We picked him up at Hobby airport. He and his bass man and the guitar always by his side. “Can’t trust the airlines, They could lose it”, he grinned. He traveled light. One overnight bag and his guitar. I offered to let him ride shotgun and instead he had me climb in back next to him and we talked all the way to Beaumont from Houston. I knew he wouldn’t remember me. I was backing Jack Scott and a few other one hit wonders and darned if he didn’t remember. “You were the only white guy who spoke to me, “ he recalled. “Topeka, Kansas,” he added. It was a strange world. We idolized the Berry’s, The Platters, The Coasters and others but when they left the stage, they were off limits. We let them cook our food, but wouldn’t let them sit at the same table. We loved their rock and roll but didn’t get too close. After his first song charted, a guy in Chicago booked him sight unseen. There was no MTV then. When Chuck Berry showed up, the club owner said: “Damn: you sounded like you were white on the air.” He then slammed the door and canceled the gig. We talked about that and we talked about his songwriting. He was a true wordsmith. Listen to the lyrics of his songs. “I caught Maybelline at the top of the hill”, “No particular place to go”, “Drop the coin into the slot, you gotta hear somethin…that’s really hot”, “Roll over Beethoven, dig these rhythm and blues”. “I’m gone…..like a c-o-o-o-o-o-l breeze”. No love and kisses, no broken hearts, no car wrecks in which your baby died. He didn’t need it. He played and sang happily. “Back in the good old USA”, “Hey, Carol: I’ve got to learn and dance if it takes all night and day”. He played Nutty Jerry’s. The crowd was sparse. Too bad. Everyone that was there made history for themselves. He broke two guitar strings. He snuck up behind me while I was introducing him and smiled that snarky little, sweet grin that people loved so much. He still had his naval captain’s hat on and he hugged me as I left the stage. Later he told me it was “really nice to visit with someone who really did remember him”. He never did eat the barbecue we brought for him. “Sometimes you just have to watch your figure”, he explained. He was the first inductee into the rock and roll hall of fame, as he should have been. That little old boy picking his guitar down by the railroad track set the standard for all who followed. Hey, Chuck Berry! You were Rock and Roll music.
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