University City’s is due to be dedicated Friday. Though some University City residents opposed the statue due to Berry’s controversial past, as reported by Spinner’s Benjy Eisen, the installation of the Chuck Berry statue in The Loop moved forward on July 1.
Berry is often called the “Father of Rock and Roll” by both his fellow musicians and his fans. According to his biography at Guitarist Rock, he’s considered one of the “greatest guitarists and songwriters the world has ever known.”
“Chuck Berry not only breathed life into the rock and roll sound, he infused vital energy and spirit into the rock and roll attitude,” wrote biography author Scotty Smith. “His masterfully crafted compositions were an astonishing blend of traditional black rhythm and blues with white country, jazz and western licks, and they transcended race, class and age barriers to capture the imagination of a wide variety of cosmopolitan audiences.”
Born Charles Edward Anderson Berry to Henry and Martha Berry, his website identifies him as the “Prime Minister of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Berry, who was born October 18, 1926 in St. Louis, married Themetta “Toddy” Suggs. The couple has four children, including Ingrid Berry Clay, Chuck Berry, Jr., Aloha Isa Lei Berry and Melody Exes Berry.
About.com guide Music Education guide Espie Estrella wrote that Berry “fused blues with hillbilly and stamped it with his unique playing style and stage presence.”
“Berry was influenced by other performers such as Nat King Cole and the band Muddy Waters,” wrote Estrella. “He took up playing the guitar after performing on stage in high school. His friend Ira Harris taught him guitar playing techniques.”
According to a website dedicated to the Chuck Berry Statue, Berry was the first person inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Berry’s inscription there reads, “While no individual can be said to have invented rock and roll, Chuck Berry comes the closest.”
“In the pecking order of rock & roll survivors, Bob Dylan sees himself as number two, behind only Chuck Berry,” read a May 2009 article in Rolling Stone Magazine.
The St. Louis Post Dispatch reported last month that Joe Edwards, who owns Blueberry Hill, where Berry still performs once a month, and KMOX radio host Charlie Brennan led the $100,000 fundraising drive for the tribute, despite outrage from some residents who opposed both the cost and the fact that Berry has a checkered past.
“Chuck Berry is a felon,” lifelong University City resident Elise Glickert told Post Dispatch reporter Margaret Gillerman.