Rick Keene Music Scene – A Tribute To Chuck Berry

Rock n Roll is about rebellion.

There is a famous quote by Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones. 

“If you are going to kick authority in the teeth, you may as well use two feet …”

The modern day ‘bad boy of Rock n Roll ain’t got nothing on Chuck Berry. 

Most ‘rebellious’ musicians gain notoriety and then get arrested. In Berry’s case, he was an ex con long before the hits came. For most – jail time means a black mark. For Chuck Berry, time behind bars the origins of insights which would make him the greatest songwriter in Rock n Roll history.

The structure, the chords, the melodic phrasing – the lyrics. 

Never before (or since) have those elements been assembled with a combination of  reality and dreams. Somehow – Berry managed to instill hope into generations of youth with  ‘no particular place to go’. 


Elvis Presley carried the African American Country, Gospel,  Soul and R&B  into kids who at that time – more akin to Perry Como than Big Mama Thornton. Elvis put the rhythm into white folks as did Little Richard, Fats Domino, Bill Haley and Jerry Lee Lewis. They all put the Rock into a generation but that music was missing it’s bride.


Abbott had Costello, Laurel had Hardy, Samson had Delilah and Burt Bacharach had Hal David. Rock music was at the prom alone. As solitary and lonely as Burns without Allen.

Suddenly, as quick as Elvis’ pelvis – along came the Roll. Along came Chuck Berry. Along came Rock n Roll …

With a suitcase filled with Big Band and Country influences, Chuck Berry arrived with Swing. A bounce in his guitar that brought music to a level which combined rhythm with energy. Twang with Bass. Two strings in lieu of one. Banjo strings in lieu of guitar strings. Attitude in words rather than actions. Actions and glances rather than talk.

Chuck Berry walked the ‘duck walk’ and talked the talk. Chuck Berry created the Rock n Roll attitude. Chuck Berry used his entire body to kick authority in the teeth. He used his lyrics to write about it and his guitar was the weapon to make sure authority stayed down for the count. Poetically.

Better guitar players exist. Berry was not the greatest player by far. Just as The Wright Brothers were not the best pilots. The caveman who invented the wheel was not the best driver. Without all the above – the world would not be the same. The world would be in Black and White.

Lennon and McCartney’s whimsy, Jagger and Richards’ menace, Hendrix’ skill and Joe Bonamassa’s strut on stage  – all spawn from Chuck Berry. Imagining a world of Rock n Roll (music) without Berry’s influence is a world without soul. An orb floating through space while casting a cold shadow. A dull car filled with rust. Coffee without sugar.

People who do not listen to music know the name Chuck Berry. They have heard the name through his songs, The Beatles’ songs, The Stones’ songs, Pearl Jam’s songs, U2 songs and every note that has flew through the air in the past fifty years.

Aliens have heard or will hear Johnny B. Goode in space as that song was the only Rock n Roll tune to make the voyage into other worlds. David Bowie is listening to it today in his ‘tin can’ as we mourn the death of a pioneer. A rebel. A man of so many lows and a man of electrifying highs.

A man who was the true King of Rock and Roll.

Charles Edward ‘Chuck ‘ Anderson Berry 

1926 – 2017

Please listen below to Keith Richards, Eric Clapton and Chuck himself talk about Chuck. Hear some classic Berry tunes too !

Thanks for Listening !




Steve Hill Concert Review – Club Soda 

On St. Patrick’s Day , especially in Montreal – it is easy being Green and it’s even easier being Steve Hill.

The Trois Rivieres and Quatre ‘Solo Recordings’ native is normally used to the ‘ it ain’t easy being Green ‘ moniker. Bucking precedent in recent years and pioneering the  ‘one man band ‘ genre single handily made him a sort of  ‘musical abnolity’.  After all – ‘ it ain’t easy‘ being a vocalist, drummer, guitar, bass and harmonica player on stage now  is it ? 

All the above talents alone can be labelled magical. An aberration in a musical world filled with duos, trios and bands. The fact all four of Hill’s Solo Recordings albums contain mostly original compositions shoves the word magical into mystical territory. 

Bottom line, at Club Soda on March.17th – one very talented musician packed the house. 

Almost five years has passed since Steve Hill released Solo Recordings Volume 1. Almost the same time frame has elapsed since Steve took the stage like a ‘Jack Sparrow‘ type of pirate and performed his then simple set up. A stage presence containing a bass drum , high – hat and amps. It was in the embryo stages and Hill was learning on the fly to be an entity into himself. Whatever mistakes were made live were forgiven in lieu of ‘ a learning curve ‘ along with Steve’s brilliance on the guitar. 

The All Star player survived his ‘rookie‘ season and like many hockey players before – the Hall of Fame will be waiting. Just a matter of what size the display will be to contain the numerous awards Hill has collected and – will collect in the future. 

Speaking of collecting … 

The song ‘ The Collector ‘ off of the disc Solo Recordings Volume 2 was the groove song on Friday night. In most concerts or ‘ shows ‘, there is usually one song where all band members or solo artists feel okay in their skin. The trepidation of meeting a new audience, the anxiety of playing a new tune and sometimes the instrument ‘not feeling right’ can all be factors in a ‘start – stop‘ non groove. 

Last evening on St.Laurent Blvd. – The Collector raised the bar and seemingly lowered the nerves of Hill. From that point forward , the punters were treated to an evening of Old School Blues embedded into an old Blues soul. 

In true Blues fashion, Hill doesn’t shy away from the Blues – Country connection. His guitar picking in songs such as ‘ Out of Phase ‘ – glistening with Hank Williams riffs. Jimmy Reed’s ghost not so transparent within The Ballad of Johnny Wabo , Ever Changing World and King of the World. 

Like a true Bluesman – Steve Hill knows from where he came. The Crossroads and all it’s deals remain devilishly  inside every Hill performance. 

Steve Hill has gained much National recognition as of late. A Juno Award and a slew of Maple Blues Awards (Canada’s equivalent of The Grammys for Canadian Blues). He has completed an anthology of Solo Recordings with no end in sight (he has hinted a band album may be next ) Steve also recently completed his first important tour in Germany and other countries in Europe. A tour which should open doors to the ever important American scene. 

On stage and off – in very much the same way Keith Richards has remained true to himself , Steve Hill is Steve Hill. Aside from perfecting his one man band act and adding a drum stick to his guitar and a couple of cymbals, Steve Hill remains a student of the cornerstone of popular music; The Blues. 

There are no bells, whistles and elaborate costumes and / or costume changes. It would not be a surprise if Hill ‘s signature cut – off Jean jacket has been repaired more often than The Mercier Bridge. 

It is easy being Steve Hill and easy being  Green, Yellow, Red or any colour. As long as the hues are mixed with The Blues

Visit Steve Hill Here 
*Additional photos Rick Keene