Chuck Berry
Charles Edward Anderson "Chuck" Berry
Biographical information
Date of birthOctober 18, 1926
Age (1931)5
Age (1955)29
Age (1985)59
Age (2015)89
Physical description
Hair colorblack
Eye colorbrown
Behind-the-scenes information

Charles Edward Anderson "Chuck" Berry (October 18, 1926March 18, 2017) was an American singer, songwriter and guitarist who pioneered rock and roll, and was the cousin of Marvin Berry.

On November 12, 1955, Marvin called Chuck to have him listen to Marty McFly playing "Johnny B. Goode", stating it was "that new sound" that he had been looking for.

Music career[]

Nicknamed the "Father of Rock and Roll", Chuck Berry refined and developed rhythm and blues into the major elements that made rock and roll distinctive with songs such as "Maybellene" (1955), "Roll Over Beethoven" (1956), "Rock and Roll Music" (1957) and "Johnny B. Goode" (1958). Writing lyrics that focused on teen life and consumerism, and developing a music style that included guitar solos and showmanship, Berry was a major influence on subsequent rock music.

Born into a middle-class black family in St. Louis, Berry had an interest in music from an early age and gave his first public performance at Sumner High School. While still a high school student he was convicted of armed robbery and was sent to a reformatory, where he was held from 1944 to 1947. After his release, Berry settled into married life and worked at an automobile assembly plant. By early 1953, influenced by the guitar riffs and showmanship techniques of the blues musician T-Bone Walker, Berry began performing with the Johnnie Johnson Trio. His break came when he traveled to Chicago in May 1955 and met Muddy Waters, who suggested he contact Leonard Chess, of Chess Records. With Chess, he recorded "Maybellene"—Berry's adaptation of the country song "Ida Red"—which sold over a million copies, reaching number one on Billboard magazine's rhythm and blues chart.

By the end of the 1950s, Berry was an established star, with several hit records and film appearances and a lucrative touring career. He had also established his own St. Louis nightclub, Berry's Club Bandstand. In 1963, Berry had several more successful songs, including "No Particular Place to Go", "You Never Can Tell", and "Nadine". However, these did not achieve the same success or lasting impact of his 1950s songs, and by the 1970s he was more in demand as a nostalgia performer, playing his past material with local backup bands of variable quality. In 1972 he reached a new level of achievement when a rendition of "My Ding-a-Ling" became his only record to top the charts.

Behind the scenes[]

Chuck Berry had his first Top 40 hit in 1955 with Maybellene. Though Berry wrote Johnny B. Goode in 1955, it would not be released until three years later. As this would seem to have created an ontological paradox, some commentators were offended by the idea that "Marty the white kid teaches Chuck Berry how to make blues-influenced black rock and roll music" [1].

Fans have pointed out that, by the time Marvin has gotten Chuck to "listen to this", Marty has departed from "Johnny B. Goode", has stopped singing, and has moved into a heavy metal jam of his own. When Marty has finished, it's clear that Marvin is no longer on the telephone with Chuck. Furthermore, the fact that Marty (who from the original timeline in which he did not go back in time) was familiar with the song indicates Chuck originally conceived of the song without any help from Marty. This is further suggested by the historical Berry's acknowledgement that the song was semi-autobiographical [2].

However, it is still possible that the Chuck Berry of Timeline 2 (created by Marty's first 1955 trip) was at least partly inspired by Marty's "new sound". One possible scenario is that Marvin, a musician in his own right, later played Chuck a sample of Marty's version of the song, to show what he'd had in mind during the phone call.



  1. C.W.E. Bigsby, The Cambridge Companion to Modern American Culture (Cambridge University Press) p387
  2. Rolling Stone - Johnny B. Goode