Chuck Berry, The Father of Rock and Roll, Dead at 90

I begin this Post with the comment that I was writing as Terry McKenna was apparently closing the comments on his post on the same topic:


Your "argument or "case" is a bit like "birtherism".

Do you wish to somehow cast the shadow of doubt about the origins or lineage of Rock and Roll or, are you attempting to somehow diminish, devalue, or discredit Chuck Berry's monumental and momentous virtually single handed contribution to American culture and consciousness?

You seem to be saying that no one black man could, or should, be credited with that magnitude of impact and effect.

NBC, NPR, USA Today,  National Review, among others, have declared Chuck Berry to be the father of Rock and Roll.

Hall of fame President and CEO Greg Harris said in a statement Saturday that Berry "created the rock sound..."

Harris said that "Chuck Berry is rock and roll...The undisputed original poet laureate, he influenced every rock and roll artist after him and every guitarist that ever plugged in."

These sources carry much greater weight and credibility in this matter than you can ever hope to have on the subject.

Their assessment is in direct opposition to your premise and assertion. I'm in total agreement with them as a life long muscian, fan, and student of the genres that comprise American music which is rooted in African-American culture, history, and experience.

Chuck Berry is the Father of Rock and Roll whether you accept that assertion or not is your prerogative. Just as it is the prerogative of any and all here to determine that you lack sufficient credentials and credibility to speak authoritatively on the matter.

Your post, while interesting, is wrong and somewhat wrong headed.

Trixie Smith's 1922 blues ballad, “My Man Rocks Me (With One Steady Roll)” may be the first use of the phrase in song. Alan Freed, a disc jockey in Cleveland, Ohio used the phrase, “The Rock and Roll Session” to describe the amalgamation of rhythm and blues and country music he played during his show.

Berry reshaped the 1950s with a unique sound that appealed to both sides of a racially divided country.

He explained his appeal to adolescents across different cultural backgrounds: “Everything I wrote about wasn’t about me but [was about] the people listening.” He had a way of identifying what people wanted to express, but weren’t able to, during this segregated time.

“Maybellene” blended hillbilly licks and high-spirited blues riffs, ultimately creating the signature sound that pioneered the rock revolution. The lyrics for the song had narrative swagger, reflecting the spirit of teenage angst depicting fast cars, drag races and the story of an unfaithful girl as its main themes:

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame said in a statement Saturday that Berry "created the rock sound."

"Chuck Berry is rock and roll. The undisputed original poet laureate, he influenced every rock and roll artist after him and every guitarist that ever plugged in," hall of fame President and CEO Greg Harris said in a statement.

"Today, we celebrate his poetry, his artistry and his massive contributions to 20th century culture," Harris said. It's fitting that he was the first person inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Rock and roll as we know it would not exist without him. Hail Hail, Rock and Roll. Hail Hail, Chuck Berry."

Chuck Berry, 1926-2017

The Father of Rock and Roll

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Comments are closed for this blog post

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on March 19, 2017 at 2:53pm

While I see these origins-arguments as useless (there are too many influences, artists to fix on The One), I saw nothing in Terry's piece to suggest he (quoting you, here)..."no one black man could, or should, be credited with that kind of impact and effect".

Comment by Safe Bet's Amy on March 19, 2017 at 3:21pm

Heh.  That was one of the things I was trying to point out in my TM post comments.  

1.  "Father" doesn't mean he was the absolute first or the only one.  It means "most influential" as dictated by people who acknowledge being greatly influenced by him such as  John Lennon, George Harrison, Mick Jagger, Bo Diddley, Huey Lewis, Bruce Springsteen, Carole King, Tom Petty, etc., etc., etc.

2.  The, repeated here in OS, BS that he appropriated things such as Elvis' leg movements, etc. when, in fact, the exact opposite is true.

When you put that together with how VERY few of the initial "appropriators" ever acknowledged that the genre and they styles were from earlier black performers you can pretty safely say, "No one can father that which existed before his time." JUST THE OTHER WAY AROUND THEN TM MEANT IT.

Comment by Ron Powell on March 19, 2017 at 3:32pm

Of course you wouldn't see what I see.  And furthermore the fact that that you can't see it doesn't mean that it isn't there.

When I have similar issues re the comments I read re Judaism, Antisemitism, and the like , more often than not I avoid commenting on the matter because I'm not in your shoes or your space and hence I'm not supposed to see, and feel as you do...

McKenna's post carries a smattering, however subtle or silent it may be, of incredulousness.

If it didnt, I wouldn't have said so.

Or would you prefer to pass some kind of condescending judgment on my 70 years of having to pick up on, and live with, this kind of soft shoe bullshit.

Comment by Ron Powell on March 19, 2017 at 3:45pm

@Amy; What I find interesting is McKenna's insisting that his post shouldn't be argued because the argument is trivial. Then he runs away from it by closing comments on it.

Why post an assertion in if you're not ready to handle the inevitable disputes re the statement's rationale, rectitude, or the motivation for making the statement?


Comment by koshersalaami on March 19, 2017 at 3:58pm

Most of the other sources Terry cited were also Black, so I imagine he'd express some confusion as to this being a racial issue. I just can't get around his "guitar isn't that central" argument. The possible answer in terms of Berry is that a lot of sixties rock guitarists were influenced by blues players more than rock players, also Black of course. But we get back to the issue of the rock instrumental lineup, which brings us back to Berry. After all, the blues-obsessed Brits weren't generally forming blues bands. 

As to one man starting a musical movement that big, I don't know of any historical examples. The closest I could come might be Bob Marley or Bill Monroe, but neither reggae nor bluegrass is remotely the scope of rock n roll. Nor obviously is the serial twelve-tone classical movement started by Arnold Schoenberg. 

In any event, Berry might be history's most influential musician whether he created rock n roll or not because he created rock n roll guitar. 

Comment by Safe Bet's Amy on March 19, 2017 at 4:22pm

 I just realized that TM, being such a devout Catholic, probably has a different working definition of "Father" then the rest of us do.  Me thinks the concept of a black "All seeing, all knowing, supreme deity" might be more then he can handle.  LOL

Comment by nanatehay on March 19, 2017 at 4:30pm

A rock n roll flame war? Best. Day. EVer! I haven't read Terry's post yet, but just for now, and since it's pretty much indisputable that Chuck Berry did more than any other single performer to define what is now regarded by the vast majority of music historians and 100s of millions of fans world wide as the rock and roll sound - and also by way of demonstrating my solidarity with and or against you and Amy "Benita Mayolini" Barbarella up there^^ -

Punch 'im in the throat, Ron! Finish him off, man,  FINISH hiiim! 

Comment by Safe Bet's Amy on March 19, 2017 at 4:36pm

You'll have to forgive Nanatehay for that last bit, Ron.  He has a secret mayo, Cheez Wiz and Wonder Bread addition that he is trying to beat.  Withdrawals symptoms make him a bit tetchy.

Comment by tr ig on March 19, 2017 at 5:47pm

Soft shoe bullshit!


Comment by Ron Powell on March 19, 2017 at 6:04pm

@tr ig; As opposed to jackboot bullshit! 


If there is any justice...

Posted by Dicky Neely on May 24, 2018 at 7:33am 3 Comments

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