The Annual BBC Berry Birthday Show

The annual BBC 4 “Berry Birthday” showing of the 1972  Stanley Dorman-produced  ” In Concert- Chuck Berry with Rockin’ Horse”  makes me realize why the Beeb has never licensed this performance out to general C.D.

Over the 43 years since we did this performance, it has become critically acclaimed as the best Chuck Berry performance on film ( Hail! Hail ! Rock an’ Roll, notwithstanding }.  This was the last show on an  extensive European  tour in which the promoter had the foresight to engage me, and my colleagues Billy Kinsley, Jimmy Campbell and Dave Harrison ( three fifths of Rockin’ Horse, the studio group}) to be his band on every date, the various T.V. shows included.

As we here hired by the promoter, we never had to deal with Chuck’s sometimes confrontational money issues, so we could just glory in playing with him, and a wonderful rapport was the result.

There was never a set list, the keys were arbitrary from show to show, but we were so tight on his ass, that he couldn’t shake us.

As soon as he copped that , he started to pop out deep cuts, like “Havana Moon” and ” You Never Can Tell” – check, Gotcha ! We stood silent for the live recording of ” My ding-a-ling”, but I sneaked in some piano licks on the similarly acappela ” South Of The Border”, which was the follow-up single on Chess.

We developed the long piece, ” The Blues” during the tour. I usually sat next to him on the plane, or bus, or whatever, and one time  I suggested that maybe I could play a Thelonius Monk type solo on this particular tune, as Monk seemed like the blues to me. Chuck, who was deep into Charlie Christian, gave me the slanted smile and said ” Let’s do it”. That became the instrumental centerpiece as the tour progressed. It was all playing, and we did play.

When he was playing serious, he was killer. We used to do ‘ A Train” to sound -check,  for Heaven’s sake !

Al these years later, it still seems like a dream !

From The Desk…Re-Issues

Reissues
Mr. Bing’s by JOtwell

There was time when re-issues (or sometimes first issues) of bygone recorded music was almost exclusively the territory of jazz or classical musicians, and I would try to imagine the feeling of hearing one’s contributions to music from one’s past. After fifty plus years of recording, I think I now know.

The advent of CDs fueled re-issues on a much larger scale, and like many musicians of a certain vintage I’ve been able to hear music I was a part of so many years ago all gussied up for both nostalgia buffs and newer ears.  Older studio recordings nowadays are almost infinitely malleable, via digital manipulation and editing, but filmed live performances from way back in the day tend to be closer to the bone, I feel, because the sound and visuals have to be in sync, so there’s not as much leeway to change or “improve” things.  To me they are the more interesting things to re-view, or re-hear, so to speak.

What I remember most about the recordings I was involved with in the 60s and early 70s in the U.K., which have been the subject of extensive re-issue, was the fact that I was shit-scared, with my heart in my mouth, most of the time, yet the re-issued records don’t convey anything but calm professionalism on my part, and on the part of everyone else involved.

The live concert records and TV performances I did  from that era, with Doris Troy and, particularly Chuck Berry, are alive with swagger and hot licks all round … living in the heady moment, I guess. Mr. Berry, in particular, used to encourage me to play looong piano solos, and he’d whip the crowd up no end, which I appreciated at the time, and still do viewing the footage today.

When I get a compliment from a younger musician about a certain track I played on, it’s a wonderful feeling, whether a studio track or a live one. My idol and dear late friend Larry Knechtel, who played on so many monster records, told me once … and I paraphrase …”The only record that matters is the next one.”  Wise words indeed, but when one has a less extensive track record than someone of his epic achievements, the opportunity to savor highlights of yesterday are something to be savored.

In Nashville there are legions of players who have played on legions of records, both old and new, and the same goes for the brotherhood in the great recording centers around the world, who all deserve the greatest respect. To my brothers and sisters in arms, I would counsel y’all to smell the faded roses whenever they’re available. They may be fresher than you remember!

From The Archives… Chuck Berry with Rocking Horse

Chuck Berry Performs at The Speakeasy in London with Rockin' Horse as the backing band.
Chuck Berry Performs at The Speakeasy in London with Rockin’ Horse as the backing band.

 

This is one of those images that should have been thrown out but its got Chuck Berry on it so you just can’t- no matter how poor the exposure or the awful ravages of time.

This is from the tour Chuck Berry did with Rockin’ Horse as the backing band. I believe this photo was taken at The Speakeasy in London because all the other shows were arena gigs with high stages.

Click the pic to see some great video of Chuck performing in London with Rockin’ Horse.

The Skelly Suggests… The Wonderful World of Numbers

Numbers by JOtwell (click to buy)
Numbers by JOtwell (click to buy)

The Wonderful World of Numbers

  1. 25 or 6 to 4 – Chicago
  2. At 17 – Janis Ian
  3. 16 Candles – The Crests
  4. Hey 19 – Steely Dan
  5. One – Three Dog Night
  6. Beechwood 54789 – Marvelettes
  7. 30 Days – Chuck Berry
  8. In The Year 2525 – Zager & Evans
  9. A 1000 Stars – Kathy Young
  10. 96 Tears – ? And The Mysterians

The Skelly Suggests…What’s In A Name (Da Boys)

Dam It Steve! photo by JOtwell (click to buy)
Dam It Steve! photo by JOtwell (click to buy)

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

(Da Boys)

  1. P.F. SLOAN – Jimmy Webb
  2. JOHNNIE  B. GOODE – Chuck Berry
  3. ARTHUR – The Kinks
  4. TRICKY DICKY  – Richie Barrett
  5. MOHAIR SAM – Charlie Rich
  6. WILLIE AND THE HAND JIVE  – Johnny Otis
  7. HOLLIS BROWN – Bob Dylan
  8. COUSIN DUPREE  – Steely Dan
  9. JIM DANDY – LaVerne Baker
  10. BAD, BAD, LEROY BROWN – Jim Croce

The Skelly Suggests…What’s In A Name (Les Girls)

Church Hats - photo by JOtwell
Church Hats – photo by JOtwell

What’s In A Name (Les Girls)

1. MAYBELLENE                                              Chuck Berry

2.JUDY IN DISGUISE                                     John Fred & The PlayboyBand

3. BARBARA ANNE                                         The Regents

4. HELP ME RHONDA                                     Beach Boys

5. MESSAGE TO MARTHA                             Lou Johnson

6. LOUIE, LOUIE                                              Kingsmen

7. ANGIE                                                           Rolling Stones

8. BONY MARONIE                                          Larry Williams

9. BETTY’S BEING BAD                                  Marshall Chapman

10. VISIONS OF JOHANNA                            Bob Dylan