One of the true pioneers and legends of rock ‘n roll, Chuck Berry, has died at the age of 90.
He didn’t invent rock ‘n roll (no one person can claim credit for it), but was one of the first superstars of the new genre and had many years of hit records from the mid-1950’s through the early 1970’s.
He was also a singer/songwriter, something that (apart from people like Carl Perkins, Neil Sedaka, and Paul Anka) didn’t become commonplace in rock music until the mid 1960’s.
In 1972, when John Lennon and wife Yoko One joined Mike Douglas as “co-hosts” for a week on the latter’s syndicated TV talk/variety show (the format called for a different celebrity–or two celebrities–to co-host the show for a full week with Mike), Berry appeared as a guest and “jammed” with Lennon in what might be the most famous segment from the two-decade run of “The Mike Douglas Show” (at the end of the segment, you can see Douglas was ecstatic—I think he enjoyed the performance more than anyone else in the studio that day!). You can see it here:
Several Chuck Berry hits were later hits for other artists. “Memphis” was covered in the mid 1960’s by both Lonnie Mack (as an instrumental) and Johnny Rivers (as a vocal). Rivers also had success with a vocal cover of “Maybelline”, while one of the Beatles’ early hits was a cover of “Roll Over, Beethoven!” (the Electric Light Orchestra’s first U.S. hit in the early 1970’s was their cover version of the lattter song).
But possibly the campiest (if charming in it’s own offbeat way) cover version of a Chuck Berry song was a cover of “Maybelline” performed in 1955 (around or just after the song had become a hit) by, of all people, the Lawrence Welk Orchestra on what was likely one of the earliest network editions of “The Lawrence Welk Show”. Welk eventually stopped doing cover versions of “Maybelline” and stuck to what he did best, melodic (if very square) “sweet” music with a “champagne” sound.
You can see the Welk orchestra’s take on “Maybelline” at: