The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum


Chuck Berry

1926

Charles ("Chuck") Edward Anderson Berry is born in St. Louis, Missouri.

1952

Needing a replacement for an ailing saxophonist for a New Year’s Eve show, pianist/bandleader Johnnie Johnson calls a guitar-playing acquaintance named Chuck Berry.

1955

Chuck Berry signs with Chess Records, landing a contract on the strength of his songwriting. Label head Leonard Chess is particularly impressed with Berry’s version of an old country & western song, “Ida Red,” which he’s rewritten as “Maybellene.”

1955

Chuck Berry records “Maybellene” – an uptempo rewrite of the country-flavored “Ida Red” – with pianist Johnnie Johnson, bass player Willie Dixon and drummer Jasper Thomas. It is the first of Berry’s many hits for Chess Records.

1955

Chess releases Chuck Berry’s “Maybelline” and Bo Diddley’s “Bo Diddley.” Diddley’s single is released on Chess Record’s subsidiary label, Checker.

1955

“Maybellene” by Chuck Berry reaches #5 on Billboard’s Best Sellers chart and tops the R&B chart for eleven weeks.

1955

Chuck Berry hits #2 on the R&B chart with the Chess single “Thirty Days.”

1956

Chuck Berry hits #2 on the R&B chart and #29 on the pop chart with the Chess single “Roll Over Beethoven.”

1957

Chuck Berry records “School Days” on Chess Records.

1957

Chuck Berry’s first LP, After School Session, is released. It contains such classics as “School Day,” “Too Much Monkey Business,” “Brown Eyed Handsome Man” and “Havana Moon.” Neither it nor its six successors will make Billboard’s album charts, as rock and roll is still largely a singles medium.

1957

Chuck Berry hits #1 on the R&B chart and #3 on the pop chart with “School Day” and #6 on the R&B chart and #8 (12/23) on the pop chart with “Rock and Roll Music.” Both singles are released on Chess Records.

1957

Chuck Berry tours with the “Biggest Show of Stars for ‘57,” sharing stages with Buddy Holly, the Drifters, Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers, the Everly Brothers, Clyde McPhatter and more.

1958

Chuck Berry’s biggest hit of the rock & roll era, “Sweet Little Sixteen,” is released. It reaches #2 on Billboard’s pop chart (held back from the top position by the Champs’ “Tequila") and #1 on the R&B chart.

1958

Chuck Berry hits #1 on the R&B chart and #2 on the pop chart with “Sweet Little Sixteen” and #2 on the R&B chart and #8 (6/09) on the pop chart with “Johnny B. Goode.” Both singles are released on Chess Records.

1958

The rock and roll classic “Johnny B. Goode,” written by Chuck Berry about pianist/sidekick Johnnie Johnson, makes the Top Ten.

1959

Chuck Berry hits #3 on the R&B chart and #32 (5/04) on the pop chart with the Chess single “Almost Grown.”

1961

Berryland Amusement Park opens outside St. Louis.

1963

“Surfin’ U.S.A.,” the Beach Boys’ thinly veiled rewrite of “Sweet Little Sixteen,” enters the Top 40 at a time when Chuck Berry is serving a term in a federal penitentiary for violating the Mann Act. Berry later sues for and receives a co-writing credit on “Surfin’ U.S.A.”

1963

The Beach Boys score their first Top Ten hit with “Surfin’ USA,” Brian Wilson’s reworking of Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen.”

1964

Chuck Berry appears in the TAMI ("Teen-Age Music International") Show with the Rolling Stones, James Brown, the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, Marvin Gaye, the Supremes, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, and others. The concert, held in Santa Monica, California, is released the next year as a feature film.

1964

The concert film ‘The TAMI Show’ is recorded in Santa Monica, CA, featuring James Brown, the Beach Boys, Chuck Berry, the Rolling Stones and the Supremes.

1966

Chuck Berry leaves Chess for Mercury Records. Among his Mercury recordings are Live at the Fillmore Auditorium (1968), on which he’s backed by the Steve Miller Band. He ultimately re-signs with Chess in 1970.

1972

‘The London Chuck Berry Sessions’ is released. One side was recorded in a London studio on February 5th with members of the Faces, while the other comprised material from a concert in Lanchester two days earlier, including “My Ding-a-Ling.” It became Berry’s best-selling album, reaching #8 on the Billboard chart and earning gold-record status.

1972

Chuck Berry’s only #1 hit, the novelty song “My Ding-a-Ling,” reaches the top of the charts. He’d originally recorded it as “My Tambourine” back in 1968.

1973

After 30 years, pianist Johnnie Johnson leaves Chuck Berry’s band.

1978

Chuck Berry plays himself in ‘American Hot Wax’, a film biography of seminal rock and roll deejay Alan Freed.

1979

Chuck Berry performs at the White House at the request of President Jimmy Carter. A month later, Berry begins a five-month sentence for income tax evasion.

1985

Chuck Berry is given a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 27th Annual Grammy Awards. He is cited as “one of the most influential and creative innovators in the history of American popular music.”

1986

Chuck Berry is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the first induction dinner, held in New York City. He is inducted by Rolling Stone Keith Richards, who said, “It’s hard for me to induct Chuck Berry, because I lifted every lick he ever played!”

1987

‘Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll’, a movie documentary and concert tribute to Chuck Berry, with Keith Richards as musical director, debuts. A year later, Berry publishes his autobiography.

1995

Backed by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Chuck Berry performs “Johnny B. Goode” and “Rock and Roll Music” at the Concert for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

2001

A multi-count lawsuit against Chuck Berry is filed on behalf of pianist Johnny Johnson. It seeks a share of royalties for Johnson, who allegedly co-composed numerous hit songs with Berry that have heretofore been credited to Berry alone.