Chuck Berry, one of the rock ‘n’ roll greats of all time, has died. Chuck changed the world in the 1950s with his superb guitarmanship, song writing and active stage presence and kept playing for decades thereafter.
I was lucky to see Chuck play at the Roxy on Sunset January 13, 1977.
It took a little Internet research to find that date but there’s a very specific reason why I looked it up.
Chuck was a great performer but was notoriously late to come onstage. This performance was no exception as he was running almost an hour late. We were sitting at a table towards the back when I saw a man, who looked like the owner of the club walk up to someone at a table in front of us and hand him a couple of $100 bills. That man soon thereafter straight up walked up to the stage and gave us 10 minutes of performance spontaneously.
It turns out that it was the comedienne Freddie Prinze who unfortunately was to leave this earth less than three weeks later. All I remember is that he was pretty damn funny.
This particular show was nine days before Chuck would head back to NYC to play on Saturday Night Live.
Soon after Freddie’s warmup, Chuck came on stage tantalized us with his fingerwork & duck walk and a good night was had by all…
There’s too much to say about Chuck and all the things he did both as a musician and as an ambassador of culture for the United States but I do recommend Richard Cromelin’s piece from the LA Times this morning: