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Chuck Berry - one of rock's greatest guitarists?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Sound of the Suburbs, Nov 18, 2019.

  1. Sound of the Suburbs

    Sound of the Suburbs Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Many would nominate Jimi Hendrix. I love Jimi but I think that Chuck is just as important and influential. Jimi brilliantly re-invented rock guitar - but it was Chuck who did the groundwork.

    When I was younger, I used to think that any rock music not influenced by Chuck Berry wasn't worth listening to. It's an overstatement of course but there is more than a grain of truth in it. Listing all the artists who either covered or were influenced by Chuck reads like a who's who of rock greats - Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, The Beatles, The Stones, The Who, The Beach Boys, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, Marc Bolan, The Sex Pistols, The Clash etc. Arguably, any rock artist who has short punchy songs owes something to Chuck.

    It's hard to imagine a music world in which Chuck Berry didn't exist. Along with Elvis, Buddy and Little Richard he is one of the founding fathers of rock and roll. Those guys (and a few others) opened the floodgates and in doing so gave us some of the most thrilling records ever made - 50s rock n roll has a primal energy that has never really been surpassed.

    Some say that Chuck only wrote 3 or 4 songs and just recycled the same riffs over and over. That may be true but those 3 or 4 songs are some of the greatest ever written. Look at his catalogue - Maybellene, Roll over Beethoven, You Can't Catch Me, School Days, Rock n Roll Music, Sweet Little Sixteen, Johnny B Goode, Around and Around, Carol, Almost Grown, Little Queenie, Back in the USA, Memphis Tennessee, Let it Rock, Come On, No Particular Place to Go, Promised Land etc. A golden decade indeed.

    Chuck's genius was to borrow some old blues licks, speed them up and adapt them into the style that we now call rock. And then there are his lyrics. Chuck isn't called the poet laureate of rock n roll for nothing! Some of the best lyrics ever written about the teenage experience.

    Chuck was rock's first guitar hero and is IMHO still the best - even his duck walk has been much imitated.

    Here's a great (mimed) performance of one of my favourite Chuck songs. The guitar break at the end is as good as it gets:

    So, any other Chuck fans on here? Do you agree that he is one of rock's greatest guitarists?
  2. Dylancat

    Dylancat Forum Resident

    Cincinnati, OH
  3. uzn007

    uzn007 Pack Rat

    Raleigh, N.C.
    Absolutely. Also one of the greatest innovators in general. The way he played his guitar "straight" (rhythmically) while Johnnie Johnson swung on the piano was huge. And he took blues licks and turned them into something new. As far as I can tell, he's the guy who turned rock & roll from a sub-genre of R&B or rockabilly into something unique.
  4. mark_j

    mark_j Forum Resident

    Definitely one of rock's greatest guitarists, even only looking at how influential he was to the kids who would soon grow up to launch the British Invasion.
  5. MHP

    MHP Lover of Rock ‘n Roll

    Chuck Berry was a pioneer of the rock ‘n’ roll guitar. That’s what counts. He created a landmark and millions of others followed in his footsteps. Standing on the shoulder of a giant, indeed.

    Technically, he was probably quite bad.
    So what? I’ll rather listen to Chuck Berry playing the guitar, than some wonderkid playing endless runs.
  6. Terrapin Station

    Terrapin Station Forum Resident

    NYC Man
    Definitely he's one of them.
  7. If I Can Dream_23

    If I Can Dream_23 Forum Resident

    United States
    For influence, at least on the rock and roll bands I love most, he is likely the greatest guitarist ever, yes. :)
  8. Arnold Grove

    Arnold Grove Senior Member

    And if you paid Chuck in cold hard cash, he'd agree with you 100%... ;)

    Seriously: Of course, he is one of the greatest guitarists in rock and roll. Because if anyone can claim the title of who invented "rock and roll" guitar playing, it is Chuck. And "Johnny B Goode" tells the story better than anything else.
  9. Zoot Marimba

    Zoot Marimba And I’m The Critic Of The Group

    Savannah, Georgia
  10. Rick Bartlett

    Rick Bartlett Forum Resident

    Chuck was very clever.
    Even when asked about his playing, he was pretty candid about it.
    He talked about his many influences over the years and how he developed his style.
    'a litte T-Bone Walker, little Glenn Miller, little Johnnie Johnson..... a bit of poetry, a bit of country music .....etc etc'
    His fusion of everything, has become the reason we are still talking about him.
    One of Rock's greatest guitarists? YES!!!
    What he did, he did great!
    Over the years, I do think he got a bit lazy and didn't develop it much.....
    Did he have to? Probably not, because he became a showman.
    It's been known that he would turn up to a show, and not even bother to tune his guitar.
    Even the famous duck walk was something he didn't invent, but an old vaudeville style charade that
    he used and adapted for his own.
    He came along at the right time, and was the guy that put it all together.
    Can't imagine a world of Rock n Roll without him.
  11. George Blair

    George Blair Forum Resident

    Portland, OR
    Great influencer, songwriter, poet, performer... Average guitarist.
  12. Mark Fricke

    Mark Fricke Forum Resident

    Chuck's primary contribution was to use the two string rhythm riff. That was new to Rock. He was a talented rhythm guitarist but not a lead guitarist.

    Those are different skills
  13. Mark Fricke

    Mark Fricke Forum Resident

    On a similar note, one could say that Paul McCartney wasn't a great bass PLAYER. He certainly could compose some amazing bass lines, but his technical skills were average to below average.

    It all depends on what you are looking to define a instrumentalist by.
    Sound of the Suburbs likes this.
  14. mmars982

    mmars982 Forum Resident

    Pittsburgh, PA
    Definitely, I would think he was rock's first great guitarist.
  15. Jazzmonkie

    Jazzmonkie Forum Resident

    Tempe, AZ
    I think his songwriting was more innovative. When I hear his guitar playing I think of Carl Hogan and T-Bone Walker.
  16. Rick Bartlett

    Rick Bartlett Forum Resident

    The guy introduced the 'cool' into what a guitar player could accomplish.
    Great entertainer!
  17. Vic_1957

    Vic_1957 Forum Resident

    NJ, USA
    He is the REAL King of Rock and Roll... just about everyone in the 60s and early 70s were either playing his songs or guitarists copying his style. It was Bob Seger who wrote and sang the lyric: "All of Chuck's children are out there, playing his licks."

    He was our first real and prolific Rock and Roll poet. We must do our best to never let his legacy slip from R&Rs memory.
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2019
  18. Frangelico

    Frangelico Forum Resident

    Sure and country influenced (and vice versa) and a great boxed set (Bear Family).
  19. Rose River Bear

    Rose River Bear Forum Resident

    Yeah no other guitar player used those "two string rhythm riffs" in their leads. o_O
  20. thxphotog

    thxphotog Camera Nerd

    Los Angeles, CA
    "Hello Chuck? This is your cousin, MARVIN Berry. You know that new sound you been lookin' for? Well listen to this!!"

    And to the OP, yes. List 10 of your favorite rock songs. Odds are at least one of the ten will have a Chuck Berry riff.
  21. John69

    John69 Forum Resident

    In my mind, when it comes to the guitar, there is Chuck Berry and then everyone else.

    I am 50 years old and my dad was/is a huge Chuck Berry fan. I can remember being a little kid and
    my dad would play the London Sessions and I would dance around the room wondering how this guy
    knew my name (John) and was telling me to be good. I must have been around 4 years old.

    When I got older my Dad told me how he played with Chuck at M.I.T. spring weekend, either 1967 or
    1968. The promotor didn't have a band for Chuck and my dad's band had played earlier in the day so
    they picked my Dad's band. My dad met Chuck and they took off in a Cadillac (with pistols for door
    handles) and went to the liquor store and also stopped to get some guitar strings, and then they went
    and did the show. My dad was crusing around with Chuck and got to play with him. Too cool!

    My dad has Chucks autograph on his draft card. I'm not a big autograph guy but I've made it clear to
    my dad when he passes I want that card.

    I got to see Chuck once in 2003. He was past his prime but it didn't matter. Just hearing him play was
    good enough for me.

    Long live Chuck Berry!
  22. Bluesman Mark

    Bluesman Mark But I'm innocent! Swan stole my music & framed me!

    Before Chuck, the primary R&R instrument was the sax. So, based on that influence alone, yes, he is one of the greatest guitarists ever. Add in all the riffs that have become a part of our musical language & it's obvious.

    Facts are facts, Chuck Berry & Little Richard invented R&R as we think of it. I still listen to them, Jerry Lee Lewis & Fats Domino regularly, & I came along after they made their major impact on music.
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2019
  23. Ephi82

    Ephi82 Still have two ears working

    S FL
    Right on! He created a lot of his licks by listening hard to Johnnie Johnson. He also liked to try to emulate typical R&B horn sections with his guitar. Chuck was cheap baby! Didn’t want to pay a horn section!
    Hep Alien, Jonny W, uzn007 and 5 others like this.
  24. Rose River Bear

    Rose River Bear Forum Resident

    Well said and on the mark.
    T Bone was a big influence on him.
    Chuck was kind of the opposite to Elvis in a way....Elvis took country and add a blues flavor.....Chuck took the blues and added country flavor. Hit those target notes Chuck and make it sound country. :D
  25. BourbonAndVinyl

    BourbonAndVinyl Forum Resident

    Kansas City, MO
    Not the greatest, but a truly great, great guitar player.

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