Is it ta-ra, Chuck? Not Berry likely | Letters

Letters: Memphis is undoubtedly the bridge not just between R&B and rock but between the blues (where Berry started) and the two derivative forms

Your article (Chuck Berry: from enduring Jim Crow to a comeback album at age 90, theguardian.com, 18 October) omits to mention Chuck Berry’s seminal Memphis, Tennessee – despite its huge impact here in the UK. Memphis is undoubtedly the bridge not just between R&B and rock but between the blues (where Berry started) and the two derivative forms. The lyrics – the lonely guy missing his six-year-old daughter following the split with her mother – are pure blues. I remember straining to hear it on Radio Luxembourg on its first release (a B-side!) in 1959, and thinking “what on earth was that?” I’d not heard anything like that riff and rhythm before. As I’ve subsequently read, others reacted in much the same way: in his autobiography, Eric Clapton says that Memphis “hit me like a thunderbolt when I heard it”.

And just see the joy on John Lennon’s face as he joins Berry to play it live on American TV’s Mike Douglas Show in 1972.
Bob Davis
Brighton

• How fitting that Chuck Berry’s new album could be named “Chuck”, a catchphrase of the late, lamented Jean Alexander (Obituary, 17 October), showing that Hilda’s influence stretches beyond the Street and across the Pond (Chuck Berry announces new album – at 90, 19 October).
Johnny Walsh
Chesterfield• Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

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