The Best Moments of Chuck Berry's 200 Shows at Blueberry Hill, as Told By His Bandmates
Blueberry Hill proprietor Joe Edwards could hardly have imagined what would become of the conversation he had with Chuck Berry nearly two decades ago. The rock & roll pioneer was at Edwards' home late at night in 1996, and the two old friends were reminiscing about Berry's early days before he skyrocketed to fame behind such hits as "Maybellene" and "Johnny B. Goode."
Photos: Steve Truesdell Still rock'n: Chuck Berry addresses the crowd during an October 2013 show at Blueberry Hill.
"We were talking about the old Cosmopolitan Club in East St. Louis, and he turned to me and said, 'You know Joe, I'd really like to play a club the size of the ones I did when I first stated out,'" recalls Edwards. "It took a half second. We both were like, 'Let's do it. Let's do it at Blueberry Hill.'"
Some eighteen years later, the 87-year-old Chuck Berry is set to perform his 200th monthly show at Blueberry Hill this Wednesday. In anticipation of that milestone, RFT Music caught up with Edwards as well as Berry's bandmates to discuss their favorite memories from all those shows.
Jim Marsala (Chuck Berry's bassist for the past 41 years)
Berry's band consists of Keith Robinson on drums; Jim Marsala on bass; Charles Berry Jr. on guitar; Bob Lohr on keyboards; and Ingrid Berry-Clay on vocals.
Probably the most memorable moment for me was when someone threw a bra -- a very large bra -- onto the stage. Chuck picked it up, examined it and said to the crowd: "Well, these don't need to be amplified." In general though, the thing that is special about the Blueberry Hill shows is that Chuck loves to play there. He loves the closeness of the audiences. And they love him, too. The appreciation he gets there is incredible.
Charles Berry Jr. (Chuck Berry's son and guitar player)
Apple and tree: Charles Berry Sr. and Jr. onstage at Blueberry Hill.
My favorite show was when Johnnie Johnson [Berry's original keyboardist] sat in with us some six to eight months before his death. Johnnie and my dad hadn't played together for a long time. I'm not sure it was a bucket-list thing for Johnnie or what. But for me it was the coolest experience to see that magic between them come right back after all those years. Everything else between them [Johnson had sued Berry in 2000 over songwriting credits] was peeled away. I'm sure there are pictures of me with my mouth agape watching. It was incredible.
Bob Lohr (Chuck Berry's keyboardist)
Two of my favorite shows were when we had unannounced guests. Earl Slick [David Bowie's guitarist] dropped in to play a set in 2011 when he was in town touring with the New York Dolls. And the other time was when Johnny Rivers came in and played an entire set with Chuck. Rivers covered a lot of Chuck's work in his career and probably had a bigger hit with "Memphis" than Chuck did. I remember Chuck joking during the show: "This is great, I'm not going to have to do anything tonight."
Continue to page two for more.