Chuck Berry, rock’s first singer-songwriter

(K. Brent Tomer),

The main guy was Louis Jordan. I wanted to sing like Nat Cole with lyrics like Louis Jordan with the swing of Benny Goodman with Charlie Christian on guitar playing Carl Hogan’s riffs with the soul of Muddy Waters…oh I had it all mixed up.

—Chuck Berry to Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show”

THE honour having made the first rock’n’roll record is usually given to Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats for “Rocket ’88” (1951). Like all musical firsts, this is hotly argued over: landmark singles by Bill Haley, Big Joe Turner, Elvis Presley and Bo Diddley are often considered close rivals. But by the time of Chuck Berry’s “Maybellene” (1955), there could no longer be any doubt about it: true, full-on rock had arrived. What distinguishes “Maybellene” from the previous recordings is not so much the lowdown distortion of Berry’s “Chitlin’ Circuit” lead guitar and the raw sound of his band, but the song’s departure from the swinging R&B polish and inchoate rockabilly naiveté of its contemporaries. Chuck Berry was behind the wheel, and though he was headed somewhere new, he knew exactly…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC Chuck Berry, rock’s first singer-songwriter


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