4 thoughts on “Maybellene: Chuck Berry

  1. I always liked his work. But he seemed sad, especially later on. He was so thin and his teeth were bad and he kept performing for years even after Rock music like his faded. We have a DVD of him performing way after the 50s in the at some small outdoor fair where there was a really small audience, not the audience that he deserved. I think he was one of those musicians–esp. Black musicians–who really got skrewed by the system and never made enough money to retire. He was still very thin but now had false teeth. Never read his biography. I wonder if anyone wrote it…

    But thanks! m

  2. Chuck Berry was targeted unjustly for his race for some of the problems that plagued him during his life, but he also was the author of plenty of his own problems.

    One of the things that I think led to his musical decline was his practice of never traveling with his own musicians, but always having a local band back him up as he toured the country. Some musicians who were in that position as his local back-up—including an unknown Bruce Springsteen—claimed that he would not rehearse with the musicians or even give them any sheet music to work from. They were expected to know it, and expected to know what song he was about to play next by the opening riff.

    This practice inevitable led to lousy overall performances and experiences for the audience.

    It’s funny, I was just talking yesterday with a friend about this with regard to the theatre. The great Nineteenth Century Shakespearean theatre stars such as Edwin Booth did a similar thing. The normal practice of those stars was that when touring, they would play their star part, say Hamlet or Lear, and a local theatre company would fill in with the other parts. The local players rarely got to rehearse with the star, but were told where to stand by the star’s stage manager beforehand. But the best performances inevitably were when they got back to their home base playing with actors they were used to, and who were used to them.

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