Thursday, April 5. 2018
Since the late 1970s Chuck Berry traveled to shows domestic and overseas with his friend and bass player James "Jimmy" Marsala. Marsala acted as the band leader performing sound checks and instructing the keyboarder and drummer, often locals, on how to play when sharing the stage with Berry.
Now Marsala has written a book called "Memories of Chuck" in which he reports his experiences on the road.
Marsala's recollections could probably have made this a highly interesting book. Unfortunately they didn't. Given the reports from promoters and journalists about Berry's habits regarding payments or female fans, one would expect nice stories from a first-hand witness. Unfortunately the result is tame and boring.
Marsala tries to correct the public image of Berry by defending him in every way. For every incident reported, Marsala finds a probable and nice explanation, whether on leaving a promoter with paid rooms to get a different hotel, or sending the band off-stage, or overrunning fans with a rental car. All of Marsala's stories are so biased you are tempted to stop reading after one third of the book. Only in the very end you'll find a chapter on Berry's "thriftiness". Everyone else would probably call it "closefistedness". Seems as if Marsala in the end did not really liked to sleep on the floor only because Berry decided to book just a single and single-bed hotel room for the two.
Besides two chapters containing short anecdotes of Marsala's life with Berry, the book chronologically describes incidents on various shows and tours between 1979 and 2014. There are five pages about Berry/Marsala's performance at Bill Clinton's inauguration party, five pages about a show in Spain, five pages about a tour in Brazil, and so on. Everything is very brief. Of the 180 pages of the book, only about 100 contain text at all.
Most of the remaining pages contain color(!) photos from Marsala's collection. Most show Marsala and Berry on stages all over the world, or they show Marsala and the band waiting for transportation. Other photos show Berry or Marsala with other famous artist such as Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin or Bill Wyman. Unfortunately many of the photos are not of best quality.
As Marsala writes from a first-hand witness position, we are supposed to believe what we read. You should take into account that Marsala writes from memory, though. And memory may not always be trusted. I cannot judge on most of the anecdotes reported, but I have been on-site at the 1983 Eindhoven concert. This is where the Berry photo from this site's logo originated. In 1983 I wrote about this concert and what I wrote does not necessarily match Marsala's memories.
I wish Marsala would have taken the time to write more, to write more professionally and to write more openly. Then this could have been a very good book. As it is, you will still want to buy a copy, but like me you will be disappointed.
Since none of the larger publishers seems to have been interested in selling this book, Marsala published it on his own using a Canadian company called FriesenPress. This is not a publisher but a company who offers self-publishing. Marsala provided the complete book, probably along with the non-professional layout. FriesenPress stores the book's electronic file and prints a copy as soon as a buyer wants one. They work together with sellers such as amazon and even with local book-on-demand companies for fats supply. When I ordered my copy from amazon Germany, the paperback I got was printed on demand by a German company. Yours may come from some place completely different. Some sellers are listed here.
Saturday, March 17. 2018
Arian Collins is a Chuck Berry fan like us. He recently wondered about the strange release strategy Chess showed with the first ten years in Berry's carrier. Songs were left on the shelf, placed on albums years after recorded or even released as singles only.
Thus Arian imagined how Berry's early albums would have looked like if Chess did release all recordings in time.
On his blog "Albums Back from the Dead - Recreating albums that never actually existed" Arian shows us Berry's Chess albums he imagined, including track listings which follow the recording dates and imaginary covers.
Look, read and enjoy
Chuck Berry 1955-59: https://albumsbackfromthedead.blogspot.com/2018/02/chuck-berry-discography-1956-59.html
Chuck Berry 1960-66: https://albumsbackfromthedead.blogspot.com/2018/03/chuck-berry-discography-1960-66.html
Monday, February 26. 2018
This site's section on Radio Show and Promotional Records has a description of the most interesting Chuck Berry records which were not available for public sale. This includes the so-called Radio Show albums which are LPs (later CDs) containing pre-produced radio shows to be broadcast by radio stations nation-wide. Some of these albums contain interviews or even music not available anywhere else.
I recently received another of these radio albums containing five segments of 5 to 7 minutes each to be broadcast as House of Blues Breaks on CBS stations. The segment for Thursday, 21 April 1994 concentrates on Louis Jordan but holds an interview segment by Chuck Berry related to Jordan.
They say that's a Chuck Berry song because it goes 'da-da-bi-da-bi-da-bi-du-a-da-bi-du-a'. Well, the first time I heard that was one of Carl Hogan's riffs in Louis Jordan's band. We have T-Bone Walker - I love T-Bone Walker and his blues. So you put a little Carl Hogan, a little T-Bone Walker, and a little Charlie Christian, the guitarist in Tommy Dorsey's band, together. Look what a span of people that you will please. And that's what I did in Johnny B. Goode, in Roll Over Beethoven. And making it simple is an important fact, I think, that resulted in a lot of the artists understanding, being able to play my music. If you can call it my music. But there's nothing new under the sun.
This does sound very well-known. We have heard Berry tell this in multiple interviews before. However, I checked the remaining radio station albums and did not find this specific segment. Do you remember where we have heard this specific interview segment before? Let me know.
Friday, February 16. 2018
As you know, this site's database is a complete list of each and every Chuck Berry recording which has ever been published on a mass-produced record or CD.
Some people have noticed that various web sites list Chuck Berry recordings which are not in our database. All these contain "alternative facts" and it's in no way our job to correct those. One error, which even made it to Mike Callahan and David Edwards' excellent Both Sides Now website, continues to be repeated over and over, though. Time to get the facts right:
In June 1972 Chess recorded several of their main artists at the Montreux Jazz Festival. This included Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, Koko Taylor and T-Bone Walker. Most were backed by The Four Aces, i.e. Lafayette Leake, Dave & Louis Myers, Fred Below. Some performances including Berry's were also broadcast on TV. From these broadcasts and from audience tapes we know it's been a poor Berry performance despite Walker and Dixon as guest artists on some tracks.
Chess decided to release the best recordings from the various shows on a two-LP set numbered 2CH-60015. Berry's complete performance seems to have been mastered for release, as both Michel Ruppli and Fred Rothwell report the master numbers CH2440 to CH2453 containing the songs from Berry's Montreux performance.
The double album was initially announced under the title "The Blues/Rock Cookbook - Volumes 1 & 2" to be released by Chess/Janus in September 1972. The track listing seems to have included Let It Rock (master CH2448) and School Day (master CH2453) from Berry's performance. [I haven't seen the original announcement yet, but I found a note in Cash Box which lists the artists, though not the songs.]
Those who know tell that the masters of these two songs have been cut from the master tape residing in the Chess vaults which otherwise still has the complete stereo recording. Thus it looks as if a master tape for the Blues/Rock Cookbook album had been created.
However, we have never seen a copy of this album nor any image thereof. It seems that it never made it to the stores. Strangely, many online discographies list 2CH-60015 under this title - and list Berry among the artists.
Correct is instead, that the final release of CHESS 2CH-60015 in February/March/April (?) 1973 has the title "Blues Avalanche" on the cover and "Blues/Rock Avalanche" on the label. The "Avalanche" album has the exact same tracks as the planned "Cookbook" album except for the two Berry tunes. There's no trace of Berry on the disk or on the cover.
It is completely unknown why this change happened? Fred Rothwell writes that Berry had a dislike for compilations. Another wild guess could be that Berry demanded additional cash for the publishing of his recordings. Or someone had noticed that Chess had just released a Chuck Berry live album (The Chuck Berry London Sessions, CH-60020). It even could be that Chess officials finally noticed that Berry's performance in Montreux was poor. Who knows?
In case you wonder, yes, there is another album missing Chuck Berry live performances. The soundtrack album for Richard Nader's movie "Let The Good Times Roll" (Bell 9002, 1973) has the best live performances by old-time rock'n'rollers such as Fats Domino, Bill Haley, and Little Richard, but misses the Berry part from the film including a performance together with Bo Diddley.
Saturday, January 13. 2018
There are hundreds of audience tapes containing Chuck Berry shows from all over the world. Few of them are worth listening to and even fewer are worth releasing.
A couple of weeks ago a new CD called Hail! Hail! Chuck Berry! Live! became available containing two shows which are really worth listening to. Although the CD says "This CD-R is a non commercial product and is for private use only", it is professionally made with a printed cardboard envelope. The label is called ROUGH. There is no catalog number, but the barcode reads 640509040147, so we take this as the catalog number.
The two shows included are well known. Seven tracks come from a show recorded in February 1965 at the TV studios of Radio TĂ©lĂ©vision Belge in Waterloo, Belgium. This show was broadcast under the title "Face au public". It's available in very good quality on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhoyMlX5avU
It's interesting to note that Berry is backed by professional Jazz musicians from Belgium: Willy Donni on guitar, Willy Albimoor (Willy NoĂ«l De Moor) on piano, Ed Rogers (Roger Van Hoverbeke) on double bass, and Eddie Hunton on drums.
Besides his greatest hits, Berry also performs his latest singles and The Things That I Used To Do, a blues by Guitar Slim.
Further 14 tracks on this new CD come from a September 1980 show at the Seattle Arts Festival "Bumbershoot". Again this recording is of highest sound quality. It probably was recorded and broadcast by Seattle radio station KSIW. At least KSIW DJ Gary Crow introduces Berry and the band and promotes the radio station.
Fred, Thierry and myself spent some time trying to find out who backed Berry at this show. Crow introduces them as the "Northwest All Stars" and they are much better than the average pickup band Berry used to play with. The guitar player and the piano player both get time to solo which is a strong indication for Berry really liking their play.
With the help of Eric Predoehl and Ned Neltner we finally got into contact with guitarist Barry Curtis (ex-Kingsmen) and drummer George Rudiger (of Jr. Cadillac) from the band. Both Barry and George remember the show well. They report that the electric piano was played by Tom "Cadillac" Katica (Jr. Cadillac as well), who died in 2010. They didn't know the bass player who was traveling with Berry. This indicates that here again we hear Jim Marsala playing.
Eric has a great photo shot on his louielouie.net site showing Chuck, George, and Barry during the Bumbershoot show: http://www.louielouie.net/blog/?p=9074
Besides all his greatest hits, the show includes nice versions of You Don't Have To Go and Baby What You Want Me To Do written by Jimmy Reed as well as Lousiana Blues written by Muddy Waters. Note that in contrast to the known audience tapes, the show on this CD has been shortened. Due to time limitations, Johnny B. Goode was excluded, Reelin' And Rockin'/House Lights was shortened by two minutes. Also missing is the introduction by Gary Crow and an initial guitar instrumental based on Rockin' At The Philharmonic.
Right now we haven't seen this CD offered in stores or mailorder catalogs. It is offered on ebay, though.
Sunday, January 7. 2018
While Carol is one of Berry's best-known records, the recording itself is kind of a mystery. This starts with two different master tapes which have been used to create the hit single vs. the LP release. Most readers will know the LP master originally created for the 1959 album Chuck Berry Is On Top (CHESS LP 1435). This has a wide range of loudness throughout the song and is used for almost all LP or CD re-issues. In contrast, the master used for the 1958 single (CHESS 1700) is much more compressed to give a more leveled sound. To many people this variant sounds much more vivid and overall better.
The single master is more difficult to get as it was used only for the hit single and the follow-up EP. According to Thierry Chanu, the single master has been used only once since then, on the British album More Chuck Berry (PYE NPL-28028). In the US this master seems to have been lost which is why Bear Family in 2014 reconstructed it from a Vinyl single to re-issue it on their 16-CD box set.
Also lost are session tapes showing the development of the recording as well as the overdubs tried. So it came out as a surprise when in April we found a variant of Carol having an additional piano overdub which is not on the original single or LP release. This piano overdub version has been published only once: on the 1973 double album Chuck Berry's Golden Decade, Vol. 2.
This made us listen to Carol in greater detail trying to find a second release of this piano overdub. We didn't.
But in December Thierry Chanu found something else: On the Japanese 1983 box set Very Good!! (CHESS PLP 834-6) there is a third variant of Carol!! Again it sounds almost the same as the hit version but has additional piano playing. And this is a different piano overdub than the one on Golden Decade.
The piano overdub on this version is much more audible, but concurrently it's also worse. It doesn't fit the song very well. And the master runs approximately 5% faster than the hit version, whether on purpose or not. According to Morten Reff, this second piano overdub was also used on a second Japanese box set called From The Beginning 1955-1960 (CHESS SJET 9523-5) released probably in 1973. And Thierry found it on a strange European CD called Greatest (Goldies GLD63035, Portugal 1991).
Given these results we have to state that session tapes of the Carol overdubs must still have existed in 1973 as two alternative overdubs were used on compilation albums both in the US and in Japan. As these seem to have been lost in MCA's archives, one wonders if master tape copies still exist in Japan or elsewhere.
Sunday, December 31. 2017
Does it make sense to write a review of a book you'll never read? Maybe. I got this nice little book for Christmas and would like to share it with you. It's about Chuck Berry, kind of. But unfortunately it's available in German language only.
Bissingheim is a suburb of Duisburg which itself is a suburb of the largest megacity in Germany, the Ruhrgebiet. Duisburg is best known for having the world largest in-land port.
"Chuck Berry over Bissingheim", subtitled "The true story of rock and roll", is a 2017 book by Frank "Zepp" Oberpichler. Oberpichler is a German musician and writer. He played guitar in various cover bands such as "Ten Beers After", "Substitute" or "Freeway Cash" and published some CDs alone and with US or German musicians. His homepage is at http://www.oberpichler.de.
In "Chuck Berry over Bissingheim", the first-person protagonist tells about his Grandpa ("Oppa") Wallusch, an electrical engineer working at the railroads. Oppa Wallusch just passed and his grandson remembers the stories they shared. So we learned that while Bissingheim was never on the tour plan of any famous rock band (or any unknown highschool band either), Bissingheim was indeed the birthplace of Rock'n'Roll.
Oppa Wallusch learned to play guitar in the early 1940s while staying in England during the war. He got friends with an American Blues musician by the name of Big Joe Turner. Back home Wallusch formed a band which on weekends played at weddings and barn dances near Bissingheim. Here Oppa Wallusch merged Blues with Polka dance music and created what he called "Ruck und Roll".
Over the years, his employer sent Wallusch to England and to the States several times and wherever he went, Oppa Wallusch left his traces by educating young musicians or helping them write famous songs. Together with Jim Marshall he invented the guitar amplifier and taught Jimi Hendrix and Pete Townshend how to use it. Wallusch met Woody Guthrie and Jerry Garcia, was on stage at Woodstock and shaped rock music as we know it.
A whole chapter covers Wallusch's stay in Chicago in the late 1940s where he met and educated Chuck Berry on how to do the "Ruck und Roll", how to play guitar and how to write story songs.
The book is a report of Wallusch's talks with his grandson. But concurrently the book is its own soundtrack album. The chapter headings read Track 1 to Track 11 (along with run-in and run-out). Each chapter starts with a quote from a famous railway song (which Wallusch might have been involved in). And each chapter includes the lyrics of a German-language song Wallusch wrote and which is very close to a hit you might remember. Unfortunately no recordings of Wallusch's originals survived.
Track 11 is a song about a guy trying to get a number from the operator to get his loved-one on the phone. The lyrics end explaining that the guy is trying to phone his daughter, not his girl-friend. Wallusch's song is called "Meiderich - Kennen Sie?". (Meiderich is another suburb of Duisburg, "Kennen Sie" is German for "Do you know".) And, believe it or not, Chuck Berry took Wallusch's idea and melody to create a famous English-language version.
Oberpichler's book is a nice read. It could have used less slang, though. I guess even many Germans will not fully understand Wallusch's recollections. But mainly I wish the book would have been longer: Just eleven tracks are much too short for a soundtrack album nowadays.
It's a pity nobody else remembers Oppa Wallusch, this hero of Rock'n'Roll. Even in Bissingheim he is long forgotten, as Oberpichler shows in this nice video trying to find the roots of rock music in Duisburg: https://youtu.be/45WnyUKgkzY
If you can read German, get yourself a copy at your local bookstore using the ISBN 9783942094726. The book is also available at amazon.com or amazon.de. Recommended.
Monday, December 25. 2017
Some time ago this blog had a large article on cover variants of the album Chuck Berry On Stage (Chess LP-1480). I had promised a follow-up on Vinyl variants of this album and because a recent discussion with a reader showed that most information about this album floating around on the Net is incorrect, here it comes.
Letâs start with some background information: From early 1962 to late 1963 Chuck Berry was behind bars. Berryâs previous records sold poorly due to his trials. During his prison stay he was not allowed to record new material in the studios. His record company CHESS only had a small stock of unreleased recordings.
Thus the record company was caught cold when new bands on both sides of the Atlantic became successful by covering Berry material. The Beach Boys' Surfinâ USA was released in March 1963, the Stonesâ version of Come On in June. Memphis was a hit by Lonnie Mack and the Beatles had several Berry songs in their repertoire.
There was an urgent need for a new Berry album, but there was nothing to put on it. The Chess brothers dug through their archives and looked for unreleased material recorded during the previous years. They found four tracks recorded August 1961 which they considered worth for release: Trick or Treat, The Man And The Donkey, All Aboard, and a re-recording of Brown Eyed Handsome Man. Two recordings were left from an April 1960 session: Crying Steel and I Still Got The Blues. And there was I Just Want To Make Love To You recorded in July 1959. These seven songs were selected. Today we know that there were other unreleased recordings such as House Of Blue Lights, Time Was, 21 Blues, Oh Yeah, Do You Love Me, Iâm Just A Lucky So And So, or Adulteen. None was regarded as appropriate by the studio bosses, though.
Seven songs are not enough for an album and none of it was good enough for a single. So what to do?
The Chess brothers were known for their creativity so they came up with a creative solution. Why not fill the album with older material released some years ago? OK, they already did a Greatest Hits album called Chuck Berry Twist in 1962. But why not change the hits a little bit so nobody notices?
Letâs use different song titles and letâs add some audience noise to make the album sound like it was recorded live! To disguise this fake even more, the Chess brothers asked Rodney Jones ,who was a DJ with the Chess-owned WVON radio station, to add a little introduction. So Jones proudly announces âWelcome to the Tivoli Theatre here in Chicago ...â
The editing and engineering work to add the fake applause and Jonesâ shouts must have been done by Ralph Bass and Ron Malo sometime in May 1963. The two album sides were mastered from the resulting tape by the end of May or beginning of June and received the Chess master numbers 12477 (side 1, 16â25â) and 12478 (side 2, 14â14â).
Not telling anyone about the fake nature of this album, the liner notes proudly lied:
On this LP we present the world famous Chuck Berry in a jumping, in-person theatre appearance with thousands of fans enthusiastically responding to Chuckâs great performance. Any performer will tell you that he prefers to record in front of a live audience. There is nothing like the cheers and applause of an audience to spur a performer on to the heights of his ability and Chuck really gives his all in front of this packed theatre.
To completely confuse the buyers, the album came without a track listing. The back cover has a non-ordered and incomplete list of songs contained (and the image of an eight-year old LP). The labels simply say Side One and Side Two without any song titles at all. This obfuscation has resulted in incorrect track listings on the Net. Despite everything you read on discogs or wikipedia, the contents of the original US album Chuck Berry On Stage, released in August 1963 as CHESS LP-1480, is as follows:
How High The Moon is a 1940s jazz standard. The version heard here has been recorded during a May 1957 session. Chuck Berry, Willie Dixon, Lafayette Leake and Fred Below probably used it as an instrumental warm-up.
On CHESS LP-1480 the recording is not listed on the cover and used as an instrumental sign-off (as such named on the Dutch albums). Again Rodney Jones was overdubbed to shout âChuck Berry! Chuck Berry! Chuck Berry!â during the first seconds. Shortly thereafter and almost with the first notes from Berryâs guitar, the song fades after 1:03 minutes.
Copies of the original master disk 12477/12478 went to partner companies all over the world and were used to create variants of LP-1480 e.g. in Canada, in Australia, in the Netherlands (note that the Funckler version misprints Surfing Steel as Surfinâ USA), and as re-issues e.g. in Germany (on Bellaphon in 1974) or the only available CD version which was released in Japan (on Universal in 2010).
Of interest to record collectors are variations of the Chuck Berry On Stage album which are not exact copies of the original master disks.
For some reason the UK version, released in October 1963 on PYE international, has not been produced from the LP-1480 master disks. Instead this album must have been created from the original master tapes. Where Side 2 was faded at 14â14â in the US, the British producers found additional space so the second side of PYE NPL-28027 lasts 14â56â instead. Here How High The Moon is 1â45â in contrast to the 1â03â on the CHESS LP.
This longer fade is also on the 1970s US orange/blue re-issue LPS-1480. The LPS version has been electronically altered to sound like stereo. To create this âenhancedâ variant CHESS/GRT modified the original longer tape and created a new master called 12477_S/12478_S.
Likewise the 1964 variant released in East Asia (Japan and Taiwan) was created from the longer master tape since How High The Moon has the longer fade here as well. There is a huge difference, though. The East Asian versions miss the instrumental Surfing Steel completely! The song was removed from the tape giving a smooth transition from Maybellene to Let It Rock.
We can only speculate why this was done. Maybe the tape sent to Japan was damaged, maybe there was a company or legal rule not to include instrumentals, or maybe Surfing Steel would translate to bad language in Japanese â pure speculation as said. Or maybe it had to do with the liner notes on the US cover saying
We guarantee that you wonât be able to sit still when you put this album on your turntable and hear Chuck Berryâs versions of Maybelline, Surfinâ USA, Memphis, All Aboard, Trick or Treat and seven other numbers.So the Japanese took this literally and reduced the thirteen track album to twelve numbers. Note aside: The British could count and changed the word seven to eight on the PYE release.
Another interesting aspect of the Japanese release is the corrected track listing on the back cover. The printed cover has a track listing which follows the incorrect list on the US cover, i.e. Go Go Go after Rockin' On The Railroad. This fault was repaired using a yellow sticker which lists the correct track order. The initial Japanese records, probably those used as promo copies, came with a white Imperial label and a thin sticker through which you can see the original print. Later records then had a Globe label and an opaque sticker.
In 1982 the On Stage album was re-issued in Germany as part of a 2 LP set along with Rockinâ At The Hops. This version has Surfing Steel but omits How High The Moon completely.
And finally thereâs the most interesting French version, released on Barclay 80258 in March 1965 as Chuck Berry A L'Olympia. This variant of Chuck Berry On Stage contains the same recordings in the same sequence, though without the two songs having Rodney Jones overdubbed: Go Go Go and How High the Moon were cut off. Instead the French had their own announcer. Eddy Mitchell, a successful RockânâRoll singer by himself, is heard with a French language introduction to side 1 which then starts into Memphis, Tennessee. And Chuck Berry himself speaks the introduction to side 2. In addition a few shouts and stage banter from Berry is merged in between the songs on the tape. Berry refers to Paris and tries to speak French. Both Eddy Mitchellâs introduction and Berryâs segments have been recorded at a Paris concert on February 7, 1965. So this is Chuck Berry on stage, indeed. Just the songs are the same as on the US version having the fake audience.
As always: Many thanks to Thierry Chanu and Morten Reff for providing images and a lot of additional information about the 'Chuck Berry On Stage' album.
[Edit 08-01-2018: Added comment and images for the Japanese sticker version.]
Monday, December 4. 2017
[This article first appeared here on December 16, 2014. Just recently Thierry Chanu found yet another cover variant of LP-1480. Therefore I re-post this blog entry with Thierry's addition edited in below.]
[Now that was fast: A week ago we proudly presented our finding of the very rare sticker version of CHESS LP-1480. And we asked some questions which this finding opened. Immediately I received several emails from our French reader Thierry Chanu which not only answered our open questions but also contributed much much more. Thus we have to re-write the story of 'Chuck Berry On Stage'.]
When you read about the 'Chuck Berry On Stage' album released as CHESS LP-1480 in August 1963, such writing often comes with a photo of the album cover looking like this:
This is typically considered to be the original cover of CHESS LP-1480. As such for instance it was used for the Japanese mini-LP replica Universal Music Japan UICY-94630 we wrote about in October 2010.
While this is the best known cover for this album and certainly is the variant sold most often, it is not necessarily the 'original' album cover — if you define 'original' as the first version of this cover.
The interesting thing to look at is the line saying including "MEMPHIS" & "SURFIN' USA" above the artist name. It is printed in black letters and refers to the then current famous cover versions of Memphis, Tennessee and Sweet Little Sixteen (as Surfin' USA).
When Morten Reff described Berry's seventh CHESS album on page 60 in his Chuck Berry International Directory, Volume 1, he noted:
The original pressings of this LP had a sticker on the front cover saying 'Including "MEMPHIS" & "SURFIN' USA"'.
Thus there was no printing, just a sticker containing the same wording as the printed text, though 'Including' is written with a capital I. The text on the sticker is in blue instead of black and it uses a different font.
The sticker version is very rare. We were happy to finally get one and we proudly presented it here last week. (Click for a higher resolution image.)
A contemporary ad from Chess showed a black and white image of the sticker version of the album. And the sticker seems to be applied hastily just before the photo shooting as crooked as it is.
Thierry Chanu then wrote that he as well has a version of this album having the sticker. Though his has been sent out as a promotional advance copy to DJs and marked as such. Here's the back of Thierry's copy:
Given that the sticker is both on the advertisement and on the advance copies, we can state that the sticker version existed before the printed version. It must have been commercially available as well, since Morten's copy is not a promotional one.
There seem to have been two variants of this sticker. The images above show that the sticker contains just the incorrect song title "Surfin' USA". There's a second version of the sticker which adds the correct song title "Sweet Little Sixteen" in small print below "Surfin' USA". Here's a photo of the second sticker version:
What may be under the sticker, we then asked, as it would be logical that there was no printed text there. So last week we wrote this request to all Chuck Berry collectors reading this site:
Do you have a copy of CHESS LP 1480 which has no sticker and no printing of the 'including' text? If you do, send us an image and we would be happy to show it here.
Yes, the cover exists without the sticker. I have one and the record label is black with the golden CHESS on top. It has the same label, writing, and matrix as the DJ copy.
Here's the proof from Thierry's collection:
The second part of Thierry's reply refers to the other question we had wondered about: When receiving the sticker version album, Morten had found
"The copy I bought features the second label, the black label (repress) image on page 60."
Thierry's two records make clear that the label with the golden logo is not from a later re-pressing such as Morten's book had suggested. Obviously this is the original label (left: non-sticker version, right: DJ copy), at least for the early copies.
As this was the brand-new CHESS label containing the new multi-colored logo, it's safe to assume that CHESS wanted at least the DJs see this new logo and label. Thierry however makes clear that one has to be careful to distinguish CHESS records just by their label into 'original' and 'later' pressings.
Chess used three or four pressing plants at the same time, so we can find an original record with different labels.
These are additional early labels of CHESS LP-1480. All came in the third variant of the cover, i.e. the one with the printed text. Even though these look like earlier CHESS labels, we probably shall regard them as used interchangeably at the same time.
Once more Thierry:
Here's one more regular copy with the black label and vertical Chess logo (different than the other black). This one though has been pressed using a different matrix. It was pressed by the Monarch pressing plant in July 1963. This can be told by the etching located in the run-off (dead wax) area of the record. The Monarch pressing plant is identified by an MR inside a circle, always in the trail-off area. The numbers following this symbol tell the date of mastering.
Thus we can sum up the history of CHESS LP-1480 as follows:
To show just a few of these variants, Thierry arranged this photo:
Many thanks to Thierry Chanu for providing all the additional information about the 'Chuck Berry On Stage' album. If we ever find the time, we'll continue this story with the international releases of this album which have different overdubs, longer fades, completely different covers (in multiple variation) and so on... [Done: http://www.crlf.de/ChuckBerry/blog/archives/235-Vinyl-variants-of-CHESS-LP-1480-Chuck-Berry-On-Stage.html]
Friday, November 3. 2017
We often get the same kind of questions:
I have this and this Chuck Berry record or a whole collection of Chuck Berry records. How much is it worth?
Most askers are disappointed with our reply. There are a very few records which value a significant amount. For all others the main problem is not the value but to find a collector interested who doesn't already own it.
Less and less collectors exist and for records which you paid $100 some years ago you're lucky if someone pays $10 today.
A good example is last month's auction of records and memorabilia from the collection of BBC's famous DJ "Dr. Rock". The auction company was wise enough not to offer each record on its own. Instead they created a lot of all the Berry albums.
So they offered a
Collection of 36 Chuck Berry LP records including Chuck Berry The Chess Box Set, The Latest and The Greatest, I Am A Rocker, New Jukebox Hits, One Dozen Berries, Greatest Hits, After School Session, Rockit, Chuck Berry at the Fillmore Auditorium, The London Chuck Berry Sessions x 2, The Greatest Hits Spot Records, Golden Decade Volume 3, Concerto in B Goode, You Never Can Tell, Golden Decade Volume 2, San Francisco Dues, You Never Can Tell Diploma For Two Marble Arch Records, Back in the USA Live Everest Records, Bio, Hail Hail Rock & Roll, Greatest Hits Marble Arch Records including Roll Over Beethoven, Rock & Roll Rarities from the Golden Era of Chess Records, Back Home, Chuck Berry's Golden Decade, The Blues Volume 1, Chuck Berry in Memphis, Fresh Berries, Hail Hail Rock & Roll MCA6217, Rock & Roll Rarities, Jukebox Hits, In London and Chuck Berry Americas Hottest Wax, many with copies of photographic prints of Chas White and Chuck Berry
This is an almost complete collection of Berry's UK albums from the 1960's onwards, mostly unplayed. See here.
The estimated value was 80 to 120 UK Pounds, i.e. $100 to $150. It sold for 85 UK Pounds, i.e. approximately $110 or $3/record. Go figure.
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.
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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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