Chuck's 60th Birthday Celebrations (1986)

In 1986 MCA Records celebrated Chuck Berry's 60th birthday by filming and recording a live show held in St. Louis, Missouri. Chuck Berry was backed by an All-Star Band including Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, and Robert Cray with vocal accompaniment from Julian Lennon, Linda Ronstadt, and Etta James.

Parts of this show - which were in fact two shows held within a few hours - have been released by MCA as a rock documentary film, directed by Taylor Hackford, called Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll.

The Film

For many years, the film had been available on video tape Get it now! only. The video as the original movie contains recordings from the shows as well as interviews, segments from other live shows and rehearsals.

PINUP Productions DVDIn 2005, segments from the film surfaced on a bootleg DVD which promised "unreleased excerpts". It did not fulfill this promise, though. The DVD Chuck Berry - Rock & Roll Years (PINUP Productions) contains just some parts of the original video tape and even those in less than optimum quality. It does include additional twenty older TV and movie clips, though.

In 2006 the movie has been finally re-published on an official DVD. 20 years after the original filming the DVD perfectly fits as a celebration of Chuck's 80th birthday. The DVD contains the original movie, though completely new digitized for perfect quality and 5.1 sound. But that's not enough! The DVD comes with a huge amount of additional material filmed during the creation of the movie. The publisher Image Entertainment released three different versions of the new DVD containing different amounts of additional material:

Starbucks DVDA One-DVDGet it now! package has been produced for Hearmusic, the music division of Starbucks, the coffee shops. This One-DVD version was for sale only in the Starbucks shops in the U.S. and Canada. It contains the complete movie, an introduction by director Taylor Hackford (with an advertizement of the upcomming more-DVD versions), plus short excerpts of interviews Hackford recorded with other Rock and Roll stars. The DVD came bundled with an audio CD containing Chuck's greatest hits. It contains a few scenes not included in the other DVD sets below.

Image Entertainment DVDA Two-DVDGet it now! package published by Image Entertainment contains one DVD with the complete movie as well as trailer and introduction by Taylor Hackford. The other DVD contains pure bonus material of highest interest to a Chuck Berry collector. Here we get various clips taken during the rehearsals at Berry Park in Wentzville which have not been used in the film. There are absolutely great performances such as a guitar jam of Berry, Clapton and Richards, or a fantastic recording of Etta James singing Hoochie Coochie Man, eh... Girl. In addition there is a one-hour "Making-Of" of the film including deep insights of the chaotic production.

A Four-DVDGet it now! set (Image Entertainment ID3156THDVD, 2006) was released by Image Entertainment concurrently with the Two-DVD package. It contains the same two DVDs plus what Hachford calls "Witnesses to History". These are interviews taken for the film but used only in very small excerpts. Here you see the complete several hours long interviews with Bo Diddley, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Willie Dixon, Roy Orbison and more. There is also more Chuck Berry material such as Chuck and Robbie Robertson digging through Chuck's collected memorabilia.

The four DVDs contain everything that is in the other sets except for a discussion between Berry and Eric Clapton about their musical influences which is only on the Starbucks DVD. Anyway the four-DVD box is the one to buyGet it now!. Be aware, though, that for an unknown reason the DVD is region coded. Currently the 4-DVD version does not work on DVD players outside of North America, while for the 2-DVD version there are different variants coded for North America and for Europe. When purchasing, check to get a version you can watch.

Also quite interesting is Victor Bockris' description of the preparations and creation of film and album in his Keith Richards - The Biography Get it now!

The Records

Excepts from the show have appeared on a number of records and CDs.

The Official Soundtrack Album

The soundtrack album Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll (MCA LP 6217 Get it now!) contains live versions of MaybelleneListen to this recording, Around and AroundListen to this recording, Sweet Little SixteenListen to this recording, Brown Eyed Handsome ManListen to this recording, MemphisListen to this recording, Too Much Monkey BusinessListen to this recording, Back in the USAListen to this recording, Wee Wee HoursListen to this recording, Johnny B. GoodeListen to this recording, Little QueenieListen to this recording, Rock and Roll MusicListen to this recording, and Roll Over BeethovenListen to this recording. In addition there is a version of I'm Through With LoveListen to this recording recorded during rehearsals.

The Bootlegs

Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones was the musical leader of the All-Star Band and, of course, wherever a Stone performs, collectors and bootleggers are around to capture every single note played. There are, therefore, three bootleg recordings containing parts of the show and segments from the rehearsals.

Two additional songs from the show have been made available on a bootleg album called Keith Richards - Still on the Road (Papa Records DS011, 1988): Everyday I Have the Blues and a lengthy untitled Instrumental.

Two songs from the show's rehearsals filmed at Berry's home can be found on a bootleg CD called Keith Richards - Exposures (Silver Shadow CD 9109, 1991): Come On and Carol. In addition this CD contains some talks by Keith about Chuck and a heated discussion between the two, which occurred during the rehearsals. The audio quality is bad, having been taken from a very poor video tape copy of the film.

Finally in 2000 bootleggers created a two-CD set incorrectly called Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll Rehearsals (no label, no number, probably from Japan). Even though they did not manage to spell Keith's name correctly, the CDs themselves - which are just burned ones, not pressed - are of very high quality. You'll find many more recordings from the two shows: Wee Wee Hours, No Particular Place To Go, Instrumental, Keith's Rock 'N' Roll # 1 (Jo Jo Gunne), Keith's Rock 'N' Roll # 2 (Havana Moon), Eric's Blues, Rock And Roll Music, Reelin' 'N' Rockin', Wee Wee Hours, Chuck's Rock 'N' Roll # 1 (Havana Moon) (part), Chuck's Rock 'N' Roll # 1 (Havana Moon), Chuck's Rock 'N' Roll # 2 (Jo Jo Gunne), Everyday I Have The Blues, and Rock 'N' Roll Music.

The Radio Show

To promote the DVD sets released in 2006, Tres Hombres Productions (Paul Rappaport, Jym Fahey, Mitch Maketansky) created a one-hour music-intensive radio special called Chuck Berry: Hail! Hail! The King of Rock 'n' Roll. The radio show was distributed by Cahn Media to broadcasters in the U.S. at no cost. As far as I know the show was sent out on individual CD-R media and not as a pressed CD like the commercial pre-produced radio shows from UniStar and the like.

The radio show contains many live segments taken from the birthday concert together with introductions and explanations by director Taylor Hackford. Also some short dialogue segments from the movie can be heard. Interestingly this radio show CD comes with several songs which are not on the official soundtrack album.

The Concert Vault

The Concert Vault is a commercial website which hosts a huge number of concert recordings from different sources. There are a few Chuck Berry concerts available at the Concert Vault, including the complete second show recorded for the film.

In 2015 an edited version of the recording available at Concert Vault made it to a bootleg CD called Long Live Rock 'n' Roll - 60th Birthday Celebrations (Crying Steel Records CSR03, 2015). In addition the CD includes the audio tracks of seven concert songs previously available only on the DVDs.

The Audience Tapes

A film, a soundtrack album. a radio show, and three bootlegs, what more could a poor boy want? Well, in fact there is more. As stated above, collectors are looking for every single note Keith plays. And in every Stones concert there is someone taping the show on a cheap cassette or Minidisc recorder. This concert was no exception. Within the collectors community you can find tapes not only from both shows, but also from the dress rehearsal which took place the day before the shows. The sound quality is pretty bad and it is clear the aforementioned bootlegs are not taken from these tapes. They are, however, useful to get an insight into how the film was produced.

The Shows

Following is a complete list of the shows used to create the film. You'll find every song played and where you can get it. This detailed list is a joint work between me and fellow researcher Claude Schlouch.

The Cosmopolitan Club

A segment of the film presents excerpts from a gig played at the Cosmopolitan Club, St. Louis. Chuck plays along with Johnnie Johnson (piano), Frank Dunbar (dms), Chuck Clay (bs), and Ingrid Berry (vcl).

Song appr. length available comments
Maybellene 0:47 Film and Long Live bootleg (bonus track)
Instrumental 1:41 Film
Instrumental 0:59 Film
Bio 2:52 Film and Long Live bootleg (bonus track)

A small interview segment of the film with Chuck presenting the Cosmo has also been used on a radio station record by Westwood One Radio Networks (see the chapter on Radio Show and Promotional Records) and as such landed on a bootleg cassette Chuck Berry Interview 10-17-1988 (GFP K0097, 2000).

Rehearsals at Berry Park

Between October 10th and 14th, 1986 the band rehearsed for the shows to be filmed. Some of these rehearsals were filmed, displaying the often complicated process of getting decent recordings from the headstrong members of the band, particularly Mr. Berry. The "Chuck Berry Band led by Keith Richards", as Berry puts it, consisted of Johnnie Johnson on piano, Joey Spampinato (NRBQ) on bass, Bobby Keys on sax, Chuck Leavell on organ, and Steve Jordan on drums. The latter three having performed with Keith many times before. Also participating in the rehearsals were some of the guest stars.

Song appr. length available comments
Pass Away (Poem) 5:21 Four-DVD set Chuck recites his poem, accompanied by Robbie Robertson of The Band on accoustic guitar
Seeking and Searching 0:45 Four-DVD set Chuck Berry on piano with Little Richard singing
Come On 1:14 Film and Exposures bootleg singers on this track are Robert Cray and Ingrid Berry, while Chuck just sits and listens
Carol 5:22 (main track: 2:40) Film, radio show (3:01)) and Exposures bootleg (5:03) including several false starts with Chuck trying to educate Keith how to play (not in the radio show)
Instrumental 2:46 Film
It Don't Take But a Few Minutes 4:22 Two-DVD and Four-DVD sets, radio show (3:58, omits joke on British pronounciation), and a capella segment only in Film (1:11) Chuck and Eric Clapton, Film excerpt shows the two performing a capella
Guitar Jam 10:25 Two-DVD and Four-DVD sets Yes, over ten minutes of Chuck, Keith, and Eric jamming with the band
Mean Old World 5:57 Two-DVD and Four-DVD sets
Heart & Soul medley 3:22 Two-DVD and Four-DVD sets Chuck solo
I'm Through With LoveListen to this recording 2:15 Film and soundtrack album
A Cottage For Sale 2:25 Film just Chuck and Johnnie playing
House of Blue Lights 2:22 Two-DVD and Four-DVD sets again just Chuck and Johnnie
Hoochie Coochie Gal 5:17 Two-DVD and Four-DVD sets Etta James singing backed by Robert Cray and the band, Chuck just listening
Blues For Hawaiians 2:48 Film Chuck alone playing steel guitar used as the ending sequence of the film

The Dress Rehearsal

On Wednesday, October 15th the performers met at the Fox Theatre, St. Louis to rehearse and sound check the complete show. A fan taped this dress rehearsal so we have the chance to listen to what became everything but rehearsals. After several hours of setting up the stage, Chuck refused to sing! Here's a quote from Bill German's "Beggars Banquet" fanzine describing it:

"I gotta save my voice for tomorrow," he [Chuck] argued. Keith tried to cajole Chuck, but no way. Instead Chuck played his lyrics on the guitar, thus making the run-through virtually useless. "Just once," Keith pleaded, actually kissing Chuck on the cheek. Such a tender moment! Chuck gave in, halfway, by whispering the lyrics to songs like "Memphis" and "Sweet Little 16." Other times, the words, "Keith, you gotta let me do it my way," were a familiar utterance from Chuck.

As we learn from the Making-Of segment of the DVD sets, Chuck had performed a concert in Ohio only a few days before and lost his voice almost completely.

Song appr. length available comments
Jam 5:41 Audience Tape
Jam 0:39 Audience Tape
Wee Wee Hours 5:32 Audience Tape Eric Clapton on vocal and guitar
Wee Wee Hours (broken off) 0:08 Audience Tape
Wee Wee Hours 4:16 Audience Tape another try
Back in the USA 3:13 Audience Tape Linda Ronstadt on vocal
Johnnie's Boogie 3:01 Audience Tape Johnnie Johnson performing his motto
Wee Wee Hours (instrumental) 3:47 Audience Tape
Jam 4:31 Audience Tape
Maybellene 2:12 Audience Tape Chuck sings just the first verse
Around and Around 2:43 Audience Tape Chuck sings just the first lines
No Money Down 4:09 Audience Tape Chuck sings full lyrics and instructs band
Sweet Little Sixteen 2:40 Audience Tape Chuck whispers full lyrics
Roll Over Beethoven 2:25 Audience Tape Chuck sings just the first lines and the ending
Brown-Eyed Handsome Man 2:16 Audience Tape Robert Cray on vocal and guitar
Nadine (instrumental) 0:51 Audience Tape
Nadine 2:45 Audience Tape Chuck sings and Bobby Keys blows his horn
Nadine (solos) 1:40 Audience Tape solos by Keith and Chuck Leavell
Memphis, Tennessee 2:36 Audience Tape Chuck whispers the lyrics
Almost Grown 2:22 Audience Tape
Almost Grown (chorus only) 1:04 Audience Tape
Memphis, Tennessee 2:22 Audience Tape another try
Instrumental 0:46 Audience Tape
Johnny B. Goode (intro only) & Mona Lisa 1:55 Audience Tape
Johnny B. Goode 2:42 Audience Tape Julian Lennon and Chuck on vocals
Johnny B. Goode (ending) 0:44 Audience Tape
You Never Can Tell 3:47 Audience Tape
Wee Wee Hours 4:12 Audience Tape Eric Clapton performing the blues again
Jam (guitar practicing) 3:25 Audience Tape
Jam (guitar, piano, drums) 7:13 Audience Tape Eric 'Slowhand' at his best
Jam (guitar practicing) 4:45 Audience Tape Chuck Leavell and Eric Clapton playing with some standards

The First Show

On October 16th the show took place. Here you can see a ticket. Again hear what Bill German relates:

What the 4500 fans were about to see was not a concert per sé. The majority of them were disappointed by the many lengthy interruptions from the film crew to reload film or check on things. (A phenomenal show, no matter how you diced it. But that was just the point - It was diced!) It seemed, there was a break after each song. "This is Hollywood!" Chuck reminded us. "I feel like a bull," Chuck added, a possible double entendre. He was actually referring to the person on the side of the stage who held up a red card that acted as a stop sign to the band. Action halts when the card is up. To fill the awkward pauses, Chuck began reciting poetry, as Keith and the others paced around the stage. There was no impromptu jamming at first. "The reason we can't jam," explained Chuck, "is that when we get into a groove, we won't want to stop." So folks who left their seats for a few minutes were able not to miss some great guest appearances. Finally they couldn't deny us any longer. During the next pause, Chuck said, "Let these guys play the blues," allowing Keith and Eric to wail away and trade licks, as the audience howled.

Another reason for not jamming is told by drummer Steve Jordan on the DVDs: They simply were exhaused by backing Johnnie Johnson's Boogies over and over. Almost two hours of the show were recorded by a fan so we get a chance to listen also to the false starts and repeats. Better and/or edited excerpts are available on the soundtrack album, in the film itself and on the bootlegs.

Song appr. length available comments
Introduction 2:54 Audience Tape
Maybellene 2:15 Audience Tape
Around and Around 1:12 Audience Tape false start
Around and AroundListen to this recording 2:22 Soundtrack album and Audience Tape. Vocal on the soundtrack album seems to be overdubbed as it is notably different.
No Money Down 2:58 Film, Long Live bootleg (bonus track) and Audience Tape
Back in the USAListen to this recording 3:02 Film, Soundtrack album, radio show, Linda Ronstadt - Boxset (Elektra 7559-62472-2, 1999) and Audience Tape Linda Ronstadt on vocals, Robert Cray on guitar, Keith, Steve and Joey on background vocals
Sweet Little SixteenListen to this recording 2:31 Film, Soundtrack album, radio show, and Audience Tape
Memphis, TennesseeListen to this recording 3:03 Film, Soundtrack album and Audience Tape
Roll Over Beethoven 2:41 Audience Tape
Brown-Eyed Handsome ManListen to this recording 2:08 Film, Soundtrack album, radio show, and Audience Tape Robert Cray on guitar and vocals
Nadine 2:47 Audience Tape
Too Much Monkey BusinessListen to this recording 2:45 Film, Soundtrack album and (partly)) Audience Tape
Almost Grown 2:42 Film, radio show, Long Live bootleg (bonus track). On Audience Tape incomplete but with extra false start. Keith, Joey, and Ingrid on background vocals
Johnny B. GoodeListen to this recording 2:46 Audience Tape Julian Lennon on vocals
You Never Can Tell 2:47 Audience Tape
Little QueenieListen to this recording 3:25 Film, radio show, and Audience Tape. On the Soundtrack album edited to 3:37.
Johnnie's Boogie 4:46 Audience Tape
Wee Wee HoursListen to this recording 5:24 Rehearsals bootleg, and Audience Tape. The version in film, soundtrack album, radio show is edited from the first three minutes of this recording plus another two minutes from the show 2 recording. Eric Clapton on guitar and vocals
No Particular Place to Go 2:14 Rehearsals bootleg, and Audience Tape
Jam #1 7:26 Still on the road bootleg, Rehearsals bootleg (7:19), and Audience Tape (7:08)
Jam #2 4:09 Audience Tape
Jo Jo Gunne #1 0:27 Audience Tape false start
Jo Jo Gunne #2 1:02 Audience Tape
Instrumental 3:55 Audience Tape
Jo Jo Gunne #3 (a.k.a. Keith's Rock'n'Roll #1) 3:24 Rehearsals bootleg (has two false starts) and Audience Tape
Havana Moon - try (a.k.a. Keith's Rock'n'Roll #2) 1:32 Rehearsals bootleg and Audience Tape (1:15)
Havana Moon 4:47 Rehearsals bootleg and Audience Tape (2:19)
One Of These Days (a.k.a. Eric's Blues) 3:47 Rehearsals bootleg Eric Clapton on guitar and vocals
Rock 'n' Roll Music 4:21 Rehearsals bootleg and Audience Tape
Instrumental 6:14 Audience Tape
Reelin' and Rockin' 12:30 Rehearsals bootleg and Audience Tape Chuck and Ingrid on vocals

The Second Show

Five hours after the start of the first show, the whole concert was repeated to film some other segments. Since it was already after midnight, this show took place October 17th. Again Bill German relates:

The second concert ran a lot smoother. There were only three breaks the whole show, and this time, the crew realizes it wisest to let the band take part in impromptu jams to fill the void. And wouldn't you know, while most of the cameras weren't rolling, Etta James stepped up and led the band through the most incredible rendition of "Hoochie Coochie Man" that anyone's ever heard. Mouths hung open. For the finale of "School Days," all the guests (plus Joe Walsh and Chuck's daughter Ingrid) came back out as Chuck rolled onto stage in a red Cadillac convertible. The confetti was flying, and over 4500 people toasted the sexagenerian. Uncle Chuck, here's to another sixty!

Etta James's version of Hoochie Coochie Man did not make it to the film, but on the DVDs there is at least a rehearsal version, which truely is fantastic.

Song appr. length available comments
Welcome 1:58 Concert Vault and Long Live bootleg. Tiny 16 seconds segment also in film and soundtrack album.
MaybelleneListen to this recording 2:16 Soundtrack album, Concert Vault, Long Live bootleg and Audience Tape
Around and Around 3:16 Concert Vault, Long Live bootleg and Audience Tape
No Money Down 2:27 Concert Vault, Long Live bootleg and Audience Tape
Sweet Little Sixteen 2:34 Concert Vault, Long Live bootleg and Audience Tape
Roll Over BeethovenListen to this recording 2:57 Film (edited down to 2:40), Soundtrack album, radio show, Concert Vault, Long Live bootleg, and Audience Tape
Instrumental & Robert Cray introduction 1:01 Concert Vault and Audience Tape
Brown-Eyed Handsome Man 2:07 Concert Vault, Long Live bootleg and Audience Tape Robert Cray on guitar and vocals
Nadine 2:39 Concert Vault, Long Live bootleg and Audience Tape
Too Much Monkey Business 2:49 Concert Vault, Long Live bootleg and Audience Tape
Johnny B. Goode 2:57 Soundtrack album, Concert Vault, Long Live bootleg and Audience Tape. Version in film and radio show has an edited guitar solo and is just 2:23. Julian Lennon on vocals
Instrumental 2:35 Concert Vault and Audience Tape
Almost Grown 2:46 Concert Vault, Long Live bootleg and Audience Tape Keith, Joey, and Ingrid on background vocals
Little Queenie 2:24 Concert Vault, Long Live bootleg and Audience Tape
Instrumental 2:18 Audience Tape. Segment of 0:45 on Long Live bootleg.
Wee Wee Hours 5:03 Concert Vault, Long Live bootleg and Audience Tape. The version in film, soundtrack album, radio show is edited from the first three minutes of the show 1 recording plus another two minutes from this recording. Eric Clapton on guitar and vocals
Instrumental 2:35 Concert Vault, and Audience Tape
Instrumental Blues Jam 2:19 Concert Vault, and Audience Tape
Havana Moon (part) 1:07 Rehearsals bootleg and Audience Tape
Havana Moon (a.k.a. Chuck's Rock'n'Roll #1) 3:45 Rehearsals bootleg, Concert Vault, Long Live bootleg and Audience Tape (3:32)
Jo Jo Gunne (a.k.a. Chuck's Rock'n'Roll #2) 3:18 Rehearsals bootleg, Concert Vault, Long Live bootleg and Audience Tape
Everyday I Have the Blues 3:28 Still on the road bootleg, Rehearsals bootleg, Concert Vault, Long Live bootleg and Audience Tape (2:59) Robert Cray on guitar
Rock 'n' Roll MusicListen to this recording 3:47 Rehearsals bootleg, Concert Vault, Long Live bootleg, and Audience Tape. Edited versions in film(2:56) and Soundtrack album (3:10). Etta James on vocal, Eric Clapton on guitar
Hoochie Coochie Man 4:47 Concert Vault, Long Live bootleg and Audience Tape Etta James on vocal, Eric Clapton on guitar
Instrumental 3:03 Concert Vault, Long Live bootleg and Audience Tape
School Day 5:00 Film (edited down to 2:42), Long Live bootleg (edited further down to 2:24)) and Audience Tape Etta James on vocal, Eric Clapton and Joe Walsh on guitars

Unidentified recordings

The following three recordings could not be identified on any of the audience tapes. Probably they were recorded while the tapers changed cassettes.

It may also be that these songs were created in the cutting room or sound studio from various of the recordings above or even later overdubs.

Song appr. length available comments
No Particular Place To Go 2:14 Film, radio show, and Long Live bootleg (bonus track) possibly from show 2
Nadine 2:33 Film, radio show, and Long Live bootleg (bonus track)
Outro Jam 2:19 Concert Vault and Long Live bootleg probably from show 2

Due to Chuck's bad voice which can be heard very good on the Concert Vault recording, some segments of the filmed shows have been overdubbed in an L.A. studio several weeks later. This means that what you hear in the movie is not necessarily what was recorded in the show. A complete discussion of the contents of the soundtrack album and its edits against the original recordings is covered by an article in the blog which goes along this site.

The Birthday

Chuck's 60th birthday was the next day: October 18th, 1986. And again on this day a birthday concert took place, this time at the Felt Forum, New York. According to visitors of that show and judging from an audience tape, with Dave Edmunds on guitar, John Entwistle on bass and Chuck Leavell on keyboards this must have been a great concert as well.

The whole world knows the music. Nobody knows the man.
(Movie Headline)


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Last modified: 05.09.2016