CHUCK BERRY: The Autobiography by Chuck Berry

CHUCK BERRY: The Autobiography

Email this review


An affectingly homespun memoir from a founding father of rock n'roll. Berry's story is just what you might expect from songs like ""Johnny B. Goode,"" ""Maybellene,"" and ""Sweet Little Sixteen""--there are a lot of fast cars, jail cells, and pretty girls, at least in the beginning. He was born in St. Louis (on Goode Avenue) in 1926, the son of a lower-middle-class black carpenter and a strict Baptist mother. When he wasn't chasing girls (he includes several highly libidinous memories from an unusually early age), and practicing a nascent version of the duck-walk (developed in a game), he was singing--making his debut in a high-school talent show and Finally becoming a lead singer in a gospel group (although he really idolized bluesmen like Muddy Waters). A wild spree at the age of 17 in Kansas City--he was in a stolen car with some friends--put him in jail for three years, but after he got out and married, he began to play with a band in St. Louis, developed a following, and soon cut his first record (""Maybellene"") with Chess Records. The rest is rock 'n' roll history. Berry describes the good times--the touring, the money, the women--along with the bad: being cheated out of royalties, twin convictions in 1962 and 1979 (for violating the morals of a minor--almost certainly a trumped-up charge--and income tax evasion). Certainly not the whole story--as even Berry admits in the last chapter--but rock 'n' roll fans will find it a fascinating portrait of a highly private musical innovator.

Pub Date: Oct. 18th, 1987
Publisher: Harmony/Crown