Chuck Berry dies at 90, was banned in Boston

Chuck Berry, who helped give us rock 'n' roll, died yesterday at his home in Missouri.

In his biography of Berry, Brown Eyed Handsome Man, Bruce Pegg writes about a May 3, 1958 concert Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis gave at the old Boston Garden, emceed by DJ Alan Freed: The cops, already antagonistic towards the new type of music, repeatedly ordered Freed to get fans dancing in the aisle back in their seats - and they refused to let Freed lower the lights as Berry performed. People in the audience got rowdy; chairs and fists began to fly; the show ended early.

In the aftermath, Mayor John Hynes vowed to keep Berry and his ilk out of Boston, telling Variety:

These so-called music programs are a disgrace. They must be stopped and they will be stopped here - effective at once. As far as the City of Boston is concerned, ... if the kids are hungry for this kind of music they'll starve for it - until they learn to behave like citizens instead of hooligans. Boston will have no more rock and roll.

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    Comments

    Godspeed, Chuck

    By on

    You gave us rock and roll and, in Keith Richards, rock and roll incarnate.

    Thanks for the post, Adam. I always hope for a Boston connection to national news to get your take. This one was great. Can you imagine that concert?

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    The most joyful concert...

    By on

    I ever saw, and I have seen at least 1000 or more rock shows, ( I worked in the music biz for 10+ years) was Chuck Berry at the Berklee performance center in 2008. I paid 120 each ticket, and sat up in the back of the balcony. It was a fundraiser for a charity, and we endured Ernie & the automatics first, then a backup band to chuck levall (I think?) The Rolling Stones keyboard player.

    The local three-piece pickup band, and Levall, took the stage, and there was an interminable wait. Then Chuck nonchalantly came out on stage after an exciting introduction, plugged in his guitar into two enormous Fender Bassman cabinets, and strummed a tiny lick on a string or two. It was just this tiny slide of his hand up the neck to check the sound, but you could instantly feel his light and playful touch and his joy and excitemnt just jolt right across the air from 100 feet away! People didn't know what to expect, and were seated, but as soon as he started the first song, the audience jumped en masse like in a court house... I couldn't stop smiling like a baby for the entire 30 minutes he was out there. The entire place was so incredibly intensely and all at once in the same exact state of happiness! His connection across 50 years of time, thats really THREE GENERATIONS of people, and his effortless connection to the kid-like soul of everyone in the audience, and those songs of freedom and promise.

    It was absolutely the closest to transcendent I've ever been at a rock show.

    John Lennon said "If you want to call rock n roll something else, you might as well call it Chuck Berry."

    He's the Father of Rock n' Roll.

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    Why the plane didn't land at Logan

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    According to "STP: A Journey Through America With The Rolling Stones" by Robert Greenfield, which is about as definitive an account of the Stones' 1972 tour as it gets, the Stones private Lockheed Electra, en route to Logan from Montreal, couldn't land because Logan was fogged in. Time is of the essence as the restless crowd awaits at the Boston Garden. The Stones advance man, already in Boston, makes plans for the Stones to land at Hanscom Field in Bedford, but the pilot doesn't get the message and diverts the plane to TF Green Airport in Warwick, RI, where all the trouble began. With today's technology such an eff up probably wouldn't happen, but 1972 was a different story.

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    Was Not So Bad

    By on

    I was at the May 1958, Alan Freed produced, show at the old Boston Garden. Yes, there were folks dancing in isles, and some fisticuffs. But, it was not nearly as bad as the newspapers portrayed it.

    The memory that endures is not the so-called riot. It's that Chuck Berry was the pen-ultimate act, and was fantastic. The final act was Jerry Lee Lewis, and wasn't nearly as good. So, why was not the order of the acts reversed? Presumably, Freed thought he was giving the audience what they wanted.

    Chuck Berry was more than a great musician and performer. For many (myself included) he was the first African American musical performer who was transcendent.

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    Even then

    By on

    Even then there was fake news. But still, I can't imagine it's as bad as today.

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    Chuck has left the building

    Thanks for the article Adam. We listened to Sirius in the car returning from a road trip yesterday and that soulless bunch must not have been aware that he had passed, or couldn't veer from the playlist on any of their rock channels.

    He WAS the father of rock and roll. The only time I saw him was in 1973 when I was attending college in the midwest. He didn't talk to the audience, played one hit after another, left the stage and did not return for an encore. The raucous crowd was screaming for him, the manager came out and said that he had gone, left the building. He gave all he had and then left the stage. Will never forget him.

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