With songs like "Maybellene" (1955), "Roll Over Beethoven" (1956), "Rock and Roll Music" (1957) and "Johnny B. Goode" (1958), Chuck Berry refined and developed rhythm and blues into the major elements that made rock and roll distinctive, with lyrics focusing on teen life and consumerism and utilizing guitar solos and showmanship that would be a major influence on subsequent rock music.
Born October 18, 1926 into a middle-class family in St. Louis, Missouri, Berry had an interest in music from an early age and gave his first public performance at Sumner High School. By early 1953, influenced by the guitar riffs and showmanship techniques of blues player T-Bone Walker, he was performing in the evenings with the Johnnie Johnson Trio.
His break came when he traveled to Chicago in May 1955, and met Muddy Waters, who suggested he contact Leonard Chess of Chess Records. With Chess he recorded "Maybellene" — Berry's adaptation of the country song "Ida Red" — which sold over a million copies, reaching No. 1 on Billboard's Rhythm and Blues chart.
By the end of the 1950s, Berry was an established star with several hit records and film appearances to his name as well as a lucrative touring career. Berry had a few more hits in the 1960's and was notable in the 1970's for his live performer, playing his past hits.
Berry was among the first musicians to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on its opening in 1986, with the comment that he "laid the groundwork for not only a rock and roll sound but a rock and roll stance." Today, at the age of 86, Berry continues to play live.
Listen to Chuck Berry on iHeartRadio.