The Big Issue : Edition 534
46 THEBIGISSUE7–20APR2017 CLICK WORDS BY MICHAEL EPIS » PHOTOGRAPH BY GETTY Chuck Berry, 1926 – 2017 THE NEXT BIG ISSUE ROCKS ONTO SALE ON... FRIDAY 21 APRIL ON A WINTER’S day in 1961 Keith Richards was standing on a platform at Dartford railway station, when he saw another boy holding a Chuck Berry record, prompting Keith to strike up a conversation. As Keith wrote to his Aunt Pat: “Anyway, the guy on the station, he is called Mick Jagger.” And so began the Rolling Stones – whose first single was a cover of Berry’s ‘Come On’. The Beatles were no less influenced by Berry, covering seven of his songs. Both bands covered ‘Carol’. As John Lennon later remarked, “If you tried to give rock’n’roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry’.” A certain winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature (yes, Bob Dylan) has called Berry “the Shakespeare of rock’n’roll”. And AC/DC’s Angus Young modelled his duck walk and crowd calls on Berry’s stage antics. While the Stones and Beatles were doing Berry covers, he was doing time in a Missouri jail. The offence: “transporting a minor across state lines for immoral purposes”. It was his second stint in jail; the first time (also a three- year sentence) was for robbery and a carjacking at gunpoint. While imprisoned the second time he wrote ‘No Particular Place to Go’ and ‘Promised Land’. A third term was to come, for tax evasion. And a fourth legal entanglement, for a toilet camera recording female customers in his restaurant in the 90s, saw him pay out millions to lawyers and victims. Berry was by all accounts a mean man after his second jail stint, demanding payment in cash before gigs, counting the seats in venues, hiring the cheapest bands. In 1987 Richards made a film with him. The experience was not pleasant. “I love his work, but I couldn’t warm to him even if I was cremated next to him,” said Keith. The most surprising fact about the man who set the sound of rock in stone was that – aged 21, on release from jail – he married his teenage sweetheart, Themetta Suggs, and remained married to her until his death in March this year, aged 90. They had four children, two of whom played on an album Berry recorded last year, which is soon to be released. Roll over Chuck Berry.