on this day

October 15, 2014 – Chuck Berry played what was to be his final concert, performing at the St. Louis club

OCTOBER 15, 2014 – Chuck Berry (October 18, 1926 – March 18, 2017) played what was to be his final concert, performing at the St. Louis club Blueberry Hill, joined by his son Charles Berry Jr. on guitar and his daughter Ingrid on harmonica and vocals. Berry had inaugurated the venue’s Duck Room (named for Berry’s famous “duckwalk”) in 1997 and played 209 consecutive monthly concerts in the intimate 340-capacity room. Co-owner Joe Edwards told the story of how that came to be: “Chuck and I have been good friends since the early ’80s. One night in 1996 he was reminiscing about the smaller clubs he used to play when he was just starting out and how much he would love to play an intimate club again in contrast to large stadiums.

There was a split-second pause. We looked at each other and said ‘Let’s do it.’ That’s how Chuck Berry came to play once a month at Blueberry Hill in a legendary concert series.”Berry’s nearly two-decade residency at Blueberry Hill is the stuff of legends, chronicled in publications including Rolling Stone and the Wall Street Journal. “No other superstar rock & roller has played that many shows in one single venue,” said Edwards. “He’s played every single month from 1996 through his 88th birthday week in October 2014.” Berry, who owned two homes in the St. Louis area, in Ladue and one just outside of Wentzville, always drove himself to his gigs. “He never left St. Louis,” Edwards marveled, “Born and raised here.

Other superstars moved out, but he never did.”The Delmar Loop has come a long way over the past 40 years. From the day Blueberry Hill opened in 1972, Edwards knew he had to work on revitalizing the neighborhood. His creative vision, risk-taking, and civic leadership helped to transform The Loop into one of the most vibrant districts in the United States. “In 1985 we opened up the Elvis Room to bring live music into Blueberry Hill. It was the next step for us and for helping to make The Loop the live music center of St. Louis.” Since then, he renovated numerous historic buildings, including the beautiful Tivoli Movie Theatre, and encouraged one-of-a-kind specialty shops and cultural institutions to make The Loop their home.Joe started the non-profit St. Louis Walk of Fame in 1989 and now there are nearly 150 brass stars and biographical plaques lining the sidewalks of The Loop. He also led the way for The Loop to expand eastward when he opened The Pageant concert venue. Unique shops and restaurants have sprung up around it since then and The Loop has grown.He envisioned a hotel that would be The Loop’s very own and opened the Moonrise Hotel.

On its rooftop bar, he built the world’s largest man-made revolving moon. He continued to make The Loop a true 24/7 neighborhood by opening the 24-hour Peacock Loop Diner, and in September 2016, opened the new Delmar Hall concert club, an 800-capacity music hall. It enhances The Loop’s reputation as a live music center of St. Louis. Joe also spearheaded the Loop Trolley, a fixed-rail vintage trolley system which links The Loop to Forest Park and two MetroLink stations. With Blueberry Hill as its epicenter, the Delmar Loop has been designated “One of the 10 Great Streets in America” by the American Planning Association. Blueberry Hill proudly supports over 170 community and non-profit groups in the St. Louis area each year.Asked by Rolling Stone magazine in 1969 about rock music’s role, Berry said, “Like any music, it brings you together, because if two people like the same music, they can be standing beside each other shaking and they wind up dancing, and that’s a matter of communication… so I say it’s a means of communication, more so than other music, to the kids.”On July 29, 2011, Berry threw out the first pitch at the St. Louis Cardinals baseball game on the same day that his eight-foot-tall bronze statue sculpted by Harry Walker was unveiled on Delmar Boulevard, positioned in front of a low wall with little holes that look like Braille or an old computer punch card, but are in fact lights that mimic an LED display when Chuck Berry tunes are played in the statue plaza. “It’s glorious – I do appreciate it to the highest, no doubt about that,” Berry told Rolling Stone just prior to the ceremony in University City, just outside St. Louis. 

“That sort of honor is seldom given out. But I don’t deserve it.”The project had earlier caused controversy when Elsie Glickert, a former University City council member, charged that the privately funded statue was a poor use of public property, given Berry’s checkered past. “This man is a felon and not a friend of women,” she said. Her petition to block the statue was signed by over 100 residents, but no protesters showed up to the ceremony. Instead, several hundred fans braved temperatures that soared into the 90s to catch a glimpse of Berry, then 84, who was dressed in a denim shirt, string tie and his trademark sailor’s cap.Elvis Costello sent his regards to Berry via a taped message. “Congratulations to everybody for getting a beautiful statue of Chuck Berry put up in St. Louis where it belongs,” Costello said. “I guess now the campaign begins to have another statue in every town that Chuck Berry mentioned in his songs.” Other greetings for Berry came from across the musical spectrum, with messages from Little Richard, Merle Haggard, Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, and former Doobie Brother Michael McDonald, a St. Louis native. “I’m not going to keep you out here for very long,” Berry told the crowd. “I don’t know how to speak. I can sing a little bit.

Thank you and I love you all.”In 2012, while visiting Cleveland to accept the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s American Music Masters Award, the then-86-year-old musician told Rolling Stone that he was slowing down with age. “I am hearing very little,” he said. “I’m wondering about my future… “Give you a song? I can’t do that. My singing days have passed. My voice is gone. My throat is worn. And my lungs are going fast. I think that explains it.”Berry announced on his 90th birthday that his first new studio album since 1979’s “Rock It” would be released in 2017. Entitled “Chuck,” it includes his children, Charles and Ingrid, with songs “covering the spectrum from hard-driving rockers to soulful thought-provoking time capsules of a life’s work.” Released on June 9, 2017, it was dedicated to his beloved wife of 68 years, Themetta “Toddy” Suggs, whom he’d married in 1948.

Roll Over Beethoven
Every Day I Have the Blues (Pinetop Sparks cover)
Wee Wee Hours
School Days (By request)
Rock Me Baby (B.B. King cover w/lead vocals by Chuck’s daughter)
Johnny B. Goode
Back in the U.S.A.
One of These Days
Key to the Highway (Charles Segar cover)
Reelin’ and Rockin’

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *