Chuck Berry, Jr. Chats About His Dad

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Charles Berry, Jr.

By Janice Malone

NASHVILLE, TN — CHUCK, is the posthumous final studio album from the father of rock ‘n’ roll himself, Chuck Berry. The music icon passed away earlier this year, just 5 months after his 90th birthday. But he left a legacy of priceless music for fans to enjoy, including his latest and final album, his first studio effort in 38 years. This is not an oldies album. There are new songs filled with the timeless rock n’ roll/bluesy flavor that made Mr. Berry the iconic star he became. The album’s been praised by such top media outlets as Rolling Stone, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, and others. CHUCK was recorded right here in East Nashville at Dualtone Records. Berry’s son, Charles Berry Jr., was in Nashville recently at Dualtone Records’ office, where he shared with the Tribune some insight about his world-famous dad and the making of his final album CHUCK.

TRIBUNE: I understand that you were part of your dad’s band for 15 years. How many of his albums did you record with him?

C. BERRY JR. “Just this one. The last album prior to this was in 1979, and I was 18-years-old then, so I was just getting out of high school. I had just graduated when his last album was released. I didn’t join my dad’s band until I was age 40.”

TRIBUNE: So, this is like a double honor for you being the first time you two recorded together. Do you have any personal favorite songs from this collection?

C. BERRY JR.: “I’ll just say all of them but if I had to pick one, I’d have to say, ‘Wonderful Woman,’ And that’s because there’s four members of the Berry family on that particular cut, and Gary Clark Jr., and as my dad called it, the St. Louis Band. My dad is playing the guitar and singing. My sister, Ingrid, is playing harmonica on that one.  My son, Charles III is playing guitar, playing solo work, as well as I, playing solo work, and I play rhythm on this song as well.  It’s a hard rock and straightforward blast of a song. If you like hard rock, electric guitar, this is the song to listen to.”

TRIBUNE: Was it your family that convinced your dad after 38 years to do another album, or did he just decide on his own that he wanted to do one?

C. BERRY JR.: “Oh no, he decided that. It was totally his decision. Late 2014, to be specific, we had a birthday show at this place called Blueberry Hill, it was his 209th show at this bar or club (St. Louis, MO area). He performed there for 18 years. But after that show dad goes, ‘You know what? It’s going to get cold soon, I don’t like driving in the snow anymore,’ my dad didn’t wear long johns, so he said, ‘I think I’m just going to take a break until the spring, and then we’ll pick up the shows in the first part of spring.’ What’s amazing to me, around that same time, he also just said, ‘You know what? I’m going to get this record out.’ So, that was his decision. He wanted to do it. Okay, alright, no problem. Let’s go ahead and get the record out. And that was his emphasis, and I don’t think his intent was to never play live again, but that’s how it turned out.”

TRIBUNE: Traveling the world with the founder of rock and roll, who happens to be your dad, that’s so cool. How old were you when you realized how famous your father was?

C. BERRY JR.: “My first realization of that he was not your typical dad was at age five or six. I would often see him on TV and then one day it just clicked. My mom would say, ‘He’s on!’ So, myself and my sisters, we’d all run down to the television, and there was my dad performing live on TV. The audience is there screaming and clapping for him. I’m just thinking to myself, ‘Wait a minute, Walter Cronkite and President Johnson are on TV a lot. I knew those people must be important because they’re on television. So, in my mind as a kid, I figured my dad must be important too cause’ he was on TV just like them!” (he laughs).

TRIBUNE: Your father wasn’t a typical ‘Leave it to Beaver’ dad, he’s Chuck Berry. Was he a strict dad or a lenient dad?

C. BERRY JR.: “He was a for-real dad. Real strict? No! But don’t bring any foolishness into his house. That was my father. ‘Don’t bring any foolishness, and there won’t be any retribution.’ As a kid though, I got in trouble just like anybody did and I was dealt with accordingly. But to be honest with you, the bottom line is that he was an absolutely excellent father!”

TRIBUNE: You ever get any spankings like most of us?

C. BERRY JR.: “Yeah, typical kid. Mom was the unfortunate person that had to administer the punishment. That was mainly because dad was gone on the road working. But if he was there, he would step up to the plate.”

TRIBUNE:  You and your siblings, are you guys going to carry on with another band? 

C. BERRY JR.: “I know my sister’s (Ingrid) been in the music business for over forty years. She loves performing. I cannot foresee a day where Ingrid is not on somebody’s stage doing something in music. My dad has several business ventures besides the entertainment business too. Myself and my sister, Melody, are now helping our mother make sure that those business ventures keep right on going.”

TRIBUNE:   How can people find you on Facebook, and the website so they can get the CHUCK album?

C. BERRY JR.: “For the longest I’ve maintained a Chuck Berry page on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/ChuckBerry/) Fans can also visit www.chuckberry.com page. There’s also www.dualtone.com, which is the record label’s website. If anybody wants to purchase an album, they can go there and get a whole package where you get a poster, a real vinyl album, the CD, and a t-shirt. You get a whole bunch of extra stuff. Then you can always just buy the album or the CD anywhere music is sold. 

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