Chuck Berry 1989
destroys Chuck Berry's studio
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
March 26 / 1989
By Carolyn Bower / the Post-Dispatch Staff
early Saturday morning destroyed a recording studio at the farm of
rock singer Chuck Berry in St. Charles County. Among the losses was
a priceless master tape of songs for a new album, Berry said.
firefighters suffered minor injuries fighting the fire, in a 7,500-square-foot
building at 691 Buckner Road, about 4 miles south of Wentzville. Berry
was staying with his family in St. Louis at the time. Several members
of Berry's staff who live in houses at the farm were uninjured.
got a call at 2:06 a.m. from a neighbor reporting the fire. The one-story,
concrete-block studio is among several buildings on Berry's 160-acre
farm, called Berry Park. The building, built in 1959, contained a
recording studio, audio tapes and nightclub furniture. In a telephone
interview Saturday, Berry said the fire had destroyed a master tape
with 13 numbers he had completed off and on over the last seven years.
was philosophical about the loss. ''All things change; nothing remains
the same,'' he said. ''There's no way to put a value on it.''
- who became famous for such hits as ''Maybellene,'' ''Sweet Little
Sixteen'' and ''My Ding-A-Ling'' - said most of his equipment was
insured. He said he was still trying to determine the extent of the
loss and was undecided about rebuilding the studio.
much else is going on,'' said Berry.
purchased the Southern Air Restaurant in Wentzville and still performs
around the world.
Fire Chief George Ehll said the recording studio was a total loss.
About 50 firefighters from the Wentzville, New Melle, Lake Saint Louis
and O'Fallon fire protection districts fought the fire. The blaze
was brought under control about 3:30 a.m., and firefighters left about
6 a.m., Wentzville Fire Chief George Ehll said.
are investigating the cause, but they discounted arson, Ehll said.
The neighbor who reported the fire lived on Buckner Road, said Chris
Newbold, fire marshal for the district. ''She happened to be up and
looked outside and saw a glow,'' Newbold said. ''She hopped in her
car, drove closer and saw it was on Mr. Berry's property. Then she
found a phone and called 911.''
said people at the farm had been asleep and unaware of the fire until
firefighters awakened them. When firefighters arrived at 2:15 a.m.,
flames were shooting from the building's roof, Ehll said. Wind from
the south was fanning the fire, and firefighters were hampered by
lack of water in the area, Newbold said.
and Berry: 2 giant talents play same bill
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
August 27 / 1989
By Steve Pick
came that Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis, two of the highest deities
in the pantheon of rock 'n' roll greats, would be playing on the same
bill, as they did Friday night at the Fox Theatre, several possible
scenarios were imagined:
could walk through sets of hits, relying on their reputations to win
the other performers, could have a hot night while the other walked
the best of all possible worlds, the one we actually lived in for
one night, both Berry and Lewis could live up to their undeniable
of the fierce rivalry between these two geniuses are among the great
legends of rock 'n' roll. The most famous of these had a young Lewis
either burn his piano or kick it off an ocean pier to close a set
he performed in the '50s when he lost a coin flip and had to open
has always been known as a brilliant performer. Films from the early
days of his career show a wild and very young man jumping all over
his piano, banging out chords with his feet, and singing with an open
- and to many people dangerous - sexuality, which permeated every
sound he made. Even in the early '60s, when he recorded ''Jerry Lee
Lewis Live At Hamburg,'' which may be the single greatest live rock
'n' roll album ever made, he showed no signs of slowing down, despite
the fact that his sales success had moved from the pop charts to country.
Fox, Lewis used few of the youthful moves once so much a part of his
act. But he was every bit as powerful a performer, and every single
move he made seemed profound. Lewis just may be the single most charismatic
performer I've ever seen. He could strike dramatic poses with slow
and very short movements of his legs and shoulders. He could hit one
key on the piano with such delicate force at such a perfect moment
as to practically suspend time itself, and at another time bang out
the most wonderfully dissonant, dirty and mean chords, which would
push the song into a new level of brilliance. He was incapable of
singing a note in the wrong place, displaying a sense of phrasing
which gave every word multiple meanings. Jerry Lee Lewis has been
the first to tell us - many times - that he is a genius, but it took
this performance to make me realize he wasn't kidding.
song he sang was about himself, and most were also about sex. He rarely
used a personal pronoun when he could manage to insert his own name
into a lyric. He even managed to turn Hank Williams' ''Cold Cold Heart,''
originally a plea from a man to a woman who scorns him, into a demand
that the woman wise up and hop into bed with him. The sheer audacity
of Lewis' persona would seem unconscionable were it not for his enormous
Berry, on the other hand, has always seemed like a nice guy on stage.
In fact, he's often seemed like such a nice guy that audiences here
have let him get away with not remembering his own guitar licks, forgetting
which song he was in, and in general not putting too much effort into
his performances. This is, after all, the man who created the basic
vocabulary, both lyrically and on guitar, for rock 'n' roll music,
and he is from St. Louis.
there were two or three moments during his hour on stage at the Fox
that needed such forgiveness, this was the single best show I've ever
seen Chuck Berry give. Right from the start, he served notice that
he was ready to actually play, as he opened with a strong instrumental
that featured many of the classic licks he had developed back in his
early records. One of the best decisions he made for this concert
was to stop trying to recreate those original recordings, and to simply
play the songs as if they meant something to him now. This meant that
his guitar playing was freed from the rigors of memory, and put into
the creative, improvisatory plane that helped him to make them so
great in the first place.
band was the same that had backed up his daughter Ingrid, who opened
the evening with a fine set of hot, soulful blues. For the most part,
they functioned as many Chuck Berry back-up bands have in the past;
the musicians had to stay on their toes and follow wherever he decided
to lead. On piano was his longtime associate, Johnnie Johnson, and
the two musicians took every opportunity to play directly to each
other, often engaging in guitar/piano dialogue as warm as a conversation
between two old friends could be.
Berry's reputation was made as a songwriter, and he pulled out some
of his best for this show. For me, the highlight was his rendition
of ''Promised Land,'' a song he doesn't usually do live. Many writers
have praised Berry's lyrics as being among the most pure examples
of poetry in rock; ''Promised Land'' struck me as being one of the
purest examples of his lyrics. The song tells the story of a young
man, presumably black, who is born in the southeastern portion of
the country, travels through the South, finds happiness as he heads
west and achieves salvation by flying in an airplane in California.
In just a few verses, Berry captured the triumph and exhilaration,
which he must have felt when he wrote it, of a black man being so
successful at a time when very few were; the fear and tension of life
in a racist society; and the breadth of a country where both such
things were possible.
end of his concert, Berry had the curtain go down while the band still
played, and he put all of his obvious excitement into one of the best
guitar solos imaginable, which continued for chorus after chorus while
the crowd stood and cheered. When the curtain came back up, he kept
playing, and got even better before he finally took off his guitar,
waved it to make a small feedback pop, and walked off stage. He had
to take another bow, and the audience cheered for well over five more
minutes after the lights came on. Chuck Berry has had many triumphs
in his long career; this night felt like one of the best.
Chuck Berry's restaurant can't get liquor license
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
September 29 / 1989
By Lisha Gayle / the Post-Dispatch Staff
Chuck Berry's long-ago
troubles with the law have bottled up an effort to get a liquor license
for a restaurant. For almost a year, Berry's secretary, Francine Gillium,
has been trying in vain to get a license for the Southern Air in Wentzville.
Berry said this week that he was leasing the operation to Gillium.
''I will assist in the entertainment, of course,'' said Berry, the
rock 'n' roll pioneer.
Although Gillium got
a ''yes'' Wednesday night from Wentzville's aldermen, she keeps getting
a ''no'' from the state Division of Liquor Control. William J. Torno,
the agency's district chief, cited Berry's past - a conviction for
armed robbery, tax troubles and a violation of the federal Mann Act,
a morals law. Torno als o cited a raid and 30 arrests in August 1974
at Berry Park Country Club, at Berry's farm near Wentzville. In a
telephone interview Wednesday night, Berry said that he knew he would
never be granted a state license but that he thought his corporation
could get one.
The state first denied
a license for Southern Air in August 1988, when the applicant was
Chuck Berry Communications Systems Inc. In November, the state again
denied a liquor license, this time to Gillium, identified as the Southern
Air's sole owner.
Mike Trask, a special correspondent to the Post-Dispatch, contributed
information for this story.
Berry taped women, suit charges
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
December 27 / 1989
By Ralph Dummit / the Post-Dispatch Staff
A suit accuses rock
'n' roll pioneer Chuck Berry of videotaping women as they used the
women's room at his Southern Air Restaurant in Wentzville. Hosana
A. Huck of Wentzville, once a cook at the Southern Air, filed the
suit Tuesday in St. Charles County Circuit Court.
The suit alleges that
the videotapes ''were created for the improper purpose of the entertainment
and gratification'' of what it describes as Berry's ''sexual fetishes
and sexual predilections.'' Berry, 63, lives near Wentzville; he was
unavailable for comment. He has owned the restaurant, a landmark along
Interstate 70, for more than a year.
The suit says Berry
installed the videotaping equipment in a second-floor office. The
suit charges that in the 12-month period ending last Sept. 1, Berry
''intentionally and without just cause or excuse intruded upon [Huck's
seclusion and privacy without her permission by surreptitiously making
or manufacturing videotapes depicting [Huck undressing and dressing
and using the toilet at the restaurant.'' The suit says that other
female employees and customers were videotaped in the bathroom.
The suit calls such
taping ''outrageous, beyond all possible bounds of decency.'' Huck
claims emotional distress, embarrassment and humiliation and is seeking
unspecified damages. The Southern Air is normally closed only on Mondays.
But it was also closed Tuesday, and an employee who asked to remain
unidentified said she had heard that Berry had stated that the restaurant
''would be closed for three days or maybe longer.'' Jeannie Turner,
daytime manager, was unavailable for comment.