Chuck Berry fans will have their chance to pay their respects to the late rock ‘n’ roll visionary whose career had roots in East St. Louis.
Berry’s family announced in a statement Wednesday that a public viewing will be held from 8 a.m. to noon April 9 at The Pageant, where Berry frequently performed in his hometown of St. Louis. That will be followed by a service for Berry’s family and friends, including those in the music industry.
The Pageant’s owner and longtime Berry friend, Joe Edwards, told The Associated Press that Berry will lie in repose in an open casket, giving fans their last glimpse of the music legend.
Berry was 90 when he died March 18 at his home near St. Louis.
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Berry’s classics include “Johnny B. Goode,” “Sweet Little Sixteen” and “Roll Over Beethoven.”
“Johnny B. Goode,” the tale of a guitar-playing country boy whose mother tells him he’ll be a star, was Berry’s signature song, the archetypal narrative for would-be rockers and among the most ecstatic recordings in the music’s history. Berry can hardly contain himself as the words hurry out (“Deep down Louisiana close to New Orleans/Way back up in the woods among the evergreens”) and the downpour of guitar, drums and keyboards amplifies every call of “Go, Johnny, go!”
“Johnny B. Goode” was inspired in part by Johnnie Johnson, the boogie-woogie piano master who collaborated on many Berry hits. It was Johnson who gave Berry’s early career a boost — in East St. Louis.
On New Year’s Eve 1952 at The Cosmopolitan club in East St. Louis, Johnson called Berry to fill in for an ailing saxophonist in his Sir John Trio.
“He gave me a break” and his first commercial gig, for $4, Berry later recalled. “I was excited. My best turned into a mess. I stole the group from Johnnie.”