During the early days of Rock ‘n’ Roll, when it was called “race music” and even later after it was changed by a white victim of racism, Jerry Wexler, to Rhythm and Blues, the guitar was usually not featured as much as the sax and the piano. St. Charles Berrily and verily chucked that idea right out the window (along with the saxophone, in his case) and put the guitar out front and center where is remains today, although with the shear explosion in numbers of terminally white and / or heavy muddle guitar wankers, not always for the better.
Coming out of the starting blocks in ’56, Chuck could do no wrong with his songwriting or his guitar playing, which is why he was treated so harshly by the 50’s era adult (and adultress) authority figures who were trying to kill Rock ‘n’ Roll by pretending that payola hadn’t existed as THE music industry standard since the early days of Tin Pan Alley when it was all about sheet music, not records or radio. Their spin was that if the disk jockeys hadn’t been bribed to play this evil Rock ‘n’ Roll, instead of “good music” like “How Much is That Dogshit on the Window?,” their innocent little children would have never been exposed to this communist-inspired, “nigger” bop jungle music. Never mind that the deejays were likewise bribed to play white(“corn”)bread “pop” music like Eileen Barton’s “If I Knew You Were Coming, I’d Have Baked a Cake,” Sinatra’s “Mama Will Bark” and just about everything else at the time–especially since grand accuser Mitch (“The Bitch”) Miller of Columbia Records, somehow failed to mention his own involvement as Columbia records payola paymaster. Here’s a short little civics lesson on the subject: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SjbPi00k_ME
Chuck did a couple of years in the slam on a trumped-up charge invoking the Mann Act, a law passed by early 20th Century Congressional racists specifically for the purpose of jailing the World Champion boxer Jack Johnson for the twin crimes of beating the shit out of EVERY white challenger, marrying a very willing white woman and then horror of horrors, taking his wife across state lines “for immoral purposes,” which was namely their presumption that the couple were having otherwise normal marital relations. Those late 1950s ASSHOLES in the “best Congress money could buy” that manufactured the “payola scandal” were every bit as racist and hypocritical as their predecessors and I hope they burn in hell for what they did to kill not just rock ‘n’ roll, but to screw over jazz artists like Mingus, Billie and Bird and virtually anyone with dark skin. Black was the new “witch,” years before “burn, baby, burn” came back to haunt these grand-standing inquisitors.
Too much has already been written about Mr. Berry for me to regurgitate and up-chuck the endless amount of ink spilled over his contribution to American Music. It is disturbing to me that there are now “would be” Rock ‘n’ Roll guitarists who quite obviously never learned anything from this super-creative genius and one of the fountainheads of this culturally revolutionary music. I could say the same about the rock ‘n’ roll songwriters of the past 3 or 4 decades. Nothing that anyone can write is more important than hearing and in this case viewing vintage Chuck Berry film clips.
One of the problems for the “adults”reaction to the teen-targeted film industry was about the placing of this very popular music into movies was because so much of the music was made by those “colored people.” Actually they were just as likely to use the “letter after ‘M’ word (for those who are offended by the “N’ word), as often as not. Here they solve the problem by hiring some honky-ass amateurs as a backing band. The result is eliminating 3/4 of the black faces on the screen–everybody but the “star.” Never mind that ANY black band, let alone Chuck’s Trio would have done a much better job. Still, it is the Chuckster live, in 1959, right before the righteous racists framed him to get this wonderful music off the radio and off the charts.