Classic Urban Harmony went to Cleveland, Ohio, to cover Rock & Roll living
legend Chuck Berry being honored by the Rock
and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and Case Western Reserve University.
We were invited guests of the Rock Hall and thank them for their
week-long celebration was the Rock Hall's 17th Annual American Music Master Series.
The tribute included lectures, workshops, film screenings and concerts
celebrating Chuck Berry's music and career. The event culminated with a Saturday night concert on October 27, featuring
tributes to Chuck Berry from Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Ernie Isley and
Darryl "Run DMC" McDaniels along with Joe Bonamassa, Rick Derringer, Rosie
Flores, John Fullbright, David Johansen, Ronnie Hawkins, JD McPherson, Lemmy
Kilmister, Merle Haggard, Chuck Prophet, Vernon Reid, Duke Robillard, Ray
Sharpe and Earl Slick. Chuck Berry was there to accept the award and performed.
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & Museum's Library
After our flight into
Cleveland from Newark, NJ, our first stop was the new Rock & Roll Hall of
Fame's Library and Archive building. We were invited by Terry Stewart,
the Rock Hall's CEO and President to tour the facilities. The Library
& Archives building is located on the campus of Cuyahogo Community College
in downtown Cleveland. Library Director Andy Leach greeted us and
personally gave us a guided tour of the archives. The Library and
Archives is free and open to the public. Music researchers are
encouraged to sign up for permission to access the large collection of
resources including photographs, posters and flyers, business documents,
hand written lyrics and song manuscripts, audio and video recordings,
magazines, books, song books and sheet music. The archives are both
accessible and secure. The Library & Archives holdings are already
considerable, including donated collections of Alan Freed material and
numerous other large collections. We are planning to donate some of
our material to the archives.
Closer view of the Library &
Archives at 2809 Woodland Avenue, Cleveland
Inside front desk
Current music magazines
The archive's collections are cataloged for
To find out more about the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame &
Museum's Library and Archive, visit
Later on Friday evening we were off the the Rock & Roll Hall
of Fame itself to catch a concert by Rick Derringer.
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & Museum
Johnny Cash's bus, now an exhibit outside
of the Rock Hall
Rick Derringer began his career with the
McCoys, whose 1965 record "Hang On Sloopy" went to Number 1 on the charts.
An outstanding guitarist, Derringer went on to gain fame producing artists
like Johnny & Edgar Winters, and playing on recordings by Alice Cooper,
Richie Havens, Todd Rundgren, Steely Dan, Kiss, Barbara Streisand and many
more. On this night he gave a spirited and enjoyable concert inside
the Rock Hall.
McCoys' memorabilia inside the Rock Hall.
Rock Hall CEO Terry Stewart (right)
introducing Rick Derringer (left)
Rick Derringer (left)
On Saturday morning we again arrived at the
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & Museum for a day long workshop at the Rock Hall's
Foster Theater. This is the same theater that we interviewed Orioles'
mentor, Deborah Chessler in 2009.
Electric sign inside the Rock Hall
The workshop began with an amazing film
assembled by archivist Joe Lauro, containing rare video clips of Chuck Berry
and other artists from the Beatles to the Rolling Stones, performing his
Next up was a live interview with Marshall
Chess, whose father Leonard Chess and uncle Phil Chess founder and ran Chess
Records, the Chicago record label that recorded Chuck Berry and scores of
other great artists. Marshall was 13 years old in 1955, when Muddy
Waters suggested to Chuck Berry that he audition at Chess Records. He
recalled that Chuck's first hit, "Maybellene" took 36 takes to record at
Universal Studios. The record quickly went to #1 on the R&B charts and
#5 on the pop charts. It was the first huge hit for Chess records.
Marshall went on to produce six number one albums by the Rolling Stones on
Rolling Stones Records that he was instrumental in forming. Marshall
Chess' stories were fascinating and we could have listened to him all day!
After lunch, we watched guitarist,
bandleader, songwriter, singer and producer, Duke Robillard demonstrate some
of Chuck Berry's unique and innovative guitar techniques. From
Woonsocket, RI, Duke was first influenced by the Chuck Berry recording, "Wee
Wee Hours". Duke went on to form Roomful Of Blues and played in the
Fabulous Thunderbirds. Robillard has recorded with numerous blues
legends and is regarded as one of the best blues guitarists around.
While we don't play instruments ourselves, we found Robillard's
demonstrations of Berry's guitar techniques informative and enlightening.
Next we watched Rock Hall CEO Terry Stewart
interview Ray Sharpe on stage. Sharpe is a singer, songwriter and
guitarist best known for his 1959 hit record, "Linda Lu" but we have records
by him on several other labels. "Linda Lu" was recorded with Duane
Eddy's band. He's from Ft. Worth, Texas, and was first discovered and
recorded by Artie Glenn, the writer of "Crying In The Chapel". A most
The final workshop of the afternoon was a
talk and discussion with Rock historian and author Peter Guralnick.
Our own library has most of Peter's books, including "Last Train To
Memphis," "Sweet Soul Music," "Dream Boogie," "Feel Like Going Home" and
"Searching For Robert Johnson". Peter talked about his historic
video'd interviews with Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and
fates Domino. He also showed short clips from the Chuck Berry
interview. A lively Q&A followed the talk.
After dinner we walked a couple blocks from our hotel to the
State Theater, a 3000 seat venue where the VIP Pre-Party and the main
concert event was held.
Cleveland's State Theater
The VIP Pre-Party in the Lobby of the State
Pam at the VIP Pre-Party
Charlie at the Pre-Party
Unique blend of old and new - cell phone
The final concert of the night was a big one, starting at
7:30 and lasting until well after 11 PM. A giant screen allowed the
playing of vintage movie clips of Chuck Berry's performances in between
acts. Dozens of noted guitarists and singers performed one to two
Chuck Berry songs in rapid succession in tribute to this living R&R legend.
The 3000 seat theater was sold out!
The giant theater's screen
Terry Stewart emceed the event, not an easy task since there
were dozens of technical changes in between artists. He did a great
job. The concert opened with a surprise appearance of Dave Alvin of
the Blasters. Dave was filling in for M. Ward who missed the event due
to illness. Dave Alvin started the show rocking with Chuck Berry's
song, "Promised Land".
Seventy-four-year-old Ray Sharpe performed
next, with a great version of "No Money Down".
Ray Sharpe at the Chuck Berry Tribute
Singer, songwriter and guitarist, JD McPherson gave us
Next, David Johansen (Buster Poindexter) of
the New York Dolls and the David Johansen Group performed with guitarist
Earl Slick. They did a great job on Chuck Berry's 1961 song, "I'm
Talking About You". They then invited Rick Derringer to join them on
"Back In The USA".
Terry Stewart came on between sets and gave a
short bio of Chuck Berry. He played a video clip of Chuck singing "Oh
Baby Doll," introduced by Alan Freed.
John Fulbright gave us "Downtown Train" on
keyboards. Singer, songwriter, Chuck Prophet performed "Tulane" and
Malina Moore gave a soulful rendition of "Stop And Listen" on guitar.
Duke Robillard and Joe Bonamassa performed
together in a great set. Augmented by Robillard's great guitar work,
Bonamassa sang "Wee Wee Hours". Duke then took the vocals on a high
energy "Oh Carol".
Left to right: Duke Robillard and Joe
Lemmy Kilmister from the British rock band Motorhead, sang
"Bye Bye Johnny" and "Let It Rock". Grammy-winning instrumentalist,
composer and producer Steve Jordan joined Duke Robillard for "It's My Own
Business". Vernon Reid of Living Colour performed "Nadine" and "Almost
Grown". Rick derringer returned to sing "Sweet Little Sixteen".
Malina Moye sang "Little Queenie". All the performances were great and
the excitement kept building!
Rock & Roll great, Ronnie Hawkins came on
next, giving us super renditions of "Thirty Days" and "Roll Over Beethoven".
Ronnie Hawkins (center) singing "Thirty
After an instrumental by the house band (they did an
outstanding job all night), Rock-A-Billy artist, Rosie Flores thrilled the
audience with "No Particular Place To Go" and "You Never Can Tell".
Next to perform was Country & Western
superstar, Merle Haggard. He sang "Working Man Blues" and "Memphis" in
Merle Haggard (on right)
While the next act set up, we watched a 1965 video of Chuck
Berry singing "Maybellene". The Ernie Isley of the Isley Brothers.
Ernie performed great updated versions of "Rock & Roll Music" and "You Can't
Catch Me". Darryl DMC McDaniels did a rap take off on "School Days"
(aided by DJ Charlie Chan) before being joined by Ernie Isley on a hip hop
version of "Brown Eyed Handsome Man".
Rock & Roll Hall of fame Inductees, Darryl
DMC McDaniels and Ernie Isley
Terry Stewart came on and read a proclamation
from the Mayor of Cleveland before introducing radio personality, Norm N.
Nite, who talked about Chuck Berry's contributions to music.
Norm N. Nite (center) with Terry Steward
off to the left.
As Chuck Berry was introduced and took the stage with his
band that included his son and daughter, the entire audience of 3000 rose to
applaud and continued standing for the rest of the night!
Chuck Berry, now 86-years-old, gave a
fabulous performance including extended versions of "Johnny B. Goode" and "Reelin'
And Rockin'," the later performed as a duet with his daughter, Ingrid Berry
Clay. Chuck's son, Chuck Berry Jr. gave guitar support. At one
point, Chuck thrilled the audience with a short "duck walk".
Chuck Berry & daughter (right)
Terry Stewart then presented Chuck Berry with the American
Music masters Award. Chuck brought his wife of 62 years (Themetta) out
on the stage and the other performers joined him on stage for "Rock & Roll
Chuck Berry receiving the American Music
Masters Award from Terry Stewart.
We had also planned to go to the After-Party at the Hardrock
Cafe, but immediately after the concert we stopped back at our hotel and
found out our afternoon flight the next day back to Newark had been
cancelled due to the impending arrival of Hurricane Sandy. Unable to
change our flight on the Internet, we called our airline and were promptly
put on hold for the next hour-and-twenty-minutes. Though we did miss
the After-Party, we were able to reschedule our flight to a morning one,
arriving back home before the hurricane on the last flight from Cleveland
into Newark for several days.
All in all, it was a great event and one that
we thoroughly enjoyed.
Chuck Berry's Vocal Group Recordings
Chuck Berry's music career has been so
extensive, it's not surprising that some of his recordings have vocal group
In February 1959, Chuck Berry's recording
session included background vocals from Harvey Fuqua and his second
Moonglows group, the one containing Marvin Gaye, Chuck Barksdale and James
Nolan. From that session came Chuck's recordings of "Almost Grown"
(Chess 1722) and "Back In The USA" (Chess 1729).
Later on July 29, 1959, Chuck Berry had a
recording session with the backing of a vocal group called the Ecuadors.
We know that the Ecuadors included Harvey Fuqua and probably the rest of the
second Moonglows group. One one occasion, Harvey also suggested that
Etta James was part of the group. The Ecuadors are uncredited backup
on Chuck Berry's "Childhood Sweetheart" b/w "Broken Arrow" (Chess 1737) and
"Too Pooped To Pop" (Chess 1747). At the end of the session, Chuck
Berry played guitar on two Ecuador sides, "Say You'll Be Mine" b/w "Let Me
Sleep Woman" (Argo 5353).
Chuck Berry backed by the Ecuadors
The Ecuadors backed by Chuck Berry on
Finally, if you're looking for more information on Chuck
Berry's life and career, the place to start is his autobiography.
Click on the image below to be taken to Amazon.com where you can still pick
one up. We'll review it on our Bookshelf Page shortly.
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