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Mr. Rock 'n' Roll: Chuck Berry still going strong, after years of legendary hits

Rock and roll legend Chuck Berry, who is 82, will perform Saturday in Deer Valley.
Rock and roll legend Chuck Berry, who is 82, will perform Saturday in Deer Valley.
Josh Fronk, Park City Performing Arts Foundation

It all started with "Maybellene."

The song, a sort of alternate version of a country-western tune by Bob Wills called "Ida Red," was Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Chuck Berry's first hit.

Berry, born Charles Edward Anderson Berry on Oct. 18, 1926, in St. Louis, developed into a guitarist in the early 1950s out of necessity. He was newly married and was working odd jobs. So he picked up the guitar and played in various bands to make ends meet, according to the 1989 book "Chuck Berry: The Autobiography."

After working gigs in St. Louis, he traveled to Chicago and, at the encouragement of Muddy Waters, hooked up with Chess Records founder Leonard Chess.

Berry's version of "Maybellene" caught Chess' ear, and the song started Berry's career as a rock 'n' roll pioneer.

"Maybellene" hit No. 5 on Billboard's Hot 100 and took the No. 1 spot on the music bible's Rhythm & Blues charts.

His follow-up, "Roll Over Beethoven," wasn't quite as successful, peaking at No. 29 on the Hot 100. But "School Day" reached No. 3.

From there, Berry released a string of hits, according to Joel Whitburn's "Billboard Top Pop Singles" anthology, including Johnny B. Goode" (No. 8), "Back in the USA" (No. 37) and "My Ding-a-Ling" (No. 1).

Throughout his career, Berry, whose influences include the aforementioned Waters, Jimmie Rodgers and Nat "King" Cole, toured with Carl Perkins, the Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly.

Since 1948, Berry has been married to Themetta "Toddy" Suggs. The two have four children — Ingrid Berry Clay, Chuck Berry Jr., Aloha Isa Lei Berry and Melody Exes Berry.

While a celebrated musician and the originator of the duckwalk, Berry was one of the early rockers who had a few run-ins with the law.

His first was before he became a guitarist. He was arrested and convicted of armed robbery in 1944. In 1959, he was convicted and sentenced to prison for human trafficking after his 14-year-old, hat-check-girl companion was arrested for investigation of prostitution. In 1979, Berry pleaded guilty to tax evasion and was sentenced to 1,000 hours of community service, which he did by playing benefit concerts.

Each time Berry was released from jail or prison, he returned to music.

In 2001, he was sued by former bandmate Johnnie Johnson over royalties.

Berry's official and final studio album, "Rock It," was released in 1979. However, Berry has added a handful of live records and compilations since.

Throughout his career, Berry has been the recipient of awards and accolades that include a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award, a BMI Icon Award, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a star on Delmar Boulevard in St. Louis.

He also was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Nashville Songwriters Association International Hall of Fame.

Berry has appeared in various films, including "American Hot Wax" (1978) and "Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll" (1987).

As of today, according to his official Web site,, Berry still tours and performs one night a week at Blueberry Hill, a restaurant and bar in his hometown of St. Louis.

If you go…

What: Chuck Berry, Renaissance

Where: Deer Valley's Snow Park Lodge Amphitheater, Deer Valley

When: Aug. 29, 7 p.m.

How much: $31

Phone: 435-655-3114