The Chess Era (1955-1966)

Most of Chuck Berry's fame is based on the recordings he made for Leonard and Phil Chess of CHESS Record Company between 1955 and 1966. During this time, Chuck Berry recorded all the classic numbers such as Sweet Little SixteenListen to this recording, Memphis, TennesseeListen to this recording, Johnny B. GoodeListen to this recording or Roll Over BeethovenListen to this recording. These songs have been covered and covered again by many other artists such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys and almost every other Rock 'n' Roll singer and band. (see also the chapter on related albums)

Although most of the material recorded during Chuck's work with the Chess brothers had been published until 1966, later re-issues and records provided additional material from these recording sessions. In addition there are some live recordings from this era which have not been released on Chess but on different labels many years later. This chapter will present you with the original Chess records first, followed by additional Chess recordings and out-takes published later. The chapter ends with a presentation of the live recordings between 1955 and 1966.

The Original Chess Records

Chuck Berry's first recording session at Chess Records, Chicago took place May 21st, 1955. Four songs were recorded which were released on two 45/78 rpm records later that year: MaybelleneListen to this recording b/w Wee Wee HoursListen to this recording (Chess 1604, July 1955) and Thirty DaysListen to this recording b/w Together We Will Always BeListen to this recording (Chess 1610, September 1955).

Due to the big success of these records (Chess 1604 became No. 1 in Billboard's Rhythm & Blues charts.) Chess organized another recording session in December of the same year which among other songs produced the next single No Money DownListen to this recording b/w Down Bound TrainListen to this recording (Chess 1615, December 1955). Important for collectors of Chuck Berry's Music is that this session also produced material which was not commercially enough to make it on a 45/78 rpm record. Roly PolyListen to this recording and Berry Pickin'Listen to this recording were kept for publication on the After School Session album, while I've ChangedListen to this recording remained unpublished until 1979.

Since most single releases have been re-published on samplers multiple times, I will not list all the singles released during the Chess era. I will concentrate on the albums because most of them have been re-released several times (even on CD) and are easier to get for a collector. Of course many collectors also try to get all the 45/78 rpm records as well as the EPs Chuck made. Given his enormous output, even trying to get re-releases of all the albums is a major task for a collector.

In 1956 Chess released three more singles followed by Chuck Berry's first album. The singles were Roll Over BeethovenListen to this recording b/w Drifting HeartListen to this recording (Chess 1626, May 1956), Too Much Monkey BusinessListen to this recording b/w Brown Eyed Handsome ManListen to this recording (Chess 1635, September 1956), and You Can't Catch MeListen to this recording b/w Havana MoonListen to this recording (Chess 1645, November 1956). You Can't Catch MeListen to this recording is the song Chuck performed in the film Rock, Rock, Rock (Video: Get it now!, DVD: Get it now!) also released in 1956. Due to this, Chuck's first album on Chess was named the same as the film: Rock, Rock, Rock (Chess LP-1425, December 1956). The album was sold as the motion picture soundtrack, which was not true, of course. On one hand the film featured many other artists not contracted by Chess Records, on the other hand Chuck performs only one of the songs displayed on the album. Besides You Can't Catch MeListen to this recording the album contains MaybelleneListen to this recording, Thirty DaysListen to this recording, and Roll Over BeethovenListen to this recording. The remaining eight songs on Rock, Rock, Rock are performed by two successful groups from Chess: The Flamingos and The Moonglows. In a later Chess session the Moonglows sang background vocals for Chuck on tunes like Back in the USAListen to this recording. Rock, Rock, Rock has been re-issued on CD (Green Line CDCHESS 1016 Get it now!).

Beginning with 1957 albums (LPs) became popular. Also Chuck Berry's music now more and more appeared on albums instead of 45s/78s. In most cases LPs were a collection of an artist's hit singles. But pretty soon artists worked more and more for their albums which then started to contain many songs not published on singles. The first true Chuck Berry album was called After School Session (Chess LP-1426, May 1957 Get it now!). The record contains the remaining contents of the first six Chess singles. In addition the album contains Roly PolyListen to this recording and Berry Pickin'Listen to this recording from Chuck second recording session at Chess plus the two songs from his latest single School Day [Schoolday (Ring Ring Goes the Bell)]Listen to this recording b/w Deep FeelingListen to this recording (Chess 1653, March 1957).

An EP (Extended Play record) of the same name (Chess EP 5118, May 1957) contains four songs from the album. Notable on this EP is the nice picture cover (right) designed by Don Bronstein, who also created many of the other sleeves you see here. Additional Chess releases in 1957 are Oh Baby DollListen to this recording b/w La JuandaListen to this recording (Chess 1664, June 1957) and Rock and Roll MusicListen to this recording b/w Blue FeelingListen to this recording (Chess 1671, September 1957). All four songs are also on the EP Rock and Roll Music (Chess EP 5119). Collectors should note that there are minor differences between the single version of La Juanda and the one on the EP which is subsequently re-issued on albums and CDs.

Chess CH 1664 B CHESS EP5119

Starting 1957 the Chess brothers also began to license Chuck Berry's recordings to other record companies. In the beginning those companies only re-issued what had been hit records in the U.S. In later years however we find Chuck Berry recordings published outside the U.S. which had not appeared there. We will see some examples later. Here are two 1957 releases by Columbia Records of Great Britain and by London Records of Germany.

1958 started with one of Chuck's major hits: Sweet Little SixteenListen to this recording b/w Reelin' and Rockin'Listen to this recording (Chess 1683, January 1958). In March 1958 Chess released Chuck Berry's next album called One Dozen Berrys (Chess LP-1432 Get it now!). The album contained the six songs published since the release of the last album, though La JuandaListen to this recording appears in a different mix here. Blue FeelingListen to this recording is on that album twice: in its original form and at half speed entitled Low FeelingListen to this recording. Additional new songs on One Dozen Berrys are Guitar BoogieListen to this recording, In-GoListen to this recording, Rock at the PhilharmonicListen to this recording, It Don't Take But a Few MinutesListen to this recording, and How You've ChangedListen to this recording.

Also in March 1958 Chess released the next Chuck Berry classic: Johnny B. GoodeListen to this recording b/w Around and AroundListen to this recording (Chess 1691). Over the next year they published another six singles, most of the songs were then put on the next album Berry is on Top. The singles were Beautiful DelilahListen to this recording b/w Vacation TimeListen to this recording (Chess 1697, both songs were rarities until they appeared on LPs in the Sixties and Seventies), CarolListen to this recording b/w Hey PedroListen to this recording (Chess 1700), Sweet Little Rock and RollerListen to this recording b/w Jo Jo GunneListen to this recording (Chess 1709), the Christmas songs Merry Christmas BabyListen to this recording b/w Run Rudolph RunListen to this recording (Chess 1714), Anthony BoyListen to this recording b/w That's My DesireListen to this recording (Chess 1716, another long-time rarity), and Almost GrownListen to this recording b/w Little QueenieListen to this recording (Chess 1722).

Berry is on Top (Chess LP-1435, July 1959 Get it now!) with the next strawberry cover was kind of a greatest hits sampler. It even contained the classics MaybelleneListen to this recording and Roll Over BeethovenListen to this recording along with Almost GrownListen to this recording, CarolListen to this recording, Sweet Little Rock and RollerListen to this recording, Anthony BoyListen to this recording, Johnny B. GoodeListen to this recording, Little QueenieListen to this recording, Jo Jo GunneListen to this recording, Around and AroundListen to this recording, and Hey PedroListen to this recording. The only new song on this album is Chuck's nice Blues For HawaiiansListen to this recording.

Shortly before Berry is on Top Chess released another Chuck Berry classic: Back in the USAListen to this recording b/w Memphis, TennesseeListen to this recording (Chess 1729). It's interesting to note that MemphisListen to this recording was released on the B-side of this single only and that it made it neither to the Berry is on Top album nor to the following one. Additional Chess releases in 1959 and 1960 were Broken ArrowListen to this recording b/w Childhood SweetheartListen to this recording (Chess 1737), Too Pooped to PopListen to this recording b/w Let it RockListen to this recording (Chess 1747), Bye Bye JohnnyListen to this recording b/w Worried Life BluesListen to this recording (Chess 1754), and I Got to Find My BabyListen to this recording b/w Mad LadListen to this recording (Chess 1763). All eight songs were put on the following Chess album Rockin' at the Hops.

In between, that is in November 1959 Chess released another Chuck Berry record. This one however appeared on Chess' Argo sub-label, and it was not published as a Chuck Berry record at all. Say You'll Be MineListen to this recording b/w Let Me Sleep WomanListen to this recording (Argo 5353) was released as by The Ecuadors. This vocal group (which were in fact for Etta James, Harvey Fuqua, and Billy Davis) accompanied Chuck's band during the Chess sessions in July 1959. You can also hear them on Betty JeanListen to this recording, Childhood SweetheartListen to this recording, Broken ArrowListen to this recording, and Too Pooped to PopListen to this recording, for instance. The Argo record uses the same setup, only that the name on the record is different. Both songs were even written by Chuck Berry, who used his alias E. Anderson on Let Me Sleep WomanListen to this recording as well as on Let it RockListen to this recording. Chuck's complete name is Charles Edward Anderson Berry. (On the Argo record itself the composer is listed as one R. Butler with copyright belonging to Chuck Berry Music, Inc..)

The album Rockin' at the Hops (Chess LP 1448 Get it now!) was released in July 1960. It contained the eight songs listed above plus four additional songs, three of which not written by Chuck. The new songs were Down the Road ApieceListen to this recording, Confessin' the BluesListen to this recording, Betty JeanListen to this recording, and Driftin' BluesListen to this recording. The same LP was also published outside the U.S. under the name Rockin' With Chuck (Chess International PAR 031).

The single Jaguar and the ThunderbirdListen to this recording b/w Our Little RendezvousListen to this recording (Chess 1767, October 1960) ended Chuck Berry's 1960 releases. In 1961 Chess released only two 45 rpm records: I'm Talking About YouListen to this recording b/w Little StarListen to this recording (Chess 1779, February 1961) and Come OnListen to this recording b/w Go Go GoListen to this recording (Chess 1799, October 1961). Due to Chuck's trials during this year, interest in his records was low.

This also holds true for his next album New Juke Box Hits (Chess LP-1456, March 1961 Get it now!). As there were no singles, the album contains a lot of material which has not been available elsewhere for a long time. New Juke Box Hits includes cover versions of hits by Nat Cole, B. B. King, Tampa Red, and Little Richard (Route 66Listen to this recording, Sweet SixteenListen to this recording, Don't You Lie to MeListen to this recording, and Rip it UpListen to this recording) as well as some new Chuck Berry: I'm Talking About YouListen to this recording, Diploma For TwoListen to this recording, Thirteen Question MethodListen to this recording, Away From YouListen to this recording, The Way it Was BeforeListen to this recording, Little StarListen to this recording, Run AroundListen to this recording, and Stop and ListenListen to this recording.

During his first imprisonment from February 1962 to October 1963. Chuck was not allowed to record any new material. But Chess wanted to sell records. So they released Chuck Berry Twist (Chess LP-1465, February 1962 Get it now!) which was another collection of Chuck's Greatest Hits. The record is also known as More Chuck Berry and Rhythm & Blues Rendez-Vous. (Note that the UK release of More Chuck Berry is slightly different.)

Then something strange happened. A new generation of musicians became very successful: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, et cetera. And they played ... Chuck Berry music. And they told everyone that it was Chuck Berry music they play. So in August 1963 the Chess brothers took from their archives what hasn't been released so far and created a Chuck Berry album with new songs.

For some reason they also thought that this album would sell better if it sounded and looked like it was recorded live on stage. So they dubbed live audience to the tapes and called the album Chuck Berry On Stage (Chess 1480, August 1963). Of course this was a lie just like the note including Surfin' USA. Chuck Berry never recorded Surfin' USA even though the Chess Brothers concurrently released a 45 rpm single with Sweet Little SixteenListen to this recording (subtitled Surfin' USA) b/w MemphisListen to this recording (Chess 1866), again both titles 'enhanced' with fake audience. We all know that it were the Beach Boys who covered Sweet Little SixteenListen to this recording and added their own lyrics.

Chuck Berry On Stage contains the well-known hit versions of MaybelleneListen to this recording (mis-spelled Maybelline), MemphisListen to this recording, Let it RockListen to this recording (re-titled Rocking on the Railroad), Go Go GoListen to this recording, Sweet Little SixteenListen to this recording (re-titled Surfin' USA), and Jaguar and the ThunderbirdListen to this recording. In addition the album includes a new version of Brown Eyed Handsome ManListen to this recording and the new songs Surfin' SteelListen to this recording (a version of Blues For HawaiiansListen to this recording originally recorded and later published as Crying Steel), Still Got the BluesListen to this recording, I Just Want to Make Love to YouListen to this recording, All AboardListen to this recording, Trick or TreatListen to this recording, and The Man and the DonkeyListen to this recording. Not listed on the US cover but also included is a recording of How High the MoonListen to this recording.

As said all these songs were modified to sound like recorded with audience. Undubbed versions of most of these songs became available on albums in the Seventies and Eighties. While Chuck Berry On Stage has been re-issued under various titles many times, there is one version of this album which is of special interest for the Chuck Berry collector. The French variant Chuck Berry A L'Olympia (Barclay 80258, March 1965) contains not only a French language introduction to the 'show' on the LP (the original version and all re-issues contain an English language introduction), but also true live recordings from Chuck. However these are not songs but just some of the introductions recorded during a french live show (and of course completely unrelated to the songs of the album). Due to these additional segments, the last song on each side (Go Go GoListen to this recording and How High the MoonListen to this recording) is omitted. It would be really nice to finally release the original recording the French introductions were cut from.

Back from prison, Chuck Berry returned into the Chess studios. In early 1964 Chess Records released the first true new songs: NadineListen to this recordingb/w O RangutangListen to this recording (Chess 1883) and No Particular Place to GoListen to this recording b/w You TwoListen to this recording (Chess 1898). Those were accompanied by a new album Chuck Berry's Greatest Hits (Chess LP-1485) containing nothing new. In England however, Pye Records now created their own albums which corresponded to the huge interest in Chuck Berry on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. The records published by Pye International often contained material that was not released in the U.S.

A first example was More Chuck Berry (Pye NPL 28028, December 1963 Get it now!), which included the rare single Beautiful DelilahListen to this recording. Then came The Latest and the Greatest (Pye NPL 28031, May 1964 Get it now!). This record included some old numbers (Deep FeelingListen to this recording, Guitar BoogieListen to this recording, Driftin' BluesListen to this recording, Bye Bye JohnnyListen to this recording, Don't You Lie to MeListen to this recording, and Jaguar and the ThunderbirdListen to this recording) together with the four songs from the latest Chess singles. And it included unreleased material: FrauleinListen to this recording, Lonely All the Time (a.k.a. Crazy ArmsListen to this recording), Things I Used to DoListen to this recording, and specially for England the Liverpool DriveListen to this recording.

Later that year Pye released another LP called You Never Can Tell (Pye NPL 28039, September 1964 Get it now!). This one contained the songs from a new Chess single: You Never Can TellListen to this recording b/w Brenda LeeListen to this recording (Chess 1906) coupled with well-known classics (Diploma For TwoListen to this recording, The Way It Was BeforeListen to this recording, Around and AroundListen to this recording, Back in the USAListen to this recording, Run AroundListen to this recording, Reelin' and Rockin'Listen to this recording, and Come OnListen to this recording). In addition the record contained three new songs: Promised LandListen to this recording (to be released in the U.S. in November 1964), The Little Girl From CentralListen to this recording, and Big Ben BluesListen to this recording. The two Pye LPs have been re-released on a single CD BGOCD428 by BGO Get it now!. However, there is a small difference between this re-release and the originals. O RangutangListen to this recording on the CD (and only there) is in its complete length, while it was shortened on any other record until then.

Meanwhile in the U.S. the Chess brothers again published two Chuck Berry numbers not on their Chess label, but on another label. Two Great Guitars (CHECKER 2991, August 1964 Get it now!) basically contains two jam sessions of Chuck Berry together with Bo Diddley and Chess session artists. The so-called Chuck's BeatListen to this recording lasts 10:40 minutes, Bo's BeatListen to this recording even longer: more than 14 minutes. The record was filled with two other instrumentals, Liverpool DriveListen to this recording (Chuck only) and When The Saints Go Marching In (Bo only). The album has been re-issued by MCA (CHD-9170, 1992) containing three more Bo Diddley numbers as well as Chuck's previously unreleased ChuckwalkListen to this recording. Another re-release without this bonus track is part of the CD Two Great Guitars/Super Super Blues Band by BGO.

Chuck's BeatListen to this recording b/w Bo's BeatListen to this recording was also released as a 45 rpm single (CHECKER 1089), both jams shortened to less than 3 minutes, however. These edits have been only available on the hard-to-find single until the 16-CD box Rock And Roll Music - Any Old Way You Choose It (Bear Family BCD 17273 PL Get it now!, 2014).

In September and November 1964 Chess Record's released Little MarieListen to this recording b/w Go Bobby SoxerListen to this recording (Chess 1912) and Promised LandListen to this recording b/w Things I Used to DoListen to this recording (Chess 1916). The same month also saw the next Chess album. Due to Chuck's success in England, it was consequently called St. Louis to Liverpool (Chess LP-1488, November 1964 Get it now!). The album contained many of the 1964 songs that yet had to appear on an LP in the U.S.: Little MarieListen to this recording, Our Little Rendezvous (from 1960), No Particular Place to GoListen to this recording, You TwoListen to this recording, Promised LandListen to this recording, You Never Can TellListen to this recording, Go Bobby SoxerListen to this recording, Things I Used to DoListen to this recording, Liverpool DriveListen to this recording, and Brenda LeeListen to this recording. There was only one new song on this album called Night BeatListen to this recording. And there was Merry Christmas BabyListen to this recording. Originally released on Chess 1714 in December 1958, this song re-appeared on the St. Louis to Liverpool album. But for some reason, Chess used a different recording (alternate take) from the same session for inclusion here. This makes Chess-LP 1488 an important collector's item.

1965 started with the release of Dear DadListen to this recording b/w Lonely School DaysListen to this recording (Chess 1926, March 1965). While the funny Dear DadListen to this recording was also used for the upcomming album, this version of Lonely School DaysListen to this recording was a long time rarity until re-released in the Nineties.

Still building on Chuck's success in England, the next Chess album was called Chuck Berry in London (Chess LP-1495, April 1965 Get it now!). And although the U.S. cover included a big note Recorded in England, this was only true for eight of the songs included. Except for Dear DadListen to this recording and Night BeatListen to this recording all recordings on this album were brand new (although some songs were known before by other artists): My Little Love-LightListen to this recording, She Once Was MineListen to this recording, After It's OverListen to this recording, I Got a BookingListen to this recording, His Daughter CarolineListen to this recording, You Came a Long Way From St. LouisListen to this recording, St. Louis BluesListen to this recording, Jamaica FarewellListen to this recording, ButterscotchListen to this recording, The Song of My LoveListen to this recording, Why Should We End This WayListen to this recording, and I Want to Be Your DriverListen to this recording. Important for collectors is that the UK version of this album (Chess CRL-4005) contained a slightly shortened version of She Once Was MineListen to this recording and a different take/mix of Jamaica FarewellListen to this recording. The album has been reissued with additional material recorded live in England 1964.

Fresh Berry's was released in the UK as Chess CRL-4506 (left, November 1965 Get it now!) and in the U.S. as Chess LP-1498 (right, April 1966). Again, both records are not exactly the same. Where the UK release contains the song Sad Day - Long NightListen to this recording, the U.S. version contains the song Welcome Back, Pretty BabyListen to this recording. The remaining songs are the same on both albums: It Wasn't MeListen to this recording, Run JoeListen to this recording, Everyday We Rock and RollListen to this recording, One For My BabyListen to this recording, It's My Own BusinessListen to this recording, Right Off Rampart StreetListen to this recording, Vaya Con DiosListen to this
recording, Merrily We Rock and RollListen to this recording, My Mustang FordListen to this recording, Ain't That Just Like a WomanListen to this recording, and the Wee Hour BluesListen to this recording.

In June 1966 Chuck Berry left Chess Records after having worked for them eleven years. The same month Chess published the last of Chuck Berry's original Chess releases: Ramona Say YesListen to this recording b/w Lonely School DaysListen to this recording (Chess 1963, image shows the picture cover of the German issue). For collectors this is another important record since Ramona Say YesListen to this recording was not available in other form until the late Eighties. Lonely School DaysListen to this recording is important, because this version is a completely different recording than the one issued on Chess 1926 one year earlier. And of interest is that Chess 1963 was also published with the 1956 version of Havana MoonListen to this recording instead of Lonely School DaysListen to this recording.

Additional Chess Recordings

Chuck Berry returned to Chess Records in November 1969, recording another set of albums and singles. I will dedicate a whole chapter to this Back-At-Chess Era.

However, between 1955 and 1966 Chuck recorded more songs and versions than just those that have been published by Chess Records/Pye in the U.S. and England. In later years re-releases of Chess material not only contained the big hits and the well-known songs, records also displayed music from the original Chess tapes which had not been released before. This section will list all the songs recorded at the Chess studios that have been published after 1966.

Chess Records themselves was among the least active companies to publish such material. Their only use of the Chuck Berry archive was the release of the 2-LP set Chuck Berry's Golden Decade which was no more than a Best Of collection. In England Pye Records re-used their archives on their Marble Arch Records sub-label. In 1966 and 1967 they published three Chuck Berry records containing material from their first four UK albums: Chuck Berry (MAL 611), Chuck Berry's Greatest Hits (MAL 660), and You Never Can Tell (MAL 702).

Marble Arch MAL 702 is one of the strangest Chuck Berry albums ever. This is due to the fact that there are three different records with the same name and number. First there is a Mono version of MAL 702. It contains 10 songs: You Never Can TellListen to this recording, Diploma For TwoListen to this recording, The Little Girl From CentralListen to this recording, The Way It Was BeforeListen to this recording, Big Ben BluesListen to this recording, Promised LandListen to this recording, Back in the USAListen to
this recording, Run AroundListen to this recording, Brenda LeeListen to this recording, and Reelin' and Rockin'Listen to this recording. Second there is a Stereo version MALS 702. It contains the same ten songs, though in true Stereo, even those that were released in Mono only before. And third there is another Stereo version of MALS 702 which contains twelve songs, although both cover and label list only ten. This version contains alternate takes of Come OnListen to this recording and Around and AroundListen to this recording. While this version of Come OnListen to this recording was re-released later by MCA, the alternate take of Around and AroundListen to this recording could be found only here until in 2008 MCA/Universal began to re-release Berry's Chess work in total.

Two other rare songs recorded at Chess prior to 1966 made it to the 1971 release of San Francisco Dues (Chess LP 50008): Viva Viva Rock 'n' RollListen to this recording was previously unreleased, while Lonely School DaysListen to this recording is the version from the Chess 1963 single. The remaining songs from San Francisco Dues have been recorded after Chuck's return to Chess in 1970.

In February 1973 Chess Records released Chuck Berry's Golden Decade Vol. 2 (Chess LP 60023, image shows the cover of the UK version). This 2-LP set contained lesser known songs from Chuck's Chess era. All of them were published before, except for Betty JeanListen to this recording and Let it RockListen to this recording. The first is an alternate take, the second an alternate mix different from the ones released before. Since the cover doesn't make a note on these two, it seems like someone just took the wrong tapes to master.

However, the next release Chuck Berry's Golden Decade Vol. 3 (Chess LP 60028) by intention contained unreleased material. Taken from the Chess archives were these five songs previously unpublished: Blue On BlueListen to this recording, County LineListen to this recording (a version of Jaguar and the ThunderbirdListen to this recording), House of Blue LightsListen to this recording, Time WasListen to this recording and Oh YeahListen to this recording. Also included is the original version of The Man and the DonkeyListen to this recording without the live audience dubbed onto Chuck Berry On Stage. The UK version of this record (Chess 6641.177, same cover) has a slightly different contents on record two, side two. Instead of Viva Viva Rock And RollListen to this recording and Time WasListen to this recording this release contained Berry Pickin'Listen to this recording and the otherwise unreleased Do You Love MeListen to this recording.

In the remaining Seventies and early Eighties the Chess archives were sold several times, but none of the official owners was able or willing to release anything but the well-known classics. Looking for Chuck Berry rarities you had to watch the release of private records a.k.a. bootlegs. The first Chuck Berry bootleg was Rare Berries (Kozmik KZ-501) which contained rare tracks from his early albums, though nothing new.

Then in 1979 America's Hottest Wax (Reelin' 001, image shows a later picture cover) appeared. This record contained a lot of rare and unreleased material. Along with the two songs published under the Ecuadors name on Argo 5353, you could find unreleased alternate takes of Rock and Roll MusicListen to this recording, Childhood SweetheartListen to this recording, Do You Love MeListen to this recording, Reelin' and Rockin'Listen to this recording, Sweet Little SixteenListen to this recording (Demo version), Vacation TimeListen to this recording (two variants labeled 21Listen
to this recording and 21 BluesListen to this recording), and Thirteen Question MethodListen to this recording. There were Brown Eyed Handsome ManListen to this
recording and How High the MoonListen to this recording from the Chuck Berry On Stage album less overdubs, and there were two completely new songs: I've ChangedListen to this recording, and One O'clock JumpListen to this recording. This record was so important and successful that it was re-released by Chess Records themselves as Chess Masters (Chess CXMP 2011, March 1983).

In 1985 MCA Records bought the Chess archives. In addition to producing a new album and film with Chuck (Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll), MCA made true use of the archives. They re-released many original albums, and they published some albums/CDs containing rare or previously unreleased material.

Rock 'n' Roll Rarities (Chess LP 92521, March 1986 Get it now!) is a 2-LP set. However, it only contains five versions of songs not heard previously. These are alternate takes of Sweet Little SixteenListen to this recording, Rock And Roll MusicListen to this recording, Johnny B. GoodeListen to this recording, Beautiful DelilahListen to this recording, and Little QueenieListen to this recording. Collectors should be aware that some of these versions were glued together from different unreleased takes. The most part of this album is used by remixes of known songs. This means that MCA used the original tapes but mixed them in a new fashion to show true Stereo. The Stereo versions on Rock 'n' Roll Rarities are: Bye Bye JohnnyListen to this recording, NadineListen to this recording, You Never Can TellListen to this recording, Promised LandListen to this recording, No Particular Place to GoListen to this recording, Little MarieListen to this recording, I Want to Be Your DriverListen
to this recording, It Wasn't MeListen to this recording, and Ain't That Just Like a WomanListen to this recording. The remaining songs were either well-known or previously published on one of the albums listed here.

The same holds true for the following album called More Rock 'n' Roll Rarities (Chess LP 9190, August 1986). Here you'll find only two new versions: alternate takes of Sweet Little Rock and RollerListen to this recording and Route 66Listen to this recording. Stereo remixes are included of I Got to Find My BabyListen to this recording, Down the Road ApieceListen to this recording, I'm Talking About YouListen to this recording, Go Go GoListen to this recording, and My Mustang FordListen to this recording.

The Chess Box (Chess 80001, 1988 Get it now!) is a box of six LPs or three CDs/cassette tapes. More important to the collector is it because of the nice booklet than because of new songs. On the six LPs there are only two songs that have not been published before, I'm Just a Lucky So and SoListen to this recording, and a different recording of Time WasListen to this recording. In addition you'll find Surfin' Steel from the Chuck Berry On Stage album, here without audience overdub and as originally named Crying SteelListen to this recording. And there is a version of Ramona Say YesListen to this recording without the added saxophones.

Two years later Chess published a third volume of the Rock 'n' Roll rarities series called Missing Berries, Rarities Vol. 3 (Chess CHD-9318, June 1990 Get it now!). Again there wasn't much new contents. There's only one song previously unissued which was so unknown it didn't even had a name. So it's listed as Untitled InstrumentalListen to this recording. The remaining songs are only rare in that they had not been published on LPs in the U.S.

In 1992 MCA re-issued the album Two Great Guitars on CD (CHD-9170). In addition to the original tunes this CD contains four more songs, one of them the previously unreleased ChuckwalkListen to this recording by Chuck Berry. The other three numbers are by Bo Diddley.

To find more previously unreleased material from Chuck's Chess era one needs to listen very carefully to re-releases or compilations. This way you could encounter three versions of songs not heard before: Still Got the BluesListen to this recording, I Just Want to Make Love to YouListen to this recording, and All AboardListen to this recording had been published before only on the Chuck Berry On Stage album with fake audience dubbed. They can be heard in their original form on the CDs On the Blues Side (ACE CDCH 397 Get it now!) by ACE Records (released in 1993, containing the first two) and Blues (MCA B0000530-02) Get it now!) by MCA Records (released in 2003, containing all three). Both CDs also contain many other nice Blues numbers by Chuck.

Chuck Berry - On the Blues Side - ACE CDCH 397 Chuck Berry - Blues - MCA B0000530-02

The ARC ClassicsIn 2004 another CD surfaced containing two additional recordings from Chuck's Chess era: AdulteenListen to this recording and I'm in the Twilight Zone (incorrectly listed as "I'm in the Danger Zone"). The ARC Classics (ARC Music Group ARC CB 0402) however could not be bought in shops. It was a not-for-sale promotional item distributed by ARC Music, the publishers of a larger set of Chuck Berry songs. For details see the section on Radio Show and Promotional Records. In addition to 13 recordings by Chuck himself, the CD presented cover versions by The Groovie Ghoulies, Emmylou Harris, Carson City Playboys, Dr. Feelgood, Taj Mahal, and Nina Simone. As a bonus the CD contains the single Chuck Berry song not recorded by himself: Hey Good Looking was written for and performed by Bo Diddley.

Johnny B. Goode - His Complete '50s Chess RecordingsWhile we were all waiting for MCA, now part of Universal Music, to make better use of the Chess archives, Andy McKaie of Universal and British author Fred Rothwell went through all the old tapes waiting in the Chess vaults to find out whether there would be anything of interest not yet published before. And in early 2008 Hip-O Select, one of Universal's labels, released a first result of this tremendous work. Johnny B. Goode - His Complete '50s Chess Recordings (HIP-O-Select B0009473-02 Get it now!) contains everything the title promises: All of Berry's recordings for Chess from May 1955 to December 1959. Besides being a complete compilation of everything known before, this 4 CD set even came with a multitude of recordings previously unreleased. Most importantly there are two lengthy jam sessions recorded in September 1958. Besides this Long Fast JamListen to this recording and Long Slow JamListen to this recording the CD set includes 14 previously unknown alternate takes, in addition to the alternate takes already on records such as Rock 'n' Roll Rarities. Here we newly find additional takes of Sweet Little SixteenListen to this recording, Night BeatListen to this recording, Time WasListen to this recording (slow version), Reelin' and Rockin'Listen to this recording, Around and AroundListen to this recording, IngoListen to this recording, 21Listen to this recording, Almost GrownListen to this recording (two different takesListen to this recording), Blue on BlueListen to this recording, Betty JeanListen to this recording, I Just Want to Make Love to YouListen to this recording, Broken ArrowListen to this recording, and Too Pooped to PopListen to this recording. Also to be noted is that the version of Around and AroundListen to this recording which was only to be heard on the strange Marble Arch 12-instead-of-10 song record is included as well, of course. The 103 tracks on this 4 CD set cover Berry's complete work for Chess up to December 1959 including the Ecuadors tracks and the two 1956 live recordings descibed below.

Chuck Berry - Berry Is On Top / St. Louis To LiverpoolSo this was the ultimate collection of everything Berry ever recorded for Chess in the 1950s - we were told. But it is still helpful to carefully listen to new releases. This is how collectors found out about take 6 of Anthony Boy. It was not included in the four CD box above, but made it to the 2008 re-release of Berry Is On Top / St. Louis To Liverpool (Mobile Fidelity UDCD 776 Get it now!). Mobile Fidelity remastered the contents of the two Chess albums from the original tapes. So they thought. But by accident, for Anthony Boy the wrong tape was used. In addition careful listeners encountered that some of the previously known alternate takes of Sweet Little Sixteen and Johnny B. Goode were missing from the 4-CD set.

You Never Can Tell - His Complete Chess Recordings 1960-1966In 2009, a second set of Chess masters was released. You Never Can Tell - His Complete Chess Recordings 1960-1966 (HIP-O-Select B0012485-02 Get it now!) contains everything from the next six years, that is everything up to the end of this page's era. Again this four-CD set contains everything listed above with one single exception: I'm in the Twilight Zone from the ARC promo above is missing on this set. Instead there is an alternative take called I'm in the Danger ZoneListen to this recording included. Other alt. takes can be heard of Go Go GoListen to this recording and His Daughter CarolineListen to this recording. Previously unknown songs are Spending ChristmasListen to this recording, Honey HushListen to this recording, and an 1965 recording of Shake, Rattle & RollListen to this recording. Also included are instrumental versions of Wee Wee HoursListen to this recording, My Mustang FordListen to this recording, and Brown Eyed Handsome ManListen to this recording. And there's the last song previously only available with dubbed audience. Trick or TreatListen to this recording. The highlight of this release is a 45 minute performance of Berry recorded by Chess in 1963 (see below). These CD sets for now summarize Berry's complete studio work for Chess up to 1966.

Chuck Berry - Rock And Roll MusicBut there are still unreleased recordings in the Chess vaults. Another previously unrleased instrumental called Fast B 6 made it to the 2014 release of Bear Family's omnibus Rock And Roll Music - Any Old Way You Choose It (Bear Family BCD 17273 PL Get it now!)

Live Recordings (1955-1966)

Many of the well-known Chess recordings have been modified and re-published with fake applause. These variants have been used often on budget LPs to make them more interesting.

Chess never published a true live recording by Chuck Berry until The Chuck Berry London Sessions in 1972. However, there are live recordings made during Chuck's early Chess era, and some of them are available on records or CDs.

In 1978 Radiola re-published broadcasts originally made for CBS Radio (Radiola MR-1087, also on WINS 1010). These recordings were cut during live shows conducted by DJ Alan Freed in May and June 1956. There are many big stars of the 1950s performing their greatest hits. Chuck Berry can be heard singing and playing MaybelleneListen to this recording and Roll Over BeethovenListen to this recording. The two live cuts have been re-issued on CD several times, for instance on Magnum Force CDMF075 Get it now! They also made it to the 4-CD set Johnny B. Goode - His Complete '50s Chess Recordings (HIP-O-Select B0009473-02 Get it now!).

Two years later (July 5th, 1958) Chuck performed at the Newport Jazz Festival. Parts of this show have been published in 1992 by Phontastic (PHONT NCD 8815 Get it now!) as Blues in the Night, No. 1. On this CD Chuck is introduced to the audience and then performs School Day, No Money Down, Sweet Little Sixteen, and Johnny B. Goode. The performance of Sweet Little Sixteen has also been filmed by Bert Stern and used in his concert film Jazz on a Summer's Day (Video Get it now!, DVD Get it now!). As such it is also included in Charly Records' soundtrack CD (Jazz on a Summer's Day, Charly CDGR 196 Get it now!). And the same recording can be found on the CD Our Little Rendez-Vous (WOLF 2120 CD Get it now!), this time however obviously taped directly from the movie, which means at terrible sound quality.

In October 1963 Chess Records cut four Chuck Berry shows at the Walled Lake Casino, Detroit. These recordings remained unreleased until most of the third and fourth show were included on the four-CD set You Never Can Tell - His Complete Chess Recordings 1960-1966 (HIP-O-Select B0012485-02 Get it now!, 2009) This 45 minute live performance included very interesting versions of Guitar BoogieListen to this recording, Let It RockListen to this recording, Almost GrownListen to this recording(!), Johnny B. GoodeListen to this recording, Sweet Little SixteenListen to this recording, Wee Wee HoursListen to this recording, and MaybelleneListen to this recording. Several included dialogsListen to this recording show Berry telling jokes to the audience. And probably the best part of this concert is the closing medley of Goodnight Sweetheart Goodnight/Johnny B. Goode/School DayListen to this recording which runs for 11 minutes. All four shows including the segments which were excluded here were then released in their whole on the Bear Family 16-CD set noted above.

An additional live recording of Chuck Berry from his early Chess era was recorded in May 1964 for the British BBC Saturday Club radio show. These recordings appeared first on the 4-LP set Dominoes & King Size Taylor (Merseyside's Greatest MGBOX 801005, published 1980). Here you find Brian Matthew of BBC (British Broadcasting) interviewing both Chuck Berry and King Size Taylor, and you hear Chuck and the Dominoes performing Memphis, Sweet Little Sixteen, Nadine, and Johnny B. Goode. Unfortunately on this vinyl album only the last song can be heard in full, the other three songs are on the album only in excerpts. Memphis Tennessee and Sweet Little Sixteen plus a recording of School Days could later be found in their full lengths on the CD described next, though the sound quality on the LP is a lot better than on the CD. In 2014 Bear Family's 16-CD box finally contained all these recordings in full length and full quality.

Further recordings made 1965 in England have been published in 2000 (although the CD says 1994) on a CD called Chuck Berry - His London Recordings (Official 4012-FS Get it now!). The CD contains most songs from the album Chuck Berry in London and also uses the original cover of the Dutch version of this album. In addition the CD contains another three Chuck Berry songs related to England: Liverpool DriveListen to this recording, Big Ben BluesListen to this recording, and London Berry BluesListen to this recording. Next to three of the 1964 recordings just described, you'll also find Nadine, Promised Land, and No Particular Place to Go recorded in February 1965 for the BBC Top Gear radio show. For some reason the three recordings are repeated, though they sound a bit different due to the bad recording.


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Last modified: 18.11.2014