“If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry,’” John Lennon proclaimed on The Mike Douglas Show in 1972. “In the 1950s, a whole generation worshipped his music, and when you see him today, past and present all come together, and the message is Hail, Hail Rock and Roll.’” The two idols then kicked off into Berry’s song “Memphis, Tennessee.” Chuck Berry: The Original King Of Rock ‘N’ Roll is the first-ever feature-length documentary on the duck-walking electric guitarist and songwriter. It’s been playing, like any good rock and roll film, at special drive-in events across the country. The film will be available on VOD platforms and on Blu-ray on November 27.
In the same class as James Brown, Ray Charles, Fats Domino, the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley, “The first-ever Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee crossed the mid-’50s racial divide armed with nothing more than his guitar, business savvy and well-crafted songs such as “Maybellene,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Little Queenie,” “Rock and Roll Music” and “Johnny B. Goode,” reads the advance press.
But Berry meant more than just the music. “You could almost say that Chuck Berry invented the teenager,” Steve Van Zandt said in a statement. The writer of “Sweet Little 16” scored the soundtrack to 1950s youth with songs about dances, drag races, flat-tops, and begrudging safety belts with poetic jubilance. “He was a prolific craftsman of words and chords; an undisputed and stunning combination of talent and charisma,” reads the press statement. The film shows his “experience as a Black artist traversing the American racial landscape of the 1950s onward.”
Chuck Berry: The Original King Of Rock ‘N’ Roll features the first-ever interview with Themetta “Toddy” Suggs, Berry’ wife of 68 years Berry is widely considered the “Granddaddy of Rock and Roll.” But the biography takes a look at some of the “unsavory incidents that landed him in juvenile detention early on.”
Directed by Jon Brewer, the Award-winning filmmaker who also made BB King: The Life Of Riley; Nat King Cole: Afraid Of The Dark, the film was given the fully-authorized seal of approval by the iconic rocker’s family.
The soundtrack includes many of Berry’s hits, “starting right off with ‘Johnny B. Goode,’ which is considered one of the most recognizable songs in the history of popular music and credited as the first rock & roll hit about rock & roll itself,” reads the press statement. Yes, the song about the country boy who could play guitar like ringing a bell could have referred to anyone, from Berry to Buddy to Elvis, Bo Diddley, Ricky Nelson or an army of fretmasters rehearsing in garages across the U.S.A.
The documentary is told through intimate chats with his family, friends, and famous fans. It mixes performance footage with interviews from artists who are experts on why Berry continues to influence music. Van Zandt, Nils Lofgren, Alice Cooper, Gene Simmons, George Thorogood, Joe Bonamassa, Johnny Rivers, Nile Rodgers, Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, and The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards all speak in the film.
Chuck Berry: The Original King Of Rock ‘N’ Roll will be available on VOD platforms and on Blu-ray on November 27.