Music

Chuck Berry and The Beatles: How were The Beatles influenced by Chuck Berry? ‘Magician’

Brian May performs cover of The Beatles with Gary Barlow

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Chuck Berry was around for a few years before The Beatles came on the scene. Chuck’s music, along with Buddy Holly and some other rock ‘n’ roll stars, had gone across the pond and started influencing British musicians, including The Beatles.

Sir Paul McCartney, bass player and songwriter of The Beatles, spoke in tribute of Chuck on his death on March 18, 2017.

On his website, Sir Paul commemorated the singer, saying: “From the first minute we heard the great guitar intro to Sweet Little Sixteen we became fans of the great Chuck Berry.

“His stories were more like poems than lyrics – the likes of Johnny B Goode or Maybellene.

“To us, he was a magician making music that was exotic yet normal at the same time.

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“We learnt so many things from him which led us into a dream world of rock ‘n’ roll music.”

Sir Paul remembered a moment they met, many years after the band had been famous.

He continued: “Chuck was and is forevermore one of rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest legends all over the world.

“I was privileged to meet him in his hometown St Louis when I played there on tour and it’s a memory I will cherish forever.

“It’s not really possible to sum up what he meant to all us young guys growing up in Liverpool but I can give it a try.”

Sir Paul makes clear allusions to his Beatles bandmates in his tribute, showing how all the boys were influenced by him.

Their second album even included a cover of the singer’s, with George Harrison singing lead vocals on Roll Over Beethoven.

Their contemporaries, the Rolling Stones, were also big fans of the singer, with their first hit being Come On, a cover of Chuck’s.

Chuck is also likely to have influenced them through another entertainer, who was playing skiffle and rock ‘n’ roll music when songs from people like Elvis Presley and Chuck were banned in the UK.

Tommy Steele, or Sir Tommy Steele, was a skiffle entertainer whose music was hugely influenced by that of Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry.

Paul Endacott of Music Heritage London described how Sir Tommy listened to American artists thanks to his time in the USA when such bands were not allowed to be played in the UK, and brought their music across the pond.

He said: “Tommy Steele is one of our great exports… the skiffle music may have its roots in America, the word skiffle was used over here, probably as much it was its folk music. Yeah.

“Now, when, as an example, Tommy Steele, who was in a merchant seaman, when he was a teenager, he used to go over to America and listen to Elvis.

“Elvis songs weren’t played until the late 1950s over here because the BBC would never play that sort of stuff.

“It was, you know, Matt Monroe and all the crooners so Elvis went over there as a prime example.

“He’d [Tommy Steele] listened to Elvis, he’d come back and busk outside The 2I’s coffee shop in Soho… which a lot of people say was the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll…”

“The Beatles were a skiffle band when they started, the skiffle music was so instrumental in a parallel way to the blues coming over from America in the late 1950s…

“And they had a massive audience for it.”

Through Sir Tommy’s music, Chuck Berry and his contemporaries like Elvis Presley helped make The Beatles the band which dominated the music world for years.

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