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Chuck Berry - You Can't Catch Me

1y ago
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(born Oct. 18, 1926, St. Louis, Mo., U.S.) singer, songwriter, and guitarist who was one of the most popular and influential performers in rhythm-and-blues and rock-and-roll music in the 1950s, '60s, and '70s. Raised in a working-class African-American neighbourhood on the north side of the highly segregated city of St. Louis, Berry grew up in a family proud of its African-American and Native-American ancestry. He gained early exposure to music through his family's participation in the choir of the Antioch Baptist Church, through the blues and country-western music he heard on the radio, and through music classes, especially at Sumner High School. Berry was still attending high school when he was sent to serve three years for armed robbery at a Missouri prison for young offenders. After his release and return to St. Louis, he worked at an auto plant, studied hairdressing, and played music in small nightclubs. Berry traveled to Chicago in search of a recording contract; Muddy Waters directed him to the Chess brothers. Leonard and Phil Chess signed him for their Chess label, and in 1955 his first recording session produced "Maybellene" (a country-and-western-influenced song that Berry had originally titled "Ida Red"), which stayed on the pop charts for 11 weeks, cresting at number five. Berry followed this success with extensive tours and hit after hit, including "Roll Over Beethoven" (1956), "School Day" (1957), "Rock and Roll Music" (1957), "Sweet Little Sixteen" (1958), "Johnny B. Goode" (1958), and "Reelin' and Rockin'" (1958). His vivid descriptions of consumer culture and teenage life, the distinctive sounds he coaxed from his guitar, and the rhythmic and melodic virtuosity of his piano player (Johnny Johnson) made Berry's songs staples in the repertoire of almost every rock-and-roll band. At the peak of his popularity, federal authorities prosecuted Berry for violating the Mann Act, alleging that he transported an underage female across state lines "for immoral purposes." After two trials tainted by racist overtones, Berry was convicted and remanded to prison. Upon his release he placed new hits on the pop charts, including "No Particular Place to Go" in 1964, at the height of the British Invasion, whose prime movers, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, were hugely influenced by Berry (as were the Beach Boys). In 1972 Berry achieved his first number one hit, "My Ding-A-Ling." Although he recorded more sporadically in the 1970s and '80s, he continued to appear in concert, most often performing with backing bands comprising local musicians. Berry's public visibility increased in 1987 with the publication of his book Chuck Berry: The Autobiography and the release of the documentary film Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll, featuring footage from his 60th birthday concert and guest appearances by Keith Richards and Bruce Springsteen.