Entertainment Music

Hail, hail Chuck Berry!

By Jane Stevenson, Postmedia Network

One of the architect's of rock and roll, Chuck Berry, has a new album. The legend died in March at 90. SUBMITTED

One of the architect's of rock and roll, Chuck Berry, has a new album. The legend died in March at 90. SUBMITTED

Chuck Berry waited a long time between albums.

Would you believe 38 years as his new and now final disc, CHUCK, dropped this past Friday? "The father of rock 'n'roll," who announced the record on his 90th birthday last October, didn't live long enough to see the collection arrive online and in stores. (The guitar legend passed on March 18, 2017, after a long, eventful life.)

"I don't know if this was what dad intended to be the last [record] but obviously fate made it the last," said his son Charles Berry Jr., 55, who plays guitar on CHUCK, and had been touring with his dad since 2001 until Berry Sr. retired from live shows in 2014 after 60 years on the road.

"It's good music. It's timeless music. This is a very good album to me. It's very strong. My dad is in top form playing. My dad played air guitar in his sleep. And you could see his fingers moving - he just did aD chord!"

24 Hours caught up with Berry Jr. - who also plays harmonica and sings on CHUCK - down the line from his home in St. Louis recently.

How is your family doing after your dad's death?

It's been rough. I loved my dad dearly. Mom [Themetta "Toddy" Suggs], she truly loved him. They would have been married 69 years this October. I can't imagine knowing someone for 69 years and then losing them. I'm dealing with the reality of having my dad for almost 56 years and the incredible pain that his death has caused. But I've got a lifetime of very good memories of my father. He was my ultimate hero, not for being Chuck Berry, but just for being a fantastic father. He taught me a tremendous amount about life in general, so yeah, we miss him.

Was your family surprised at the outpouring of tributes from rock's biggest names when you dad passed?

Surprised is one way of putting it 'cause we kind of went into tunnel vision. We weren't really paying attention to anything that was going on. Seeing stuff from Bruce Springsteen and Little Richard and Keith Richards ... I shouldn't just name drop ... but the incredible admiration that so many of the other people in the entertainment community had for my father and to see that coming in and condolence letters, it did help and I guess it did kind of surprise us at first. My father never made a big deal about himself and we all had the same perspective. I just never really had the [position], 'My dad - he's Chuck Berry! Bow down!' No.

Your dad's last album was 1979's Rock It. So had he been recording stuff since then but just not releasing it?

My dad went right back into the studio when he could and kept on recording. He recorded a whole bunch of stuff between 1979-'89. But in spring of 1989, the studio burnt to the ground so 10 years worth of music went up in smoke. [His entire] studio just turned to cinders and ashes. So he regrouped and started re-recording music that he lost and around 1991 when he had the time. He was (also) recording in 2010, 2013 and 2014. He was probably like, 'Okay, time to get this thing on out.'

Your 23-year-old son Charles Berry III also plays guitar on two tracks Wonderful Woman and Lady B. Goode, the sequel to your dad's huge 1958 hit Johnny B. Goode.

I'm so proud of him because a couple of his solos, a couple of the guys in the recording booth, their jaws were dropping, they couldn't believe this kid just walked in, who had never been in a studio in his life and did what he did. It just blew them away. It blew me away.