Tuesday, October 10. 2017
The previous blog entry was about a newly released Chuck Berry live recording which was said to stem from a KBCO broadcast in the early 1990's.
We finally found out when and where this was recorded. And the interesting thing is that it comes from a show which is in our sessionography database already.
The hint to solve the KBCO show mystery came from Thierry Chanu who saw a YouTube posting called Chuck Berry at Wolf and Rissmiller's.
Poster markbrow explains that this one-hour audio is from a live broadcast on 94.7 KMET recorded at Wolf & Rissmiller's Country Club in Reseda, CA. You hear the KMET DJs introduce and sign-off the broadcast.
Listen to the recording of Bio halfway in the show. This is the exact same recording used on the new ROXVOX album where it is labeled as "KBCO-FM, Early 90s". Also the other four songs from the so-called KBCO tape are on markbrow's tape as well.
But there's more: Listen to Sweet Little Sixteen and the Carol / Little Queenie medley. Have you heard those before? Yes! They are on the famous Westwood One radio station album, the only one containing Berry live recordings not published otherwise. The tracks were re-released on the Sheik of Chicago CD last year.
Thus thanks to markbrow's tape we now know the origin of the mystery KBCO recordings. All three recordings (YouTube, radio station album, and KBCO tape) are from the same show.
The show was recorded on January 17th, 1981 at Wolf & Rissmiller's. Berry performed two sets this day using the same backup band consisting of Jim Marsala on bass, Johnny Rivers on guitar plus unknown pianist and drummer. Some source talked about the "Billy Ciofe Band", but this is unconfirmed. Rivers is introduced by name but doesn't sing, not even Memphis, Tennessee.
Read markbrow's description on YouTube and you already see it was a great show even before listening to it. Mark Brown of the Orange County Register remembers it in an 1999 article:
Today, he barely tours, and when he does it's a short, routine set as part of some oldies package.
Compared to other audience tapes from the late 70s, early 80s, the Reseda show is nothing special. Berry plays his greatest hits and leaves the stage after exactly 60 minutes. The main difference is the very good backing band, especially Johnny Rivers and the unknown piano player.
Strangely, reader Jeff told us in 2004 about the second set he attended:
I remember the line being around the block to get in. I was 21 at the time, and had been into Chuck since I was about 12. This was the first time I had a chance to see him, although I've seen him numerous times since.
Talking about the second show is of interest as well: The recording of Maybellene on the Westwood One radio station album is NOT the same as the one from markbrow's YouTube posting. Both sets have been recorded. The first one was broadcast live on KMET (as the DJ comments on YouTube prove). The second show (or at least part thereof) was recorded but not broadcast directly. Segments of both shows were kept for re-broadcast. CBS's Westwood One distributed Maybellene from the second show along with Sweet Little Sixteen and the Carol / Little Queenie medley from the first show on an album to radio stations nation-wide. The album was filled with recordings from a George Thorogood live show at Wolf & Rissmiller's, probably recorded a month later, February 19th, 1981. According to Wikipedia, the Chuck Berry show was the first of many live shows owner Norman J. Pattiz recorded for Westwood One.
Also the so-called KBCO tape is NOT from the KMET live broadcast. It is the same show, but in markbrow's posting on YouTube at the end of Bio there is a station identification from KMET which is not on the KBCO tape. Thus this tape was recorded from a re-broadcast, maybe on KBCO. It only has the last 30 minutes of the show though it's unclear if the first part was not broadcast or not recorded from radio.
The complete set of recordings from January 17th, 1981 thus consists of:
Maybellene (1st set) - 3:33 - KMET
Memphis, Tennessee - 3:38 - KMET
School Day - 1:59 - KMET
Roll Over Beethoven - 3:17 - KMET
Sweet Little Sixteen - 2:02 - Westwood One, KMET
Carol / Little Queenie - 7:06 - Westwood One, KMET
You Don't Have To Go / Lousiana Blues - 7:00 - KMET, last 3:27 only: KBCO
Bio - 5:27 - KMET, KBCO
Nadine - 5:45 - KMET, KBCO
Johnny B. Goode - 4:58 - KMET, KBCO
Reelin' & Rockin' / House Lights - 12:25 - KMET, KBCO
Maybellene (2nd set) - 2:15 - Westwood One
The recording descriptions in our database have been updated accordingly.
Thanks to markbrow, Thierry, and Jeff for helping to sort out these recordings.
Monday, September 11. 2017
All the fuss about the CHUCK album should not let us overlook the many other Chuck Berry releases from the last months.
When Fred informed me about the CD The Palladium New York '88 I wasn't too impressed. The Palladium show had been on the Smashing Pumpkin CD The Sheik of Chicago already which we wrote about last year. And as you know it's a high-quality but low-performance recording. Or as Fred wrote: "When you listen to it you can understand why [it has never had a legitimate release]. Chuck is renowned for performing unrehearsed and with a waywardly untuned guitar but on this particular night his fingers were also unrehearsed and untuned. While energy levels are high, the duff notes come thick and fast, falling in such infectious clusters that the pianist is tempted to join the discordance too. Add to this the thud, thud, thud of a tub thumping drummer and it's all rather disheartening." So why should we care?
Then I learned that this new release of the Palladium show is also available on Vinyl. The CD is ROXVOX RVCD2106, the Vinyl is LIVE ON VINYL LOV 2019LP.
As expected, the CD contains the same recording as last year's Smashing Pumpkin CD. It includes the radio station MC's announcement, though. And it has two bonus tracks!
The first bonus track is a very nice live recording of Bio said to be recorded for KBCO-FM of Boulder, Colorado and broadcast in the early 1990s. Recordings of this broadcast had been floating around as private tapes for long. The second bonus track called Riding Along is said to stem from the same broadcast and is also on the audience tapes noted. However, if you listen closely, this is just the plain old studio recording of No Particular Place To Go. The previously unreleased version of Bio is also on the Vinyl version which however misses four songs from the Palladium concert.
The Palladium New York '88 comes with a strange cover, as you see. In addition the track listing has many songs incorrectly named. The CD booklet does include some nicer Berry photos, though, and a reprint of both an 1987 L.A. Times interview and an 1985 biography from Associated Press which starts with "Born Charles Edward Anderson Berry in San Jose, California on January 15th 1926" ... Hey, at least they had the name right!
As said, the most interesting thing with this CD is the KBCO bonus track. I tried to research a bit about the origins of this recording but didn't succeed. So here's a summary of what I have been able to find out:
The surviving tape of the KBCO broadcast consists of five live tracks:
1: Louisiana Blues (Muddy Waters)
2: Bio (Chuck Berry)
3: Nadine (Chuck Berry)
4: Johnny B. Goode (Chuck Berry)
5: Reelin' and Rockin' (Chuck Berry) / House Lights (Chuck Berry)
Of interest is the first track as no Berry recording of this Muddy Waters tune has been released yet. The remaining are pretty standard for his 1990s concerts. Nadine comes with a lyrics change when Berry sings "I shouted to the driver: Hey conductor, you must - take me to Atlanta, Atlanta on a bus." Since Berry often changed lyrics according to the location of the concert, Atlanta might be a good guess. However, on Bio Berry claims "I'll be back here in Hollywood." This would point to an L.A. venue. Who known?
During the closing routine of Reelin' and Rockin', Berry in the "It wasn't me" segment typically talks about the drummer, the piano player or the bass man, all anonymously as he usually doesn't know their names. Here, however, Berry refers to the drummer, the bass man, and a "Johnny" the crowd cheers to. I had originally assumed this to be Berry's long-time pianist Johnnie Johnson, as there is a piano player on stage. Johnson toured with Berry in the late 1980s. But further listening reveals that the piano player is not good enough to be Johnnie Johnson.
Instead it seems to be the second guitarist who is Johnny. All five tracks, especially Bio include a second lead guitar which exchanges licks with Berry. And a good one! One source claims that this second guitar is played by Johnny Rivers, though no proof is given. It's possible, though. Rivers and Berry had several common performances, e.g. in various TV shows. Thus Berry would known him by name.
I searched around to find a concert where Berry and Rivers shared the same bill. And found one. In Colorado. In the late 1990s. And broadcast on radio. As far as I was able to find out, the only 1990s concert these two appeared on was the 1997 KOOL concert at Mile High Stadium, Denver, Colorado, on Saturday, June 14th, 1997. It seems that all KOOL concerts were recorded and broadcast by KXKL-FM (a.k.a. KOOL-105) at that time.
Now, Denver is not that far from Boulder, 1997 is not that far from 'early 1990s' and KXKL-FM is not that far from KBCO-FM. So maybe this recording wasn't "broadcast by KCBO of Boulder, Colorado in the early 1990s" but by KXKL of Denver, Colorado in 1997 instead.
But Denver would neither explain the Atlanta nor the Hollywood text change. Therefore we have to stick with the KCBO bit in our discography database until we learn better.
If you know more, let me know!
Many thanks to Frank Wilmot of the Denver Public Library and to Tyler Fey of Feyline Events Management for their help researching the Colorado concert and lineup.
Friday, July 21. 2017
You have been asking about the so-called photobook offered by Dualtone in combination with the CHUCK album.
There was absolutely no information about this book available from Dualtone except for the black cover. No Contents, no page numbers, nothing. So I finally bit the bullet and ordered one. (Note that Dualtone constantly changes the descriptions on their site. Since I ordered they included a small video of a hand browsing through the book.)
Here's my review for you to decide by yourself if you want one of not.
It is awfully expensive to get this photobook. In contrast to the early offers they at least allow ordering from outside the U.S. now. Dualtone's list price is $35 plus shipping. The cheapest shipping they offer is $23.38 to Europe. It took ten days to get me the package. Faster shipping is available at even higher costs. Shipping to your location might vary. A European buyer should thus expect at least $60 payment to Dualtone plus customs fees and taxes if they apply.
What you get is the size of an LP and has 40 sheets of paper, i.e. 80 pages. Most pages have a single image or document reproduction.
The images are often taken from Berry's own photo collection. But there are also lots of well-known images from PR shots or concerts. The quality of the photos vary a lot. While this is no surprise for seventy years old wedding photos, also newer photos have been scanned poorly or reprinted from magazines.
The selection and quality of the scanned documents vary even more. We'll see excerpts from Berry's correspondence files, some internal accounting, telegrams (wired messages) but also copies of newspaper articles or even sheet music. Many of this is damaged and seems to be taken from the burnt scrapbook Berry shows to Robbie Robertson on the Hail! Hail! Rock'n'Roll! DVD (four DVD set only, Image Entertainment ID3156THDVD, 2006).
Again there are some documents which we have seen before, but there's also some I haven't seen before. And this includes interesting stuff such as a 1957 inquiry by Elvis Presley Music, Inc. asking for Chuck to write material for Elvis.
The creators of this book were very keen to point out Berry's honors. So you'll see letters regarding Grammy and BMI awards, messages from Dick Clark, Carl Sagan, and Etta James. And you'll see thank-you letters from President Carter, from President Reagan, from Hillary and from Bill Clinton, and another from Bill, and another from the White House's Social Secretary, and ... You'll get the picture.
All in all you'll get a couple of interesting photos and documents, you'll get a lot you already know or which you don't care about. And what you don't get at all is any information on image source or contents.
Except for a few sentences in a non-signed foreword there is absolutely no text in this book. It would have been extremely helpful if not necessary to tell where a certain photo has been taken, or when, or who is shown next to Berry. Nothing. And where every book, magazine or CD booklet tries to give correct credit to the owner of a photo, here all is "from the Berry Family Archives". This is disappointing.
In summary you have to be a very enthusiastic Berry fan to enjoy the segments of the book which you don't already know. Take your time and wait until it gets cheaper - or at least sold in your country for less shipping.
Thursday, July 20. 2017
Chuck Berry's performance at the NBC Midnight Special show of October 12th, 1973 is well known. You can even view it using YouTube at
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5NwvAiRmvw (Reelin' And Rockin')
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1oaf2hEXwY (Johnny B. Goode)
Since Berry is backed by the Brothers Gibb, i.e. the Bee Gees, on this performance, audio copies of these segments were available in the Bee Gees collectors community on CDs. It wasn't clear, though, whether these CDs qualify for inclusion in our Chuck Berry sessionography database. We only include albums which have been commercially available and produced in quantities. This means we have all the official releases and the factory-produced bootlegs.
It took a looong time to find out, but in the end we can now tell that these Chuck Berry recordings have been made available on what seems to be true, pressed CDs. One example is Down The Road (Drifter CD 022, 2009). While I haven't seen a copy yet, at least I have seen photos of the CDs.
Many thanks to the Bee Gees experts GĂ¶ran Gustafsson of the Bee Gees Collection, Detlef Wange of the Private Bee Gees Archive and SĂžren Forup of the Bee Gees Rarity Site
Friday, June 30. 2017
Big Beat was a French fan magazine which started in the late 1960s and ended after 21 issues in the 1980s. Thirty-five years later the magazine was brought back to life with a 22nd issue. Since then it's purely digital with no paper releases. Issue 26 was recently published and is of huge interest to Chuck Berry collectors - even if you don't speak French.
Big Beat Magazine is a non-commercial project by Alain Mallaret created with a team of volunteers having pure passion for Blues, Country Music and Rock and Roll, just like the creators of this site and so many others around the world!
Issue #26 concentrates on Chuck Berry and includes both a very nice and interesting photo collection from Jean-Pierre Ravelli and a huge discography by Pierre Pennone. The contents of the discography follows more or less the contents of this site, which Pierre used and referred to. It is, however, limited to the official records released by Chess, Mercury and the likes as most of the 'official' discographies do. Pierre's discography fills almost 100 pages because he has managed to include hundreds of images showing labels, front and back covers, and sometimes even the booklets coming with the records. A minor thing to complain about is that Pierre did not always show the original records but used re-issues sometimes. All in all it's a great discography based on a huge amount of work. Well done, Pierre!
You can read Big Beat magazine at no charge from the CalamĂ©o publication platform:
Alain told me that there's also a PDF version of the magazine available. You cannot download it anywhere, but if you want one, Alain would send it to you. I won't publish Alain's email here, but if you contact me I'd be happy to forward your request. Alain also said that because this is a non-commercial project, you may freely give the PDF to other collectors interested.
It's great to have fellow collectors working so enthusiastically.
Many thanks to Alain and Pierre for their work and for telling me about it.
Tuesday, June 27. 2017
Readers keep asking us about the multiple variations the new album CHUCK which is now offered by both Dualtone and Decca (and maybe other labels). We canât really tell, simply because we donât know either.
Where in the past companies targeting the Chuck Berry collector such as Bear Family and Universal/HIP-O Select have been extremely helpful by providing us with lots of information prior to the release of their CD sets and with samples as soon as available, both Dualtone and Decca seem to not target the Chuck Berry collector at all, but to concentrate on the traditional new records markets such as stores, radio, TV, and streaming business.
Though we cannot directly blame Dualtone and Decca for ignoring bloggers as multiplicators since both have outsourced their public relations to specialized companies. In the US this is a company called Shore Fire Media, in the UK a company called Big Mouth Publicity.
We had an email contact with Shore Fire Media when they took over the promotion for the CHUCK album. At that time we asked them to keep us informed and they confirmed. Since then: nada. Shore Fire never sent us a press release or whatever. Only a private contact to Dualtone allowed us to tell you a bit about the release which you couldn't read everywhere else. But even there was a strange "America first" attitude. Or better said "America only". No, they won't ship anything to Europe. And they're not responsible for Europe anyway. Strange, given that while the authors of this site are located in Europe, you, our readers, are located all over the world (and mostly in the US if I look at the emails I receive). And even more strange, the likes of amazon and ebay allow buyers from all over the world to buy American. Looks like it's not only this funny president who's trying to move a whole country to another planet or universe.
About Big Mouth Publicity we cannot say anything at all as only last week we learned that they are supposed to 'promote' Chuck Berry. "In addition to our UK media services, Big Mouth also offers online campaigns targeting key US sites and international blogs." (quote from their site) Interesting. They hadn't found our blog, though. OK, we're only "the best Chuck Berry website in existence" (quoted Now Dig This magazine). Who expects them to find out such when a record label pays a PR agency.
Thus we can only tell you what we have seen on the Dualtone website and elsewhere so far. Last week the Dualtone store had about 10 variations of the CHUCK album which differ in media (CD, Vinyl, or none at all) and packaging (with or without poster, shirt, or book). And no, we cannot tell what's inside the "Photo Book" as we haven't seen one yet. Since last week the Dualtone shop notes that they indeed ship worldwide, but just the shipping of the book doubles its already high price. And, as said, you cannot see what's inside unless you order it.
In addition the Dualtone-labeled Vinyl album is available in different colors. Right now the Dualtone shop offers a "limited edition" red wax variant. Another "limited edition" on white wax is sold through the Barnes & Noble bookstores. A "regular" black wax edition had been in the Dualtone shop but is currently gone. Maybe that was even more limited.
For Decca there's less information available, yes, even less. It seems that there's only a regular black Vinyl album and the usual CD. Decca Japan offers the album as an SHM-CD (this is a different sort of plastic).
Decca UK has distributed promotional copies of at least the CD album. These are labeled to be watermarked and traceable. (If you don't know what this means, read e.g. http://www.idolator.com/298040/watermarked-cds-cause-paranoia-to-be-added-to-long-list-of-music-critics-problems. So no passing of unwanted CDs to friends. Basically you can't even dump such a CD into the next PVC recycling bin as somebody might find it there and make you guilty of unauthorized distribution. Ensure you break the CD first.)
We haven't seen a promotional CD from Dualtone yet, so we don't know if they used the same watermarking. We have seen and shown here a promotional CD single of Big Boys by Dualtone.
Which one of the multiple variants do you need to have? Depends on your budget. Right now we suggest you get the cheapest one to listen to it. Which is what counts.
Many thanks to Thierry for researching most of this article's contents.
If you intend to buy the album or any other item from Dualtone's shop, use this link to get a $5 discount: https://dualtone-music.myshopify.com/?redeem=596498870d7ea20044c4aa18
Sunday, June 25. 2017
Dick Clark remembers in his autobiography (Clark/Robinson - Rock, Roll & Remember, Popular Library, 1978, p. 103):
Phil and Leonard Chess sent Chuck Berry to Philadelphia to do the show. Chuck was a giant star, and he'd even written Philadelphia and Bandstand into the lyrics of a song, "Sweet Little Sixteen." Chuck, a very mercurial performer, got to the studio about 20 minutes before he went on the air. We exchanged pleasantries, then he said, "Ain't going do any dancing."
Chuck Berry describes the same incident a little bit differently: (Berry - The Autobiography, Harmony Books, 1987, p. 185)
At my first "American Bandstand" appearance, I ran into trouble because I thought it was ridiculous to lip sync the words to "Sweet Little Sixteen." The song was written in honor of first, the teenage girl, and second, the "American Bandstand" show that Dick Clark hosted. I was being stubborn in ignorance of the cost of live singing over lip syncing. Rock 'n' roll on television was in its early days with budgets low, and lip syncing rather than live vocalizing helped cut expenses. In Dick Clark's book Rock, Roll and Remember, he quotes me as saying on this occasion "Ain't going do any dancing." It's hardly likely anyone whose mother taught school would be trained to speak in such fashion. Another point in the same section contains a description of Leonard Chess using profanity and lewd terms while speaking with me long distance, after Dick called him asking him to persuade me to lip sync. Leonard explained the reasons for lip syncing, but he never used profanity while doing business with me at any time in our affiliation.
It's nice from Chuck to defend Leonard from using profanity, but this fact has been widely reported. Whether or not Chuck used the "Ain't going do any dancing" quote and maybe why, will remain unconfirmed. One thing Berry is probably incorrect in saying is that he was supposed to sing "Sweet Little Sixteen". According to Morten's books and according to The Pop History Dig, Berry's first appearance on "Bandstand" was on 8 November 1957. Maybe the song was already written by then, but it was recorded at the end of December 1957 and released in January 1958. It's more likely that Berry did an earlier song and that he wrote "Sweet Little Sixteen" after he was on "Bandstand".
In the end Berry went dancing/lip-sync'ing his hits on American Bandstand. Same in the Alan Freed movies.
What Berry never did, though, was make a music video. In the 1950's there weren't any. And when videos became a reasonable way to do advertising for a record, there weren't any Chuck Berry records worth creating one.
The old story came back into my mind when I saw the music video created to promote Big Boys. "Ain't going do any dancing." And any playing either.
Matt Bizer and Curtis Wayne Millard created a video which shows ... people dancing and lip-sync'ing to the music. According to NPR, the video was filmed in Jasper, Georgia, using dancers from Atlanta's Dance 411 studio supervised by choreographer Jeremy Green.
The result is a bit American Bandstand-like, though in color. Helpful to promote the song? Judge for yourself: https://youtu.be/WQzapVH94Lo
In my opinion, THIS video is a much better promotion for the song. It was filmed during Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lDjjX-M0O0
Here the song is performed live. No dancing, no lip-sync'ing. Of course it's not Chuck Berry playing, but three guys who helped making the original recording: Nathaniel Rateliff, Charles Berry Jr., and Charles Berry III. One of the first covers of this new Chuck Berry song. And a good one!
Late addition: There's a second official music video for the CHUCK album: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j05AQJQRuIw. Here you hear Chuck and Ingrid singing "Darlin'." And while listening, you see photos and video snippets of Ingrid with her dad, obviously taken from her private collection. Plus we see a few film segments of Chuck performing, some known, some not, which have been slowed down to fit to the song's feeling. For some reason they added live audience applause to the end of the song.
Sunday, June 11. 2017
When German Rock'n'Roll Musikmagazin celebrated their 40th anniversary two weeks ago, I sought some appropriate clothing for the party and concert.
Browsing eBay I found this nice T-shirt. Interestingly most visitors at the celebration did not get the message, but readers of this site should have no need for explanation. Enjoy!
If you like this as much as I did, here's the link to the corresponding eBay offer: eBay item 230919634545. They ship world-wide. Select your favorite color during checkout.
Tuesday, May 23. 2017
Following Chuck Berry's passing in March, every music-related magazine had one or more articles describing Berry's life or work. And almost every magazine not dedicated to music as well.
Depending on the quality of the magazine and depending on how the editors valued Berry's importance on their readership, the articles were quite nice or they were so-and-so. Rolling Stone magazine for instance in issue 1285 dedicated almost 20 pages to Berry. And they place lot of text onto each page. Good reading!
Vintage Rock magazine of England even created a special issue called "Chuck Berry - A Celebration". This consists of a full 132 pages! Besides many, many photos, often full-page, the issue also has a lot of text. Randy Fox, Julie Burns, David Burke, Michael Leonard, and John Howard each provide in-depth descriptions of Berry's life and work, divided into common topics such as his Mercury releases, the Birthday movie, or Berry's guitar playing. In addition there are commented lists of Berry's most important and most unknown songs, stories about his influences, and multi-page reviews of his best-known albums. And there's an interview with this site's contributor and author Fred Rothwell.
All in all this special issue is highly recommended. You can order directly from the publisher at http://www.vintagerockmag.com/2017/04/chuck-berry-celebration-sale-now/. They ship world-wide.
As with every review, you should not forget some things to criticize, so here it is: Even though this site here is mentioned in the magazine, it's obvious the authors did not fully read the blog or main text. There's some outdated or even completely wrong information contained. Also they missed to mention of the most important books on Chuck Berry's work, Morten Reff's "Chuck Berry International Directory". And I would have wished the editors would have eliminated the various repetitions which happen when multiple authors write about the same subject.
Saturday, April 8. 2017
As announced on Berry's 90th birthday in October, the planned album CHUCK (Dualtone Music) was supposed to be released in March 2017. Obvious reasons now have postponed the release to June 16th.
While waiting for the release, we are trying to get some facts about the songs and the recording process. Anyway this is what should finally make it to our database - and as correct as possible. While we know about all the uncertainties regarding Berry's recordings in the 1950s and 1960s, it shouldn't be so difficult to get facts about recent recordings, should it?
Right now, some facts about the new album are public. Most of what's of interest for us, remains unclear, though. The contributors, some of which are reading and commenting here, seem to be under non-disclosure. So we have to stick with Dualtone's press releases and the liner notes excerpts reprinted in Rolling Stone magazine.
Berry has been talking about this album in interviews for at least 25 years including naming songs such as "Lady B. Goode". He must have had recorded parts or all already when in March 1989 a fire at his Wentzville farm destroyed both the recording studio and all of the master tapes.
Berry started re-recording the lost tapes shortly thereafter. He moved to digital recording techniques in the 1990s which allowed him to do the same cut-and-paste recording common with multi-track taping. Due to this we will probably never be able to set a date or even year of when a specific song from CHUCK was recorded. And we won't be able to tell where such recording took place and who played which instrument.
Listening to the single Big Boys released in advance, we hear that Berry's singing and guitar playing is not that of a 90-year-old. Even comparing it to the concert tapes made during the last 20 years, he sounds fresh. Therefore we can assume that at least the base track for this song has been recorded in the 1990s or early 2000s. According to an interview, at least six of the tracks had been ready by 1996. Not to forget that "Big Boys" was dubbed ready for release in an article celebrating Berry's 80th birthday in 2006.
Digital recording also allowed Berry to play more than one instrument. Thus while we are told that Jim Marsala, Bob Lohr and Keith Robinson worked as bassist, pianist and drummer on CHUCK, it might be for all songs, or just a few.
Besides Marsala and Berry's children Chuck Jr. and Ingrid, who toured with him during the last decades, the album also lists guest musicians such as Gary Clark Jr., Tom Morello and Nathaniel Rateliff as well as Chuck's grandson Charles III.
Tom Morello is the guitarist who provides the very unlike solo at the end of Big Boys, while Rateliff sings the background vocals. Whereas Morello has been a recording artist since the 1990s, both Rateliff and Clark are relatively fresh artists. This makes us believe that at least these guest artists have been overdubbed onto finished tapes during the last few years. While the liner notes list Clark Jr. on "Wonderful Woman", the guitarist himself says that he doesn't know which song his playing was used for. Berry Jr. explained that he and his son, that's Chuck III., finished their parts in Nashville in 2014 or 2015.
In addition to Big Boys we already know two songs from CHUCK: "3/4 Time" has been in Berry's touring repertoire for decades. Written by Tony Joe White and best known sung by Ray Charles, this is included in various concert recordings known from Berry since the early 1990s. A version of the Jazz standard "You Go To My Head" from 1938, written by Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie, has been recorded during the rehearsals for Berry's 1986 birthday movie. It didn't make it to the film but can be heard on the corresponding DVD set.
The remaining seven songs on CHUCK are written by Berry himself. This is the expected track listing:
Wonderful Woman [5:19]
Big Boys [3:05]
You Go to My Head [3:21]
3/4 Time (Enchiladas) [3:47]
Lady B. Goode [2:55]
She Still Loves You [3:00]
Jamaica Moon [3:50]
Eyes of Man [2:27]
Collectors should note that "Big Boys" was not only released as a download. Dualtone Music also released a CD single (DUA-1793-SI) containing just this track. It was sent as a not-for-sale promotional item to radio stations.
Many thanks to Lori Kampa of Dualtone Music for information about the album and PR single.
[Addition April 27, 2017: The song "Wonderful Woman" has been made available yesterday at https://youtu.be/kRFg9zUZnpU.]
Wednesday, April 5. 2017
One would imagine this to be an easy attempt to create revenue from Chuck Berry's death in March. But that would be very unfair to Ace Records. This album was released before Chuck's passing including Morten's review thereof as shown here. It's my fault that there were other topics to write about during the last weeks. And there's a second reason why such a claim would be very unfair to Ace: They spent an enormous amount of work in this album which must have taken months to complete.
Here's Morten's addition to CBID, the Chuck Berry International Directory:
CD: Rock And Roll Music â The Songs Of Chuck Berry
Ace CDCHD 1491 • UK, 2017
Roll Over Beethoven (Helene Dixon, USA) / Around And Around (The Swinging Blue Jeans, UK) / Down Bound Train (Ken Colyerâs Skiffle Group, UK) / Maybellene (Marty Robbins, USA) / Come On (Ian Gomm, UK) / Memphis (Don Covay, USA) / Oh Baby Doll (The Pretty Things, UK) / Nadine (The Bunch, UK) / Little Queenie (Jerry Lee Lewis, USA) / Iâm Talking About You (The Remains, USA) / Brown Eyed Handsome Man (Buddy Holly, USA) / Johnny B. Goode (Jay And The Americans, USA) / Sweet Little Sixteen (The Hollies, UK) / Too Much Monkey Business (Elvis Presley, USA) / Almost Grown (Syndicate Of Sound, USA) / No Money Down (John Hammond, USA) / Beautiful Delilah (The Cound Bishops, UK-USA) / Havana Moon (Santana, USA) / Back In The USA (MC5, USA) / You Canât Catch Me (Sleepy LaBeef, USA) / Rock And Roll Music (The Beach Boys, USA) / You Never Can Tell (John Prine, USA) / Run Rudolph Run+ (Dwight Yoakam, USA) / Promised Land (Dave Edmunds, UK)
24 classic songs from the Poet Laureate of RockânâRollâs matchless catalogue as the cover tells us. Interesting compilation put together by one Tony Rounce who has also written the liner notes with each song being examined by the way of performance by the individual artists and groups. If you need any additional info check out Vol.3 of CBID, so thereâs no need for me to comment on the tracks. However, I wished they had picked a better version of âRun Rudolph Runâ.
So far for Morten's entry to CBID written early March. We should add that the same CD is also offered in Japan as P-VINE PCD-17762. And after having received the CD, Dietmar would like to add these comments to the review:
What impressed me with the new Ace CD was how much energy Ace has spent creating it. Although it's almost expected with Ace's long list of excellent albums. The 16 page booklet not only explains the recordings in detail, it also shows cover and label images of each. In addition the selection itself is astonishing. They not only included some of the oldest cover versions (Marty Robbins: 1955, Helene Dixon: 1956, Ken Colyer: 1956 in the UK!!). They also selected both prominent names (Elvis, Buddy, Jerry Lee) and groups I had never heard of. The recordings span more than 40 years and many of the interpretations are notably different from Berry's original tunes.
This album is highly recommended. You'll find a list of web shops here.
Monday, April 3. 2017
Back to our main interest here: documenting Chuck Berry's recordings as completely as possible.
Chuck's work for Chess records is known pretty well nowadays. We have heard the 1950s recordings over and over, first on their original releases, then on all the 1970s re-releases, next when transferred to CDs, then in complete by HIP-O Select and Bear Family. So we should know them by heart.
Then last week Willem Moerdijk asked me:
According to your info, only one Chess take of Carol has been found. I think I may have found a second take. I noticed differences in the piano playing.
Willem included an MP3 of the version he found. It's a version most Chuck Berry collectors have sitting on the shelf. But yet it is different.
Get any of your records containing the 1958 hit Carol and listen to it. Now locate you old copy of Chuck Berry's Golden Decade Vol. 2. Carol is the very first track on side one. Play it. Hear any difference? Probably not. The singing is completely identical as is the guitar playing.
However, Willem is an expert on Jerry Lee Lewis. So he did not care about the guitar or the singing. He heard the piano. And he heard a different piano.
After a week of discussions and with the help of Arne's technical expertise (Thanks, Arne!) we finally have to agree with Willem.
The recording of Carol on Chuck Berry's Golden Decade Vol. 2 (Chess 60023, USA, 1973-02) is different indeed. It contains the exact same recording as the usual version, but there's another piano line. Listen for instance to the solo near the end of the song (at 2:33): On the 'new' version you can clearly hear the pianist performing a slide (glissando). On the 'common' version it isn't. There are some other piano differences at the beginning of the song and in between as well. The differences are minimal and you need to have a good and piano-trained ear to spot them.
Since the singing, the guitar, and even the original piano lines are exactly the same on both variants, it's clear that this is not a different recording/take. Instead it seems that Chess overdubbed another piano track onto the recording, probably because the original piano was pretty thin in the mix. Remember that in 1958 Chess recorded in Mono to a single tape. No way to enhance the original piano line later. Note that also the guitar was overdubbed, but this is identical on both variants, so must have taken place before the piano overdub. Why the enhanced variant did not make it to the original release, remains unknown.
The inclusion of this 'new' variant on Chuck Berry's Golden Decade Vol. 2 (again I show the much prettier UK cover) fits to the known facts about this strange release. Collectors had already found differing variants of Let It Rock (missing the guitar overdub) and Betty Jean (previously unreleased take) in this set. Since all three variants on Chuck Berry's Golden Decade Vol. 2 sound very much like their 'correct' releases, we doubt these were released intentionally. Especially as the liner notes don't tell anything. Or maybe some re-release engineer tried to tease us. In this case he succeeded for 44 years!
If you don't have the original 2-LP set, listen to other late 1970s re-releases. We have found the piano overdub on a few other albums. We haven't found it on any CD, though. If you do, let us know.
Many thanks to Willem, of course!
Friday, March 31. 2017
$251.11 - That's what a collector this week paid for a picture sleeve of CHESS 1883, the U.S. original single Nadine. And just for the sleeve only!
Why did this collector pay that much? Because nobody I know has ever seen this sleeve before.
There are similar looking picture sleeves for the CHESS singles following Nadine. But a PS for 1883 has been unknown.
We wonder if this sleeve truly is a genuine product. Or whether it's one of the many counterfeit picture sleeves popping up lately. Since the image on eBay looks reasonable and since the seller seems to be trusted, it may in fact be a long-lost item.
If you've been the buyer, let us know once you received it. What is your opinion?
Addition by Morten Reff:
Collectors should know that some of the US 45 picture sleeves had the titles only on one side whereas the other side had the same image and layout but no song titles. I also have one of these sleeves which has no song titles on both sides. Which would make it easy to imprint whatever you want.
Friday, March 24. 2017
This site contains a full bibliography about Chuck Berry, i.e. a commented list of books about his recordings, his records, and his life. So when I accidentally found a book titled "The Life of Chuck Berry" at amazon, I bought it without thinking, especially as the price was very low (about $6 including shipping here in Germany).
At this price I wasn't too disappointed when it arrived here the next day. You probably won't call it a book at all. It's a leaflet of less than 25 sheets of paper. This certainly is not enough for a paper book. But it is a custom size for a Kindle eBook. And that's what you get: the printout of a Kindle eBook. And it's just a sequential printout without any layout whatsoever. No page numbers. Ten-line pages because the following image is too big to fit. And so on.
What puzzled me the most was that this book doesn't have an author. It doesn't even have a copyright note. Charles River Editors is a company which publishes eBooks about almost every topic you can imagine, hundreds of which are sold by amazon, apple and the likes.
Typically this kind of "books" consists of nothing more than wikipedia articles pasted. This is not the case with "The Life of Chuck Berry", though.
This booklet contains original text. It's well structured, not bad written and good reading. It covers Berry's personal life and career up to 2012 and it does so quite completely.
The book even has two pages listing a bibliography of sources. When writing a book about the life of Chuck Berry, sources should include Bruce Pegg's book, Berry's own autobiography, maybe the books by Howard DeWitt and John Collins, definitely Fred Rothwell's book. None, none of these important books is listed as a source! Instead the whole list of sources consists just of websites (and some magazine articles available on websites).
The unnamed author(s) obviously did not read any of the main sources. All they did was google'ing Berry's name and re-word their findings. So you won't find a quote from Berry's autobiography in this book. But you will find several quotes from reviewers who quoted from Berry's autobiography. That's odd! Why not read the original?
Therefore you will not find any first-hand information in this book. You will not find second-hand information either. All this is third-hand information.
Due to this, while most of the text is correct, there's an obvious error now and then. That happens when you copy and paste from sources who didn't know better.
This book is good for someone who wants to get a first impression about Chuck Berry's career. You won't need more than half an hour to read it. And you have seen the photos before. For readers of this site, it's not recommended at all.
Wednesday, March 22. 2017
Dualtone had been very quiet about the new Chuck Berry album they announced in October. My guess is they kept quiet to have the media stay away from Chuck's last days.
Here's a message distributed tonight:
Since Chuck's passing on Saturday, the Berry family has received many inquiries from friends, fans and media about the status of his forthcoming album CHUCK, which was originally announced on his 90th birthday, October 18, 2016.
Accordingly, Dualtone Records makes available a first song called Big Boys from this album at their website:
This weblog is an addition to my Chuck Berry fansite called "A Collector's Guide to the Music of Chuck Berry" which describes all books and records of interest to everyone enjoying Chuck Berry's music.
Dietmar Rudolph about Where have we heard this interview before?
Reader Ari Niskanen sent me an email regarding the source of this quote. It is from the 'H ail! [...]
Josep about Yet another Carol
Amazing research. Thank you ve ry much.
Dietmar Rudolph about Big Beat magazine issue 26 contains more than 100 pages on Chuck Berry
Sorry, Jean. There is no print ed version. I'll send Alain's email to you separately so you can [...]
Jean Million about Big Beat magazine issue 26 contains more than 100 pages on Chuck Berry
do a printed version exists so mewhere?
Dietmar Rudolph about Variations of the CHUCK album?
Fred has written a great revie w which you will read here soo n.
Jean Million about Variations of the CHUCK album?
thanks ! i'll apply your advis es !!! though i already heard it by the dozen on deezer !!! w [...]
Dietmar Rudolph about Variations of the CHUCK album?
Hi Jean! As said in the articl e I'd buy the CD from the chea pest source or from your local res [...]
Jean Million about Variations of the CHUCK album?
so, at the end ...which varian t do you recommend ? 'cause i' ve been waiting for your artic le b [...]
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