Louis, Missouri , U. Raised in a working-class African American neighbourhood on the north side of the highly segregated city of St. Berry was still attending high school when he was sent to a Missouri prison for young offenders to serve three years for armed robbery. After his release and return to St. Louis, he worked at an auto plant, studied hairdressing, and played music in small nightclubs. Berry traveled to Chicago in search of a recording contract, and Muddy Waters directed him to the Chess brothers. Berry is undeniably one of the most influential figures in the history of rock music.
In helping to create rock and roll from the crucible of rhythm and blues , he combined clever lyrics, distinctive guitar sounds, boogie-woogie rhythms, precise diction , an astounding stage show, and musical devices characteristic of country-western music and the blues in his many best-selling single records and albums.
A distinctive if not technically dazzling guitarist, Berry used electronic effects to replicate the ringing sounds of bottleneck blues guitarists in his recordings. Influenced by a wide variety of artists—including guitar players Carl Hogan, Charlie Christian , and T-Bone Walker and vocalists Nat King Cole , Louis Jordan , and Charles Brown —Berry played a major role in broadening the appeal of rhythm-and-blues music during the s. He fashioned his lyrics to appeal to the growing teenage market by presenting vivid and humorous descriptions of high-school life, teen dances, and consumer culture.
His recordings serve as a rich repository of the core lyrical and musical building blocks of rock and roll. In he was presented with a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Chuck Berry. Article Media. Info Print Cite. Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. See Article History. Britannica Quiz.
Lifting the Curtain on Composers: Fact or Fiction? Britannica Premium: Serving the evolving needs of knowledge seekers. Subscribe Now. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. It was a crossroads where Delta…. As rhythm and blues began to infiltrate the pop market, Chess and its subsidiary label, Checker, recorded such vocal groups as the Moonglows and the Flamingos and administered the Arc and Jewel publishing companies through Maurice Levy. History at your fingertips. Sign up here to see what happened On This Day , every day in your inbox!
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