 on Billboard's Rhythm and Blues chart. By the end of the 1950s, Berry was an established star with several hit records and film appearances to his name, as well as a lucrative touring career. He had also established his own St. Louis-based nightclub, called Berry's Club Bandstand. But in December 1959, after two trials with suggestions of racism, Berry was sentenced to five years in prison for offenses under the Mann Act - he had transported a 14-year-old girl to work at his club, and the girl was later arrested for prostitution.
After his release in 1963 Berry had several more hits, including "No Particular Place To Go", "You Never Can Tell", and "Nadine", but these did not achieve the same success, or lasting impact, of his 1950s songs, and by the 1970s he was more in demand as a nostalgic live performer, playing his past hits with local backup bands of variable quality. His insistence on being paid cash led to his third prison sentence in 1979 - four months for tax evasion. Now in his eighties, Berry continues to play live.
Berry was among the first musicians to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on its opening in 1986, with the comment that he "laid the groundwork for not only a rock and roll sound but a rock and roll stance." In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Chuck Berry #5 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, being the 3rd individual singer behind Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley. He was also ranked 6th on Rolling Stone's 100 greatest guitarists of All Time. In November 2008, the magazine ranked Berry at number 41 in their list of 'The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time". The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame included three of Chuck Berry's songs ("Johnny B. Goode", "Maybellene", "Rock and Roll Music"), of the 500 songs that shaped Rock and Roll.