Today is Chuck Berry's Birthday

Chuck Berry, one of the forefathers of rock and roll was born October 18, 1926 in St. Louis, Missouri.

Although he discovered a love of music from the Baptist church where his father was a deacon, he got into trouble with the law as a teen for armed robbery and spent three years at the Intermediate Reformatory for Young Men at Algoa where he formed a band that was so good the jailers let them play outside the facility occasionally.

No one played the guitar like this before Chuck did.

When he was released, Berry traveled north to Chicago where he met Muddy Waters. If this sounds made up, just remember the old adage: sometimes truth is better than fiction. Chuck told Muddy he wanted a record deal and the blues icon told the 21 year-old to go find the Chess brothers, founders of the legendary label, "and tell 'em Muddy sent you."

Leonard and Phil Chess signed the 6'2" brown-eyed handsome man and in their first recording session cut "Maybelline." The tune went to #1 on the R&B charts and sold 1 million copies.

The Replacements covering "Maybelline" in 1981

Over the years the classic has been covered hundreds of times by bands like Foghat (42 times), The Replacements (29), Deer Tick (16) and even Elvis did it a few times.

Chuck performed it in the middle of his last show in 2014 when he was 87 years old.

One of Chuck's biggest fans was Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones who arranged his 60th birthday celebration which turned into the eye-opening documentary Hail Hail Rock & Roll (1987).

When he was a lad, Richards said his two favorite artists were Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry. The self-titled Rolling Stones debut featured a cover of Berry's "Carol." So when the famously ornery Chuck Berry, snapped at producers, musicians, and even Richards himself during the rehearsals of the birthday gala, the Stones guitarist let it slide out of respect.

Richards also had great respect for Berry's longtime piano player Johnnie Johnson who played on that first session that produced "Maybelline." Richards theorized that Johnson, whose band Chuck joined initially (not the other way around), is the secret sauce of most of those classic hits that are solely credited to Berry.

According to Richards, songs like "Roll Over Beethoven," "Sweet Little Sixteen," and "School Days," require a skilled hand to play them on guitar, but are simple to perform on piano. Richards deduced it's because it was Johnnie, not Chuck, who wrote the music on piano. Later Richards encouraged Johnson to sue for past due royalties but the courts said too much time had elapsed.

Berry was quick to catch The Beach Boys retooling "Sweet Little Sixteen" into "Surfin' USA" in 1963 and "Roll Over Beethoven" into "Fun Fun Fun" the next year.

Chuck got a co-writing credit for "Surfin'" but not for "Fun," since the Angelenos only ripped off his opening guitar salvo.

Did Chuck Berry invent rock 'n roll? There probably isn't one person who can claim that title. But take a look at who he influenced. How many other songwriters, for example can say they were covered - on vinyl - by The Beatles, The Stones, AC/DC, The Doors, Count Basie, Paul Anka, The Animals, David Bowie, The Byrds, Eric Clapton, John Denver, Bo Diddley, ELO, The Everly Brothers, Foghat, The Grateful Dead, The Germs, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Holly, Iron Maiden, Waylon Jennings and Judas Priest.

Yes, even Priest.

Chuck Berry's enduring legacy and fingerprints on popular music has very few peers.

When Steven Spielberg wanted to demonstrate the power and majesty of the electric guitar in Back to the Future (1985) he let Marty McFly bust out a Chuck Berry song.

"Johnny B. Goode" was the first song about a rock guitarist as a rock star.

Meanwhile even Berry's "duck walk" has been embraced by guitar heroes worldwide, most notably Angus Young.

So on what would be Chuck Berry's 97th birthday, pour one out to who is probably rock's first true influencer.

Likewise, keep your eye on the Rolling Stones' website. Their new album drops soon and a tour will mostly likely follow it.

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