October 18, 2012 by Jay Minkin

If you play a guitar, have a bucket list of concerts attended, or can quote Marty McFly, then you need to read this.  The Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame and Museum  will be honoring  eighty-five year old Chuck Berry as this year’s American Music Master with a week of events starting October 22nd.  It will all cumulate with a tribute concert held at Playhouse Square’s State Theatre on Saturday, October 27th that the guest of honor will perform at.

If you haven’t heard of Chuck Berry, then “School Days” are in session.   I recommend you begin with an album called The Great Twenty-Eight that was released in 1982.  It has all the classic songs that helped shape rock ‘n roll starting with “Maybellene” recorded on the famed Chess Records label in 1955. From there it was a boatload of rhythm and blues crafted into 2:30 to 3:00 minute songs about teen life, relationships, and fast cars packaged with guitar riffs like nobody ever heard before.  In the movies and on television shows, Berry could be seen playing his Gibson guitar and strutting his famous “duck walk” on the stage singing the hit singles heard on the AM radio.  From “Johnny B. Goode”, “Carol”, “Sweet Little Sixteen”, and “Memphis”, it was this period of music which blazed a trail that all other wanna-be guitar players emulated for solos and showmanship.  Many rock bands from the British Invasion era began playing covers of Chuck Berry song, most notably “Roll Over Beethoven” sung by George Harrison on With The Beatles and John Lennon providing lead vocals on “Rock and Roll Music” found on Beatles For Sale. The Rolling Stones chose Berry’s “Come On” as their debut single in 1963.

You may want to tell Tchaikovsky the news about the week-long list of events. Highlights include the museum’s Rock and Roll Night School: A Spotlight on Chuck Berry on Monday, October 22nd at 7:00PM in the Foster Theatre.  Author Nadine Cohodas, who wrote Spinning Blues into Gold: The Chess Brothers and the Legendary Chess Records, will be speaking at the new Library and Archives (2809 Woodland Avenue) on Tuesday, October 23rd at 7:00PM.  The film documentary Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll  made in 1987 that chronicles two concerts celebrating Chuck Berry’s 60th birthday with an all-star cast of musicians will be shown Wednesday, October 24th at 7:00PM in the museum.  All American boy Rick Derringer will play some “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo” at an intimate concert with his trio on Wednesday, October 26th at 8:30PM on the museum’s main stage.


Two educational programs are also part of the American Music Masters festivities.  A special Teachers Rock event “Stop and Listen”: Using Spoken Word and Slam Poetry in the Classroom will be held Wednesday, October 24th at 4:30PM at the museum.  Case Western Reserve University will host the keynote lecture by Greg Tate, a writer, musician, and producer whose focus has been African-American music and culture.   He is a founding member of the Black Rock Coalition and the leader of the musical ensemble Burnt Sugar. Tate’s address will encompass the theme “Oh, How We Rock That American Hunger: Charles Edward Anderson / Chuck Berry and the History of Our Future” in the beautiful Harkness Chapel located on campus at 11200 Bellflower Avenue.

If your cruisin’ and playin’ the radio with no particular place to go, then head over to the museum on Saturday, October 27th for an all-day conference starting at 10:30AM.    The event will feature rare film footage presented by documentary filmmaker and archivist Joe Lauro of Historic Films as well as interviews with Marshall ChessRay Sharpe, and Duke Robillard.  Tickets are $25 which includes a $10 lunch voucher and admission to the museum.  The 17thAmerican Music Masters will cumulate on Saturday night with a Tribute Concert honoring Berry at the historic State Theatre.  Performers scheduled to appear include Ernie Isley, Darryl DMC McDaniels, Joe Bonamassa, Rick Derringer, Rosie Flores, John Fullbright, Ronnie Hawkins, Merle Haggard, David Johansen, Steve Jordan, Lemmy Kilmister, Malina Moye, JD McPherson, Chuck Prophet, Vernon Reid, Duke Robillard, Ray Sharpe, Earl Slick and M. Ward. The legendary Chuck Berry will appear to accept the American Music Masters honor and is scheduled to perform.  Berry joins Jerry Lee Lewis, Les Paul, Dave Bartholomew, Fats Domino and Aretha Franklin as the only artists still living when honored by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

You can make reservations, purchase tickets, and keep up with all the late breaking announcements by checking the rock hall website at or better yet … becoming a member to get exclusive member pre-sale dibs on ticketed events.  For those of you who might tend to pass up an opportunity to see a legend, then I guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet. But your kids are gonna love it.



  1. Jay Minkin says:

    Thanks …. it was a bucket list evening seeing Chuck Berry “duck walk” on stage. I had no problem rushing to the front of the stage for the encore. Thanks for the nice feedback and I highly recommend a trip to CLE and the Rock HOF for you and your old roomate.

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