What if I told you one of the most influential men in music history was still living? What if I told you that the same cat that they helped start rock ’n’ roll; also helped start R&B. Would you believe me?
Enter Chuck Berry
When analyzing and acknowledging founders of different genres of music; there is a lot you have to take into account. The instruments and sound used. The style, swagger, clothes, intent, cadence, timing arrangement, rhythm, background, etc.. Anytime you’re making a statement like, “___________ helped found rock ’n’ roll and R&B”- you have to have evidence to back it up.
Before I talk about Chuck Berry particularly; let’s define rock ’n’ roll music for what it is: a genre derived from several styles of blues and gospel music started by Fats Domino, Hank Williams, Chuck Berry, Ike Turner, Little Richard, and Bo Diddley - but made popular by Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly. Of course there is more to it than that but that’s the bare bones definition.
Elvis gets credit because he did the most to help “popularize” the music to pop culture. (In fact he has even been credited as the “founder” of rock ’n’ roll.)
For the most part; the music that Chuck Barry and the men listed above were performing in the 40s 50s and 60s was classified as R&B or Blues. While the term rock ’n’ roll had technically been invented (by DJ Alan Freed in 1951); it had not reached the status of being commonly used to define that genre of music. If you went in a Chicago record store in 1956 looking for Chuck Berry- he would be in the R&B section and maybe have some titles in the Blues section. The most amazing thing about rock ’n’ roll and R&B is that they are both children of Gospel and Blues. Hard to imagine now but that’s the truth.
Why Chuck Berry? Because he was the shit. Lol. The confidence, the clothes, sideburns, skinny mustache, the duck walk, and the overall showmanship. He was nothing less than stage artistry. And then there was the music. Roll Over, Beethoven, Rock and Roll Music, I got to Find My Baby, Memphis, Tennessee, Jhonny B. Goode, Too Much Money Business, Carol, Let it Rock, and You can’t catch me. He’s a human litany of classics. Ask the Beatles and Rolling Stones where rock ’n’ roll would be without him. If you’ve ever watched in amazement at the moves and showmanship of Usher, Michael Jackson, and Jimi Hendrix- than you have to understand that the Genesis of that is Chuck Berry.