There are so many different musical instruments that create the sounds we love, but for me, there is none more central to my musical world than the guitar, and perhaps more specifically, the electric guitar. With that as an underlying reality of the music I love, I am grateful for today’s artist, and for all he did to pioneer and advance the use of the guitar in rock and roll music. Today’s album, The Great Twenty-Eight by Chuck Berry, is the #51 album as rated on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
While you will find the guitar in many of our previous selections, nowhere yet has it been more prominent and explosive than it is with Chuck Berry. His sound and style revolutionized the electric guitar, and the songs he created to showcase his skills became popular covers, direct predecessors, or even exact musical duplicates with reworked lyrics (see Surfing U.S.A. by The Beach Boys). His raucous sound and energetic power chords, building on the blues roots, opened the door for so many. Keith Richards, Pete Townshend, Angus Young and of course Jimi Hendrix, among hundreds of others, drew greatly from what they were given by Chuck Berry. If you have a spare moment, treat yourself to Hendrix covering “Johnny B. Goode” at his “Live From Berkeley” concert recording to hear how far Chuck Berry took us towards guitar Valhalla. The Beatles were so directly influenced by Chuck Berry that the very first song they ever played live in concert in the United States was “Roll Over Beethoven”, with George briefly stealing the spotlight from John and Paul on lead vocals.
The rest of this album is just loaded with great rock and roll songs. “Maybellene”, “School Day (Ring Ring Goes The Bell)”, “Rock and Roll Music” (another highly popular Berry tracked covered by The Beatles), “Memphis, Tennessee” and my favorite from this collection, “No Particular Place To Go”. There was just no match for the guitar solo and outro on this track, it simply rocks.
Chuck Berry was able to avoid the early tragic endings of many of his contemporaries and performed nearly all the way until the end of his long life in 2017. He remained relevant and influential all the way, and it always was, and always will be, in style and cool to be a Chuck Berry fan.