By Barry Gilbert
Of the Post-Dispatch


October 10, 2004

Brian Henneman, of the Bottle Rockets: "I met Chuck Berry one time, at a photo shoot for St. Louis magazine. I was pretty awestruck, and the only thing I really remember is the size of his hand when he shook mine. The palm of his hand was the size of my whole hand. No wonder he can play guitar the way he does. A guitar is like a toy when you got hands that size."

David Toretta, of Fairchild: "I have been to almost every (monthly Chuck Berry) Blueberry Hill show, and every night driving to the show, I think I know what I'm going to see, and after every show, I drive home in awe of what I experienced. For instance, one night I was watching the show with a justifiably jaded reporter from Rolling Stone, in town to see a session. The show went well and, as it was ending, Chuck sat on a chair at the side of the stage and just lashed out on his guitar with the most ferocious attack. Nothing like his patented riffs from his early guitar-slinger days. Just wild emotion. So, here we were watching an American treasure, an artist as vital as ever, out there on the edge with no net. I'll never forget the look on the reporter's face. He left as awestruck as I do every month."

Jimmy Kennedy, of Earl: "We opened for Chuck Berry around the time the Tivoli was showing its retrospective on (porn star) Ron Jeremy. Ron and his date sat front row for the entire Earl set and later bought a T-shirt and CD. I was able to meet Chuck Berry afterward and share harp-playing tips and a cocktail with his daughter. While Ron Jeremy was exiting backstage, I got both of them to sign an Earl shirt from the particular CD ('Used') we were promoting at the time. I have it hanging on my wall. It makes for quite a conversation piece."

Chris Grabau, of Magnolia Summer: "St. Louis is a big small town, so I've bumped into Chuck a few times. For example -- I hate to admit this -- but a few years ago, my brother and I were waiting in line for the midnight premiere of the new 'Star Wars' movie at the Tivoli. With us in line were two guys dressed like characters from the movie, and they were sword fighting and doing all of these funny ninja-karate moves. One of the guys swung his plastic sword and nearly cracked this guy in the face who was only walking by. The guys paid no mind, but my brother and I noticed immediately it was Chuck. I even think one of us said something like, 'Hey, man, look out, it's Chuck Berry!' Chuck only looked at us -- just smiled while enjoying the scene. The Jedi dudes didn't even skip a beat. They just kept beating each other with plastic swords. It was funny to think what John Lennon or Keith Richards would've done had they seen Chuck walk down the street."

Dade Farrar, of the Rockhouse Ramblers: "We warmed up (for) Chuck a couple of times at the Duck Room, and I never really got to meet him. We were also asked not to mention his name during our show by Chuck's people, which I thought pretty strange because that's what you do when you warm up a band. When we were done, we thanked the crowd and said the 'next show would start soon' -- no mention of Chuck. It seemed pretty strange at the time, but Chuck isn't just another band or artist needing a plug. Chuck needs no introduction."

Jay Farrar: "I first saw Chuck Berry in person at a Hüsker Dü concert. Joe Edwards (owner of Blueberry Hill and the Pageant, and a longtime friend of Berry) had brought him out. It's safe to say Chuck was one of the last people I expected to see at the Hüsker Dü show. Many years later, I had a chance to meet Chuck at Blueberry Hill, though I forgot to ask him about Hüsker Dü."

Matt Picker, of the Gentleman Callers: "When I was probably 17 or 18, I went to see this punk-rock band called the Circle Jerks at Mississippi Nights. So, we're at the show, and all of a sudden Keith Morris (the singer) announces that a rock 'n' roll legend just showed up and wanted to come up onstage and do a song. Anyway, it turned out to be Chuck Berry. He got up onstage with the Circle Jerks and played 'Roll Over Beethoven' to a packed house and with a completely awed Circle Jerks. It was amazing. I'll never forget that night. I got his autograph on some business card I had in my wallet, and I still have it to this day. A month or so ago, we opened for Chuck at Blueberry Hill, and I kept reflecting on that night, remembering when I was a kid getting his autograph, and how I was now onstage opening for him. It was surreal."

Interviews conducted by e-mail