Home Read Albums Of The Week: Chuck Berry | Live From Blueberry Hill

Albums Of The Week: Chuck Berry | Live From Blueberry Hill

The rock ’n’ roll pioneer lets his hair down — and rocks way harder than your average octogenarian — as he reels off the hits in this compilation of hometown appearances.

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:Live From Blueberry Hill is an indelible document of rock ’n’ roll icon Chuck Berry’s legendary hometown shows at St. Louis’ Blueberry Hill. Taken from performances recorded between July 2005 and January 2006, Live From Blueberry Hill features Berry tearing through classics like Roll Over Beethoven, Sweet Little Sixteen and Johnny B. Goode on the stage that he played more than any other in the latter decades of his life.

By 1996, Berry had conquered the world and, after his seminal Johnny B. Goode was included on the Voyager Gold Record and sent into space, the stars. But one evening, in a conversation with Joe Edwards — longtime confidante and owner of the beloved St. Louis restaurant Blueberry Hill — Berry commented “You know, Joe, I’d like to play a place the size of the ones I played when I first started out.”

A lightbulb went off and a scheme was hatched. On a new stage that Edwards had christened The Duck Room after Chuck’s signature onstage move, Berry would give 209 performances over 17 years. Berry shows at Blueberry Hill became a rock ’n’ roll talisman, inspiring pilgrimages from all sorts of luminaries: The Band’s Robbie Robertson, Motörhead’s Lemmy, Lorde, fellow St. Louisans Nelly and Bob Costas, to name just a few.

Photo by Masahiro Sumori.

Berry’s hand-picked backing group for The Duck Room shows evolved over time, but eventually became codified as the Blueberry Hill Band, a combination of family members, longtime Berry collaborators, and stars of the St. Louis scene, including daughter Ingrid Berry on harmonica, son Charles Berry, Jr. on guitar, bassist and band leader Jimmy Marsala, pianist Robert Lohr, and drummer Keith Robinson. Together they formed the longest-running band of Berry’s 60+ year career.

It’s this lineup that crystallizes the free and spontaneous atmosphere of The Duck Room on Live From Blueberry Hill. Whether Chuck and The Blueberry Hill Band are retracing his musical lineage on his cover of the slow-burning blues Mean Old World, spinning an origin myth on Bio, or reaffirming the vitality of the singular Johnny B. Goode, Live From Blueberry Hill is an exhilarating opportunity to hear one of the true giants of 20th century music onstage and unfiltered.

Berry’s accomplishments hardly need elaboration: He was the first member inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, a recipient of a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and a Kennedy Center Honor. John Lennon declared that Berry’s name was synonymous with rock ’n’ roll itself, while Bob Dylan called Berry the “Shakespeare of rock ’n’ roll.”