"If you tried to give Rock and Roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry."
So said John Lennon and he was spot on. I'd place Chuck in the Top 5 most influential musicians of the 20th century alongside giants like Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, Jimmy Rodgers, and the obvious #1 K.C. & The Sunshine Band.
A few nights ago I had a dream that Chuck Berry had died. He didn't: he's alive and still rocking at age 81. But in my dream I was sad that it didn't seem like many people cared or acknowledged him as the true Founding Father of Rock and Roll. Johnny B. Goode, Roll Over Beethoven, Maybellene, Sweet Little Sixteen, and many many more hits are his legacy that should be remembered forever.
Well, after my troubling dream, I pulled out my Chuck Berry on Chess Records boxed set and moved it into my car where I have been listening and re-listening to little else for the past week. I picked up a cheap used copy of Chuck's 1987 autobiography too and eagerly packed it in my backpack where I devoured it, half each way on the airplane, during my recent business trip to California.
Did I enjoy the read? Yes. Do I wish Chuck had more to say about his legendary songbook and how those songs were written instead of story after story about all the white women he nailed on the road? I do.
For instance, we got just two lines in the book about his song Rock And Roll Music, one of the definitive classics of the genre, and a cover hit for both the Beatles and the Beach Boys too.
Instead, from page 305 of the autobiography, here are Chuck's food likes and dislikes.
"First of all, I do not like liver. It dries my throat and feels and tastes like a mixture of cardboard and sour-pickle patties. I don't get near okra or gumbo because it's just the opposite, slimy and gooey; I can't even hold it in my mouth, let alone swallow it. At a point of starving I'd eat celery, carrots, cooked onions, eggplant, grapefruit or salami, but only as survival nutrition. I'd rather my taste buds suffer than my heartbeat flutter.
I especially have a taste for pork though I'm not too fond of hog jowls or chitlins; I enjoy beef as in T-bone steak or stew, but absolutely no brains, tongue, and all that. I like fillet of catfish and salmon best of all freshwater fish, sweet and pungent shrimps of sea foods.
Peaches are my favorite of all fruits; home fries and/or candied yams of vegetables, soupy chili of all bowl portions; date or apple-filled oatmeal cookies of the cookie kingdom; 'pea' in the nut field; raspberry in preserves (never jelly) and grape in soda pop. The only sandwiches I care for are egg and bacon on lightly toasted bread or apple butter thickly spread on lightly toasted white bread.
I like Butternut or Snickers in candy bars; pineapple in fruit juices; and I drink orange juice all the time, anytime. White sliced French bread, soft vanilla pound cakes, and Dutch apple pie are especially good for treats at any hour of the day. For hot cereals it's oatmeal and for cold cereals it's corn flakes with a very ripe banana. I prefer fried (fresh) rabbit over chicken, duck, or turkey.
To finish things off, I like assorted mints, Colgate toothpaste, and well water. Darn, I'm getting hungry."
Thanks, Chuck. That is so much more interesting than one word in your book about Back In The U.S.A., Little Queenie, Come On, Run Rudolph Run or dozens of other songs you wrote but didn't mention at all.