It’s 1955, I’m in grade school playing in the little tree in front of our apartment in “Carver Homes” housing project in Atlanta Georgia. My visiting Grandmother sitting on the front porch is tapping her feet and clapping her hands. I already was addicted to music  so I had to run over and see what she was listening to.  The  radio next door was blasting  “Maybellene, why can’t you be true.” I sat there listening to it with her, we loved it…It was maybe a month later that I found out this guy’s name was Chuck Berry. Throughout my childhood and teens I got to see and hear a lot about this guy. By 1965 I’m a teen but already making money as a musician ..for a lot of my peers Chucks era is already over. But as a drummer I cut my teeth on those  beats in his songs and even at that age I got picked to be the drummer at what they were already starting to call “oldies” shows .It’s 1970 I’m in the Black Panther Party I have gotten into the habit of showing up at “Rock “ concerts….meaning music shows for the white kids and selling the Black Panther Party newspaper. Back then we actually lived on the money we made doing that…and those “hippies” thought buying our paper was really cool. On this day the show was headlined by Chuck Berry, with Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes as the opening act and Berry’s back up band. Of course we had no money to get in. And the old “Hill street “ arena where the concert was held was not exactly a negro friendly place. When the show was over I was waitng for my ride when these nasty looking white boys on motor cycles roll up and ask …”how many papers you sell”…one of them says “how much money you got?…a voice to the side of me said …”none of your god damn business”….I didn’t know until they got on their bikes and road off that it was Mr. Berry……with what looked like an ax handle…I admit …I was shaking..he put a hand full of bills in my hand and said it was to pay for breakfast for them kids,

Chuck Berry in 1958, posing with his Gibson hollow-body electricÂ

Chuck Berry in 1958, posing with his Gibson hollow-body electricÂ

voyager1_high Chuck Berry was indeed a genuine “badass” and he took that right on stage with his guitar…I was not listening to a lot of music at that time other than my newly discovered Taj Mahal records. But for about five years or so after that I started haunting swap meets and yard sales buying up Chuck Berry records ..making up for the years when I was mostly into STAX and Motown…Cut to 1975..I now live in Philadelphia , but drive back to Atlanta about twice every year..My old 1970 Mustang…the first car I ever bought with my own money only had an AM radio..and for some reason it seemed every town we drove through from Philly to Atlanta …we heard some station playing …”My Ding-a-Ling”… I have come to hate that song. Chuck didn’t write in but this “novelty” song got him gigs at all the white colleges…and think about how many of his contemporaries couldn’t get a gig..It seems like Berry went the whole trip…from being a scary figure bringing that “dangerous jungle negro rock and roll” into the homes of America…( and trust me from about 1955 until the mid sixties you could always find editorials and documentaries about this dangerous music.) To being kind of “frat boy” joke at that time. But in his heyday  Chuck Berry who was older than Elvis or Little Richard …who were both almost a decade younger..was aiming his music directly at Americas kids. To them he was no kid ….but as they ..the white authority, used to say a “full grown buck” out to get our children… I lived through that 1950s “cold war” years and I can tell you white people were scared of EVERYTHING, commies, bombs, comic books, the growing civil rights movement…and now in the middle of all that these negroes are spreading this “jungle music” to our kids’…And in those days it did not help that so much of Berry’s music was about school days…and sweet little sixteen year olds…It today amazes me that he was so defiant…and did as he pleased..knowing he was always being watched …particularly for whether he was some how corrupting some of their “ youths”….And for a time it looked like Berry was cooperating with the police…Chuck went to jail and or paid fines for corrupting some “little girl” often in those days..even being convicted under the Mann Act…the act made it a crime to transport women across state lines “for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose.” Berry continued to perform on a regular basis well into the 1980s.Doing anywhere from 70 to 100 one nighters a year .And I read last month that he is releasing another record featuring his son Charles Jr. and his daughter Ingrid. I was saddened when I heard that Berry was found yesterday “unresponsive.” Rock and Roll …still lives…….sort of has today “morphed” into what is largely marketed as a “white” musical genre..But even that still holds some of the old element of  “danger” and rebellion . But when we see “rock” artist today..they still depend for the most part on a lot of the guitar riffs and “swagger” that Chuck Berry brought to the table. I really hate it today when people try to argue about just who invented Rock and Roll music . There was no person who invented Rock and roll music. It grew out of the sheer intensity of post WW II American culture. The growing numbers of young people who would by the records …and YES I will say it. The Black music that was the heart of Rock..Yeah a lot of that “swagger” and attitude we really do owe to Chuck Berry.and to Little Richard…who by the force of his musicianship…as well as his very personality and his “crazyness” refined the culture of the “outlaw” musician…Elvis …well Elvis really has more in common with acts like .”The Monkees” due to the fact that in many ways he was a “manufactured” know the old Sam Phillips line “If I could find a white man who had the Negro sound and the Negro feel, I could make a billion dollars.'” …well they found a boy who was almost there and built the rest..Not to take anything away from Elvis..after all he had to get out there and “do it”…And if it were not for him the “marketing” of Rock and the world wide phenomenon it became may have never happened…So we say goodbye to Charles Edward AndersonChuckBerry (October 18, 1926 – March 18, 2017) but in many ways ..he will always be with us. I think the best tribute to just how important Chuck was is that fact his music..”Johnny B. Goode” went into the depths of outer space on the Voyager space probe ..representing a big part of the culture of human beings…I would love to see the reaction of the first alien who hears it.


la-na-spider-martin-photographer-selma-bloody-sunday-20150308…..I just had breakfast, a breakfast of food that I would never eat at home. The person who invited me to have breakfast with her on this special morning is the only person I know of in Philadelphia who participated in “Bloody Sunday” or any of the real civil rights movement for that matter..That horrific march where we were attacked on that bridge in Selma Alabama. We sat there with instant coffee, a scrambled egg and fried baloney. ( shut the f*ck up to all my “healthy” eating friends… it was all she had, and I remember back when I was in the Black Panther Party I would be happy to get that ) we talked about those days when we were so young. But really wanted to change the world…For those among you who don’t know. Most of us were motivated by not wanting to see another generation grow up thinking “Jim Crow” was normal. We talked about how our post movement lives had turned out, as many of my friends have heard me me say , for many of us old soldiers we still live marginalized lives …struggling still light years away from any wealth. But in these times we can always think of some relative or friend who really did well when we finally got a little bit of a level playing field for or people. For me it’s my ( “little” brother ) who is a lead accountant for a huge company..a man who when he was three years old cried all night when he had to wet himself because we couldn’t find a “colored” bathroom at the farmer’s market…I can still hear that little voice saying “I don’t want to be colored anymore…Back when I was in the movement that memory was always helpful to motivate me to get the hell up and move on to the next thing…That brother hates my guts today but his success always makes me feel good.The woman I was dining with could not have any children…due to a botched “backalley” abortion …in that same year as the march, 1965. Her sisters had been taking care of her. That’s why she left Jackson Miss. to come to Philly. She spent her whole life taking care of her two sisters kids. When they both died she got left with nothing but minimal Social Security about 350 $ a month. But her eyes light up when she talks about the education and careers of her sister’s children….I get that….I really understand it I know a lot of people from the old days like that. And it makes me angry a little when some people in the current generation say that we didn’t do enough back during those days….they totally take for granted how many things they can do than most of us NEVER could….What happened on Bloody Sunday lead directly to the passage of the Voting Rights act of 1965….today the process of gutting the act a piece at a time threatens to undo a lot of that work….alright “smarty pants” “Millennials” .since you think you know every fu*king thing. I challenge you to try to help us save it…video just shows what we went through on that one day…don’t forget there was also bombing, arson and lynchings…..all directed at us.