Author not Rick Keene
Legendary music producer Marshall Chess revealed to Billboard details of the late great Chuck Berry’s funereal. The father of rock and roll died on March 18 2017 and his funeral was held on April 9. Chess revealed that 800 people attended the funeral, including 200 members of Berry’s family, to pay tribute to one of music’s brightest stars.
Tributes came from a broad spectrum with Chess reporting that Congressman William Lacy Clay read a letter by former President Bill Clinton during the service. Berry had played at Clinton’s inauguration in 1993 and reelection celebrations. Gene Simmons of Kiss made an unscheduled speech at the funeral and teared up a few times during his own tribute.
Marshall Chess recounted how he first heard one of Berry’s songs in the car with his father Leonard Chess, founder of Chess Records. According to Chess, his father was ecstatic that the number one white station in Chicago had just played “Maybellene”. Chess himself met Berry in 1963. He told the congregation that the week he met Berry was also the week that Berry would record “You Never Can Tell”, “No Particular Place to Go”, and “Nadine”. After that first meeting Marshall was assigned by his father to accompany Chuck Berry on the road where he got to know him well.
During his article for Billboard, Chess stated that he was disappointed that Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, and Eric Clapton didn’t make it to the funeral. Chess believes that “they owe Chuck everything”. While Richards didn’t make it to the funeral, he did compose a tribute in the music magazine Rolling Stone. In typical rock and roll fashion he started the article by recounting how Berry gave him a black eye after Berry caught him playing his guitar backstage. Richards noted that in the early years of the Rolling Stones they would frequently play Chuck Berry songs with “Around and Around” being a favorite. Richards also paid tribute to the influence Chess Records had on Berry, citing “when he was at Chess, he was playing at the best studio, with the right players, with Willie Dixon behind him.”
Chuck Berry’s influence on not just the music industry but popular culture as a whole cannot be underestimated. The godfather of rock and roll has influenced everything from films, noticeably Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, to online games dedicated to the Rock N’ Roll genre on slots platform Betfair. This influence has even spread to consoles with the PlayStation game Mafia II featuring two of Berry’s songs: “Nadine” and “No Particular Place to Go” on its soundtrack. Chances are that whatever rock and roll song you’ve heard over the years, it has a reference or melody that was either created or inspired by Berry.
Speaking to Billboard, Marshall Chess also spoke of Chuck Berry’s kindness towards friends. The last story he told about Berry at the funeral was about the last time he saw the star, Chess revealed how he thanked Berry for changing his family’s life. Berry took his hands and said “don’t you know? It’s the same for me.”