Watch Keith Richards on Chuck Berry: ‘The Granddaddy of Us All’


Chuck Berry’s biggest fan explains how Berry set the template for rock guitar in a Rolling Stone interview. Read an extract. Full article:

Following Chuck Berry‘s death in March, Keith Richards paid tribute to his musical idol for the upcoming issue of Rolling Stone.

Chuck Berry once gave me a black eye, which I later called his greatest hit. We saw him play in New York somewhere, and afterward I was backstage in his dressing room, where his guitar was lying in its case. I wanted to look, out of professional interest, and as I’m just plucking the strings, Chuck walked in and gave me this wallop to the frickin’ left eye. But I realized I was in the wrong. If I walked into my dressing room and saw somebody fiddling with my ax, it would be perfectly all right to sock ‘em, you know? I just got caught.

He would do things like throw me offstage, too. I always took that as a reverse compliment, sort of as a sign of respect – because otherwise he wouldn’t bother with me.

He was a little prickly, but at the same time there was a very warm guy underneath that he wasn’t that willing to display. There were other times between us when we’re sitting around and rehearsing, and going, ‘Man, you know, between us we got that shit down” – and there would be a beautiful, different feeling.

Chuck is the granddaddy of us all. Even if you’re a rock guitarist who wouldn’t name him as your main influence, your main influence is probably still influenced by Chuck Berry. He is rock & roll in its pure essence. The way he moved, especially in those early film clips; the exuberant ease when he laid down that rhythm was mystifying and something to behold. He used his whole arm to play. He used the shoulder and elbows. Most of us just use our wrists; I’m still working on the shoulder bit. Chuck was not one of those guitar players grimacing at every note he played, which is so common among us all. Chuck’s smiling as he’s playing that shit.

When the Stones were playing clubs, it was basically Chuck and the blues – which, to me, is not that different! We loved to play “Around and Around.” Chuck’s music is interesting to play because it’s not as simple as it looks – and it’s also a matter of how interesting you can make it. The swing beat he used gave a different flavor. That’s the meaning of the roll in rock & roll: It bounced.

In 1986, when we made Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll, I moved into his house in Berry Park for weeks. It was a childhood dream come true – I’m living at Chuck Berry’s house, putting a band together with him! Steve Jordan, Chuck Leavell and [NRBQ’s] Joey Spampinato were there too, and every day was an adventure. One night I woke up and found him outside the door with this enormous machine, shampooing the rug at three in the morning: “It’s gotta get done!”


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