The day that our class was graduating from Hempfield High School, my best friend, Michelle and I were in Chicago. We decided it was more celebratory for us to see Chuck Berry at the Blues Fest than to stand in the heat and collect a piece of paper.
We were Stones freaks, and the Stones were our gateway drug to all the best old blues and rock n roll.
There we were in Chicago, squeezing up toward the stage when we caught a glimpse of Chuck side stage chatting with Keith Richards. They played together that night and we were 30 feet away from two legendary people who had their own personal mythology going on.
Unbelievable and magical moment. And only one of many to come in the decades ahead. That day set a tone for me. For my whole life.
We moved to Los Angeles shortly after and one day I went down to Hollywood Blvd to see Chuck get his star on Hollywood walk of fame.
I brought an ink drawing I had done of Chuck from memory back in high school. I wanted to get an autograph on it. After being guilted into signing it, he briskly shamed me for the physical inaccuracy of the rendering.
You see, Chuck very eloquently told me, the day the photograph that I had remembered and rendered from memory at the age of 16 had been taken- he had sported a mustache. It was a small mustache, so he could see how I hadn't remembered it. He signed a meager CB on the body of the piece, before mentioning that I had also not done the best job with the fingers...and saltily walking away.
I was 18, but it still kinda stung. Not the critique of the drawing-so much as just the realization that Chuck Berry really was a little bit of a dick... sharp as a tack, but real dicky. Which I had heard but ya know.. In any case he went to walk away, and must have had another tinge of guilt because he doubled back and signed it again with a borrowed silver pen. He signed his full name this time, on his knee in the drawing.
I loved Chucks songs and I still do.There are times when things are really hard and Chuck Berry songs bring me back to the simplest zen. I am grateful for being able to see him live three or four times and to have met him even tho he was a douche. And I guess also allegedly a perv? Like a watch people pee perv?
I can't keep track--and I'm not young enough to think my heroes are all faultless gilded idols. I didn't even think that when I was younger.
Anyway. I still listen to Chuck and some of those tracks are so magical and joyful and innocent. Maybellene!!
I am glad you were born, you mean, witty, sharp old fucker.
Back to the stars.
Occasionally my mom still gives me shit for not going to the graduation ceremony...she did just very recently. But, hey, and don't tell my nearly teenage son this, I don't regret one second of that choice.