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,, 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

• 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


The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Ronnie Wood review – Chuck Berry tribute show neither rocks nor rolls
Lulu and Imelda May bring powerhouse guest vocals but the Rolling Stone can’t match up in this mediocre homage

Ian Gittins

22, Nov, 2019 @11:12 AM

Article image
Chuck wrote history of rock’n’roll music | Letters
Letters: His set of classic rock’n’roll numbers was explosive


20, Mar, 2017 @6:47 PM

Article image
Letter: Chuck Berry obituary
Giles Oakley writes: I saw Chuk Berry many times including on his British debut at the Finsbury Park Astoria, north London, in May 1964

Giles Oakley

17, Apr, 2017 @4:33 PM

Chuck Berry/Nine Below Zero, 100 Club, London

100 Club, London

Ian Gittins

25, Mar, 2008 @12:03 AM

Article image
Leader: In praise of ... Chuck Berry
Leader: Fans across the world are hoping that Chuck Berry will choose this evening to play one of his occasional Wednesday gigs at the Blueberry Hill in his native St Louis. For today is the brown-eyed handsome man’s 80th birthday, a rare milestone in a musical world in which too many others have died before they got old.


17, Oct, 2006 @11:09 PM

Chuck Berry, Town and Country Club, Bradford

Town and Country Club, Bradford

Dave Simpson

01, Jul, 2004 @1:52 AM

Article image
Chuck Berry: Chuck review – instantly recognisable rock'n'roll royalty
Berry’s first album since 1979, released after his death, revisits the riffs and themes he made famous in the 1950s

Dave Simpson

08, Jun, 2017 @9:00 PM

Article image
Chuck Berry is imprisoned
8 January 1962: Number 5 in our series of the 50 key events in the history of rock music

Michael Hann

11, Jun, 2011 @11:46 PM

Article image
Chuck Berry: hail, hail, rock'n'roll
Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie on the man who broke all the moulds

Bobby Gillespie

24, Jan, 2010 @12:06 AM

Article image
Chuck Berry, 90, announces first album in 38 years
The rock’n’roll legend chooses his 90th birthday to announce that he is releasing a new album next year, titled Chuck

Guardian staff

18, Oct, 2016 @1:14 PM