A quick look at our Chuck Berry biography makes one thing very clear - there aren’t too many guitarists who have had the influence that the St. Louis-born Berry has had over guitarists in rock, blues, and pop music. Berry's early life was noted for his lack of discipline and run-ins with the police, so it's safe to say that his devotion to the guitar was ultimately his saving grace.
Everyone from Angus Young to Ted Nugent to Eddie Van Halen bears the influence of Berry with respect to both rhythm and lead guitar. In fact, both Young and Nugent alike attribute their success to having learned his solos note-for-note early in their careers. But it's not just guitar - many people consider Berry to be the father of "rock and roll" in general. He's that important. Still, it's as a guitar player where Berry has shown most of his influence.
Take Berry’s signature tune “Johnny B. Goode.” The double-stop guitar riffs can be heard in guitar solos from the 1960s and beyond. There are guitar licks that Chuck Berry “invented” (and under the influence his own guitar hero, T-Bone Walker) that can be heard in tunes by the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Beach Boys as well has more hard rock bands like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. You can hear Berry's signature blues-influenced style in other tunes like "Roll Over Beethoven" and "Maybellene." Oddly enough, Berry's only number one song was the novelty song, "My Ding-a-Ling" and wasn't even written by Berry (though his cover is easily the most popular version of the tune).
Most of Berry’s tunes follow the traditional 12-bar blues format, but with his signature twists. Some common Berry licks make judicious usage of slides, string bends, and - again - his common double-stop riffs. Berry tends to favor Gibson guitars, most noticeably the ES-350 or ES-355. He doesn’t seem to have a favorite guitar amplifier, generally using whatever is available at a gig.
While Berry's influence is undeniable, he has his flaws. He’s notoriously difficult to work with, having relied in the past on bands and backing musicians that widely varied with respect to their own talents. Still, Berry has continued to perform well into his 80s, at an age where performing isn't even an option for most guitarists. While his later performances are known for being unpredictable (if not often out of tune), his influence on the world of rock music is without peer.
I'd love for you to be a contributor to SoMuchGuitar.com!
Just fill out the information below to add to this page. I'll be in touch about your submission soon!