Posts Tagged ‘Chess Records’

Blues pianist Eddie Boyd’s “7936 South Rhodes” was recorded in London in January 1968 with three members of the early line-up of Fleetwood Mac: Peter Green (guitar), John McVie (bass), and Mick Fleetwood (drums). It’s a tantalizing setting for Boyd’s straight up Chicago piano Blues, going heavier on the slow-to-mid-tempo numbers than the high-spirited ones.

Boyd was born either on Stovall’s Plantation, near Clarksdale, Mississippi, He learned to play the guitar and the piano. His piano playing was influenced by the styles of Roosevelt Sykes and Leroy Carr. An automobile accident in 1957 in which he was injured put his career on hold for a while Boyd toured Europe with Buddy Guy’s band in 1965 as part of the American Folk Blues Festival.

He later toured and recorded with Fleetwood Mac and John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers. Tired of the racial discrimination he experienced in the United States, he first moved to Belgium where he recorded with Dutch Blues band Cuby & The Blizzards. Boyd died in 1994 in Helsinki, Finland, just a few months before Eric Clapton released the chart-topping blues album, From The Cradle that included Boyd’s “Five Long Years” and “Third Degree”.

On June 25th, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Eddie Boyd among hundreds of artists whose recorded material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.

Recorded in London in January 1968 with three members of the early lineup of Fleetwood Mac (the one that played blues, not pop/rock):Peter Green (Guitar), John McVie (bass), and Mick Fleetwood (drums). It’s an adequate setting for Boyd’s straight Chicago piano blues, going heavier on the slow-to-mid-tempo numbers than the high-spirited ones, though is a far more sympathetic accompanist than the rhythm section.

Eddie Boyd with Fleetwood Mac.

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Muddy Waters was arguably the greatest and most famous bluesmen who migrated from Mississippi north to Chicago bent on a making a name for himself. It was a long, hard road out of the Mississippi Delta and almost unimaginable for Waters to go from picking cotton on Stovall’s Plantation in Mississippi to the Library of Congress recordings made by Alan Lomax of Waters on the farm in 1941. But from there he went on to the pinnacle of success in Chicago as the premier post-War blues master. Muddy Waters transcended all obstacles in reaching his goal, becoming the reigning Chess king in Chicago for nearly 25 years.

After moving to Chicago in 1943 and making a few sides for Columbia Records, Waters first recorded for the Chess brothers’ Aristocrat label in 1947, and by 1953 had hit his stride with one of the great Blues songwriters, Willie Dixon, providing the hits, and his seminal band with Little Walter Jacobs on harmonica, Jimmy Rogers on guitar, Elgin Evans on drums and Otis Spann on piano providing the groove. In 1960, Waters recorded the Blues classic “Muddy Waters at Newport,” “Folk Singer,” in 1964, the dreaded “Electric Mud,” in 1968, and the all-star “Fathers and Sons,” set in 1969. Waters reigned until Chess closed shop in the 1970s but got a second life with Johnny Winter later in the decade with four Blue Sky albums produced by the Beaumont Blaster. Grammy Award winners were “Hard Again,” (1977), and “I’m Ready,” (1978) and “King Bee,” (1981), all studio albums, and the acclaimed live set “Muddy “Mississippi” Waters.” which was released in 1979. The Rolling Stones came under his sway, recording many of his songs, and Rolling Stone magazine paid homage to both the Stones and Waters in the title of its publication. Waters was the template, setting the table for other Windy City Bluesmen that came in his wake such as Buddy Guy. He was the Hoochie Coochie Man – one of the greatest of the post-war Blues masters.

The Complete Plantation Recordings

Muddy Waters was bandleader, songwriter, guitarist, singer, song interpreter and the prime mover of the Chicago electric Blues scene, Muddy from the Mississippi Delta, like almost all the great electric bluesman of the post-war era. He was also a good man, who helped many younger or struggling musicians as they later bore witness. But whatever else he was, he will forever be the once and future King of the Chicago Blues. “No I ain’t no millionaire, but I had a lot of managers that became millionaires.”  Muddy Waters got his nickname from his grandmother, because he was always playing in a nearby creek as a child. It is a name that resonates way beyond the confines of the Blues. As the man who claimed that “The Blues had a baby and they named it rock ‘n’ roll,” he certainly had a point and his reputation among young white boy wannabe blues musicians was second to none. It was from a track on his 1958 album, from which a young British band took their name in 1962… and they went on to become, “The Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World”.
Muddy Waters At Newport
Muddy Waters Folk Singer shows the depth of Muddy’s talent, his understanding of the Blues and his brilliance in playing them in whatever form he wanted. It is fair to say that without the album Muddy Waters Live at Newport 1960, no self-respecting white Blues band would dare not play at least half the numbers Muddy performed. The success of rock bands helped many a Bluesman’s career, both in the USA and as international acts; Muddy was no exception and in fact his recording career benefitted more than most. Albums including The Muddy Waters Woodstock Album and Unk in Funk offer a real insight into the thirty year recording career of the real legends of the Blues.
Unk In Funk

When he was about three years old McKinley Morganfield’s Mother died so he was sent to the Stovall farm to stay with his grandmother. After he grew up he began working on the plantation, while at the same time teaching himself the harmonica and later the guitar. He began playing in juke joints, at parties and dances in and around the Clarksdale area from about 1935 onwards.

When in the mid summer 1941 Alan Lomax recorded Muddy at Stovall’s for the Library of Congress; Muddy sang “Country Blues” and “Burr Clover Country Blues”. According to Howard Stovall whose family still own the farm. “He was the burr clover man, which was a cover crop to put nitrogen back in the soil. It’s drudge work, you hand rake it up and put it in bags and then spread the burrs around to improve next year’s crop. I had the honour of that job one summer, apparently Muddy felt about it the same way I did, only he was able to express it more eloquently.”

In 1943 Muddy moved north and like many before him, took the train to Chicago’s Illinois Central Station; initially finding work in a paper factory. Muddy began playing for tips on Maxwell Street soon after arriving in the city; Big Bill Broonzy helped the country boy break into the urban scene. He started working in clubs, playing with Eddie Boyd, as well as backing Sonny Boy Williamson No.1 at the Plantation Club. A switch from acoustic to electric guitar in 1944 galvanised Muddy’s career. He continued to play traditional Delta bottleneck, but the electric guitar transformed his sound and helped to “invent” post-war Chicago Blues. His 1946 recordings for Columbia with the doyen of Chicago Blues, Lester Melrose, went unreleased. It was not until the following year that Muddy would be heard playing on record, in the role of backing guitarist to Sunnyland Slim.

Waters and bass player Big Crawford recorded two other songs on the day he worked with Slim, but Leonard Chess was unimpressed and so they went unreleased. However, the following year Muddy and Crawford were back and cut ‘I Can’t Be Satisfied’ and ‘Feel Like Going Home’, which Leonard Chess released on the Checker label. The former was a reworking of  ‘I Be’s Troubled’, a song Muddy recorded for Lomax in 1941 and often played live. ‘Feel Like Going Home’ was a reworking of Son House’s ‘Walking Blues’. Muddy had huge respect for House and this is another song Muddy must have sang many times before this recording. The record sold out in less than a day, going on to make No.11 on the R&B charts in September 1948; years later Muddy recalled that he even had trouble buying a copy. Chess was anxious not to upset a winning formula and despite the fact that Muddy had his own band he continued to record Muddy as a duo or with Leroy Foster on guitar.

By the late 1940s his band included Leroy Foster on guitar or drums, Big Crawford on bass, Jimmy Rogers on guitar and harmonica and not long afterwards Little Walter Jacobs was added as the featured harmonica player. Muddy was only in his early 30s but he became the patriarch of the Chicago blues scene. With the pick of the city’s musicians in the 1950s, it was more a question of who didn’t play in Muddy Waters Band than who did. The Muddy Waters Blues Band was recording as an entity by 1951, the epitome of the hard-edged, driving electric Blues band of Chicago, a cornerstone of what we call rock music today.

In 1951 ‘Louisiana Blues’ became the second in his run of sixteen chart hits, which included classics like, ‘I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man’, ‘Just Make Love to Me’, ‘Mannish Boy’ and ‘Forty Days and Nights’. The man born in Rolling Fork, Mississippi also cut ‘Rollin’ and Tumblin”, ‘Rollin’ Stone’ and ‘They Call Me Muddy Waters’, in which he sings “I’m the most bluest man in this whole Chicago town”… few would disagree. Any and every one of these recordings captures the very essence of 1950s Chicago Blues.

The Muddy Waters Woodstock Album

In 1959 Muddy released Muddy Sings Big Bill, a tribute album to his former mentor who had died a year earlier. Muddy considered Big Bill to be “the Daddy of the Country Blues singers”, so when he first moved to the city it must have been amazing for the younger man to find such a star taking an interest in him. It also shows the similarity in style between the two singers. On the album Muddy is accompanied by his band of the moment, James Cotton on harp, Pat Hare on guitar and the brilliant Otis Spann on piano they perform ‘Just a Dream’, a perfect testimony to both men, while Muddy makes the song his own, Big Bill comes shining through.

‘I Feel So Good’ from the album exemplifies Muddy’s approach, brilliant interpretation and vocal delivery that is underpinned by tight ensemble playing. Otis Spann on piano, James Cotton’s harmonica and Pat Hare’s guitar are nothing but perfect. The following year at the Newport Festival Muddy performed the song, predominantly to a white audience, and it was captured for his album Muddy Waters at Newport; one of the great live albums and a favourite of many blues’ fans. As the band powers through the song the crowd can be heard responding to their brilliance with spontaneous shouts. Not that this one song was any different from many that Muddy performed, he affected everything he did with style and class.

The Folk SInger

Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s Muddy’s band was the city’s premier recording outfit, a veritable academy of the Blues. Among those who played with Muddy were guitarists Jimmy Rogers, Luther Tucker, and Earl Hooker; harmonica players Junior Wells, Big Walter Horton and James Cotton, Willie Dixon on bass; pianists Memphis Slim, Otis Spann, and Pinetop Perkins along with drummer Fred Below. Another was Buddy Guy who played on Muddy’s essential 1964  album, Muddy Waters “Folk Singer”. He was another musician who had a lot to thank Muddy for…

My mother had a stroke and I left Baton Rouge, Louisiana September 25th 1957 and I went to Chicago. I actually was looking for just a regular job to help my mum, but I ran into a bad situation. I couldn’t get work, nobody would hire me. I played on the street first, one day this man grabbed me by the hand and walked me in this club. It was Otis playing, the guy told Otis to call me up and I played ‘Things I Used to Do’, and someone called Muddy on the phone. I was pretty hungry ‘cos it was the third day without food. Muddy came in and just smacked me and said wait a minute, I heard about you, they done call me and got me out the bed. He said you hungry, I said you Muddy Waters, I’m not hungry, I’m full, I met you.”

Muddy like many of his contemporaries toured Britain in the 1960s as part of the American Folk Blues Festivals; his reception was better than when he had previously visited Britain at the invitation of Chris Barber in 1958, the jazz trombonist. Many people in the jazz fraternity, who were the keepers of the blues flame in 50s Britain decided it was a travesty for Muddy to play with amplification. Somehow these blues zealots decided that the only pure blues was acoustic thank goodness ideas changed. In May 1964 Otis Spann cut a single at Decca studios in London with producer Mike Vernon. On ‘Pretty Girls Everywhere’ and ‘Stirs Me Up’ Otis was accompanied by Muddy Waters on rhythm guitar and Eric Clapton on lead. Some years later Eric recalled “they were both very friendly, and they had beautiful shiny silk suits, with big trousers!”

Electric Mud

As the Blues languished somewhat in the late 60s, then so did Muddy’s career. In the 1970s he toured constantly and by 1977 he had signed with CBS Records. Collaborating with Johnny Winter, Muddy’s career took an upturn with the release of the album Hard Again in 1977, winning him a Grammy. A second album, I’m Ready, was followed by a tour of the U.S. including a performance at the White House for Pres­ident Jimmy Carter.

Muddy worked live with Johnny Winter in the early 80s before succumbing to a heart attack in his sleep aged sixty-eight in 1983. Muddy’s influence as well as the respect that he commanded among the Rock community was acknowledged when he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

Hoochie Coochie Man: Complete Chess Masters, Volume 2 - 1952-1958

 

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Jim Sclavunos of Grinderman says: “It is one of rock history’s more baldly self-explanatory album titles; and any lingering doubt as to the artist’s disdain for the project is abundantly clarified by Howlin Wolf’s subsequent summary of the album as “dog shit”. Howlin’ Wolf was one of the first Mississippi Delta blues musicians to make the transition from acoustic to electric guitar, and he led one of the first all-electric blues combo in fifties; but This Howlin’ Wolf’s album finds him well outside his comfort zone.

The same session musicians from classic Electric Mud made this album, so it’s just as good.

The acclaimed bassist Phil Upchurch played with jazz greats and the blues legends BB King and John Lee Hooker, and even starred on Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall. But he counts as his strangest sessions the two he did in the late 60s with Muddy Waters (Electric Mud) and on The Howlin’ Wolf Album, for Chess Records subsidiary Cadet Records.

In 1968, Marshall Chess, the innovative son of label owner Leonard Chess, placed Waters, and then Wolf, in a setting of psychedelic sounds. Chess Jr wanted “to get them out with the hippie crowd”, according to Upchurch, and brought in the Chicago psychedelic soul group Rotary Connection as the backing band. The results in both cases were controversial. Waters described his album as “dogs__t”, while the Wolf fell out with his fellow musicians.

The blues legend born Chester Arthur Burnett, does his best to sing the Delta blues over a backdrop of wah-wah and fuzz effects. Singer and band certainly synch on a new version of ‘Smokestack Lightning’, a song Wolf used to sing as a boy watching the trains go by in the Mississippi town where he was born, on 10th June 1910. His old musical partner Hubert Sumlin, who played on the magnificent 1959 Chess album Moanin’ In The Moonlight, joins him on this track, recorded in November 1968.

Wolf’s own composition ‘Evil’, in which the blues man sounds like a ghost of Tom Waits’ future, growling and rasping his way through some potent lyrics. Waits, incidentally, was inspired by Wolf’s “otherworldly singing.

The band members, aware of Wolf’s status, did their best to make The Howlin’ Wolf Album work, as they recorded new versions of some of his most memorable songs, including ‘Spoonful’, ‘Red Rooster’, ‘Moanin’ At Midnight’ and ‘Built For Comfort’. Gene Barge, who was well known in the music world as Daddy G – he had played on ‘Rescue Me’ by Fontella Bass and was the man who persuaded Chess to take a chance on the young Buddy Guy – played electric saxophone on the album. He recalled, “Howlin’ Wolf didn’t like it, didn’t want to do it. He would cuss and fuss the whole time. He questioned the fact that we were taking him out of his orbit. He was a traditional blues boy, with traditional music, and he was concerned about whether he could do it or not. We told him, ‘Regardless of all this stuff, don’t change your style. We’ll just drop this stuff in all around you.’”

Howlin Wolf’s unease about the project prompted a bold marketing gamble by Marshall Chess, who addressed the issue on the album’s sleeve. The design, with black text on a white background, stated: “This is Howlin’ Wolf’s new album. He doesn’t like it. He didn’t like his electric guitar at first either.”

Growing up around the Mississippi Delta blues, Chester Burnett cut an imposing figure at well over 6 feet tall and somewhere around 300 pounds. After finding success in Memphis with help from Sam Phillips, he moved to Chicago in the ‘50s to team up with Chess brothers, with guitarist Hubert Sumlin following him. His debut album, Moanin’ in the Moonlight, highlighted his rough and raw vocals and intimidating persona, with backing from legends like Willie Dixon and Otis Spann, as well as a young Ike Turner who played piano on “How Many More Years.” But the standout track is still “Smokestack Lightning,” with its hypnotic riffs and the Wolf’s high-pitched bawling.

Moanin’ in the Moonlight was the debut album by American blues singer Howlin’ Wolf. The album was a compilation of previously issued singles by Chess Records. It was originally released by Chess Records as a mono-format LP record in 1959 (see 1959 in music). The album has been reissued several times, including a vinyl reissue in 1969, with the playing order changed, titled Evil. The two earliest songs onMoanin’ in the Moonlightwere “Moanin’ at Midnight” and “How Many More Years”. These two songs and ‘All Night Boogie’, were recorded in Memphis, the first two at Sam Phillips’ Memphis Recording Service in Memphis, Tennessee in July 1951, and, ‘All Night Boogie’, the last track on side one, in Memphis in 1953.

“How Many More Years” (recorded May 1951, unissued at the time, but later issued by Bear Family cited as the first record to feature a distorted power chord, played by Willie Johnson on the electric guitar.

Chuck Berry, who with his indelible guitar licks, brash self-confidence and memorable songs about cars, girls and wild dance parties did as much as anyone to define rock ’n’ roll’s potential and attitude in its early years, died on Saturday at his home near Wentzville, Mo. He was 90 years of age.

The St. Charles County Police Department confirmed his death . The department said that it responded to a medical emergency at the home, about 45 miles west of St. Louis, and that lifesaving measures were unsuccessful.

While Elvis Presley was rock’s first pop star and teenage heartthrob, Chuck Berry was its master theorist and conceptual genius, the songwriter who understood what the kids wanted before they knew themselves. With songs like “Johnny B. Goode” and “Roll Over Beethoven,” he gave his listeners more than they knew they were getting from jukebox entertainment.

His guitar lines wired the lean twang of country and the bite of the blues into phrases with both a streamlined trajectory and a long memory. And tucked into the lighthearted, telegraphic narratives that he sang with such clear enunciation was a sly defiance, upending convention to claim the pleasures of the moment.

Chuck Berry was already well past his teens when he wrote mid-1950s manifestoes like “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Rock and Roll Music” and “School Day.” Born Charles Edward Anderson Berry on October. 18th, 1926, in St. Louis, he grew up in a segregated, middle-class neighborhood there, soaking up gospel, blues, and rhythm and blues, along with some country music.

He spent three years in reform school after a spree of car thefts and armed robbery. He received a degree in hairdressing and cosmetology and worked for a time as a beautician; he married Themetta Suggs in 1948 and started a family. She survives him, as do four children: Ingrid Berry, Melody Eskridge, Aloha Isa Leigh Berry and Charles Berry Jr.

By the early 1950s, he was playing guitar and singing blues, pop standards and an occasional country tune with local combos. Shortly after joining Sir John’s Trio, led by the pianist Johnnie Johnson, he reshaped the group’s music and took it over.

From the Texas guitarist T-Bone Walker ,  Berry picked up a technique of bending two strings at once that he would rough up and turn into a rock ’n’ roll talisman, the Chuck Berry lick, which would in turn be emulated by the Rolling Stones and countless others. He also recognized the popularity of country music and added some hillbilly twang to his guitar lines. Chuck Berry’s hybrid music, along with his charisma and showmanship, drew white as well as black listeners to the Cosmopolitan Club in St. Louis.

In 1955, Berry ventured to Chicago and asked one of his idols, the bluesman Muddy Waters, about making records. Waters directed him to the label he recorded for, Chess Records, where one of the owners, Leonard Chess heard the potential in Berry’s song “Ida Red.”

A variant of an old country song by the same name, “Ida Red” had a 2/4 backbeat with a hillbilly oompah, while Berry’s lyrics sketched a car chase, the narrator “motorvatin’” after an elusive girl. Chess renamed the song “Maybellene,” and in a long session on May 21, 1955, Chess and the bassist Willie Dixon got the band to punch up the rhythm.

In one of the great musical clips ever Chuck Berry plays live his 58’ hit “Johnny B. Goode” and the 64’ hit “Nadine (is that you?). the HD clips from the 1964 “TAMI Show.” Backed by the Wrecking Crew who are off screen.

“The big beat, cars and young love,” Chess Records outlined. “It was a trend, and we jumped on it.” The music was bright and clear, a hard-swinging amalgam of country and blues. More than 60 years later, it still sounds reckless and audacious.

Chuck Berry articulated every word, with precise diction and no noticeable accent, leading some listeners and concert promoters, used to a different kind of rhythm-and-blues singer, to initially think that he was white. Teenagers didn’t care; they heard a rocker who was ready to take on the world.

In Chuck Berry’s groundbreaking early songs, his guitar twangs his famous two-stringed lick. It also punches like a horn section and sasses back at his own voice. The drummer eagerly socks the backbeat, and the pianist — usually either Johnson or Lafayette Leake — hurls fistfuls of tinkling anarchy all around him.

From 1955 to 1958, Chuck Berry knocked out classic after classic. Although he was in his late 20s and early 30s, he came up with high school chronicles and plugs for the newfangled music called rock ’n’ roll. No matter how calculated songs like “School Day” or “Rock and Roll Music” may have been, they reached the Top 10, caught the early rock ’n’ roll spirit and detailed its mythology. “Johnny B. Goode,” a Top 10 hit in 1958, told the archetypal story of a rocker who could “play the guitar just like ringin’ a bell.”

Berry toured with rock revues and performed in three movies with Alan Freed: “Rock, Rock, Rock,” “Mr. Rock and Roll” and “Go, Johnny, Go.” On film and in concert, he dazzled audiences with his duck walk, a guitar-thrusting strut that involved kicking one leg forward and hopping on the other.

Through the 1950s, Mr. Berry had pop hits with his songs about rock ’n’ roll and R&B hits with less teenage-oriented material. He spun surreal tall tales that Bob Dylan and John Lennon would learn from, like “Thirty Days” and “Jo Jo Gunne.” In “Brown Eyed Handsome Man,” from 1956, he offered a barely veiled racial pride. His pithiness and humor rarely failed him. In the early 1960s, Berry’s songs inspired both California rock and the British Invasion. The Beach Boys reworked his “Sweet Little Sixteen” into “Surfin’ U.S.A.” (Mr. Berry sued them and won a songwriting credit.) The Rolling Stones released a string of Berry songs, including their first single, “Come On,” and the Beatles remade “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Rock and Roll Music.”

But by the time his music started reaching a new audience, Berry was in jail.

He had been arrested in 1959 and charged with transporting a teenage girl — who briefly worked as a hatcheck girl at Club Bandstand — across state lines for immoral purposes. He was tried twice and found guilty both times; the first verdict was overturned because of racist remarks by the judge. When he emerged from 20 months in prison in 1964, his wife had left him (they later reconciled) and his songwriting spark had diminished.

He had not totally lost his touch, though, as demonstrated by the handful of hits he had in 1964 and 1965, notably “Nadine,” “No Particular Place to Go,” “You Never Can Tell” and “Promised Land.” He appeared in the celebrated all-star 1964 concert film “The TAMI Show,” along with James Brown, the Rolling Stones, Marvin Gaye, the Beach Boys and the Supremes.

While he toured steadily through the 1960s, headlining or sharing bills with bands that grew up on his songs, his recording career stalled after he moved from Chess to Mercury Records in 1966. He remade some of his old hits and tried to reach the new hippie audience, recording “Live at the Fillmore Auditorium” with the Steve Miller Band, billed as the Steve Miller Blues Band at the time. When he returned to Chess in 1970, he recorded new songs, like “Tulane” and “Have Mercy Judge,” that flashed his old wit .

In 1972, Berry had the biggest hit of his career with “My Ding-a-Ling,” a double-entendre novelty song that was included on the album “The London Chuck Berry Sessions” (even though he recorded the song not in London but at a concert in Coventry, England). It was a million-seller and Berry’s first and only No. 1 pop single. It was also his last hit. His 1973 follow-up album, “Bio,” was poorly received; “Rockit,” released by Atlantic in 1979, did not sell. But he stayed active: He appeared as himself in a 1979 movie about 1950s rock, “American Hot Wax,” and he continued to tour constantly.

In July 1979, he performed for President Jimmy Carter at the White House. Three days later, he was sentenced to 120 days in federal prison and four years’ probation for income tax evasion.

He had further legal troubles in 1990 when the police raided his home and found 62 grams of marijuana and videotapes from a camera in the women’s room of his restaurant. In a plea bargain, he agreed to a misdemeanor count of marijuana possession, with a suspended jail sentence and two years’ probation.

By the 1980s, Berry was recognized as a rock pioneer. He never won a Grammy Award in his prime, but the Recording Academy gave him a lifetime achievement award in 1984. He was in the first group of musicians inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

Around his 60th birthday that year, he allowed the director Taylor Hackford to film him at his home in Wentzville for the documentary “Hail! Hail! Rock ’n’ Roll,” which also included performances by Berry with a band led by Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones and special guests. Berry continued performing well into his 80s. He usually played with local pickup bands, as he had done for most of his career, but sometimes he played with fellow rock stars. When the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum opened in Cleveland in 1995, Berry performed at an inaugural concert, backed by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

From 1996 to 2014, Berry performed once a month at Blueberry Hill, a restaurant in St. Louis where he appeared regularly until October. 24th. He made a surprising announcement on his 90th birthday, October. 18th, 2016: He was planning to release his first studio album in almost 40 years. The album, called simply “Chuck” and scheduled for release in June, was to consist primarily of new compositions.

Five By Five …Or Is That Six?

With the coming of the LP there followed the EP, and in the 1950s and 1960s these were very important releases for any successful artists. With money not as plentiful back then, they filled a gap between the single and the album and in many cases they were specially crafted collections of tracks that could not be bought elsewhere.

Five by Five ad

After their chart-topping debut EP released in early 1964 The Rolling Stones followed it with another in August of the same year. Suffice to say this is a very special record, one that paid homage to their blues roots and at the same time helped establish the band’s ‘sound’. It was recorded on 11th June at Chess Studios in Chicago and is a mix of band originals and blues and R & B covers.

Cunningly entitled, “Five by Five”…there are five tracks by the five man Stones… it is a little white lie in that Ian Stewart plays organ on a couple of tracks, including the band composition, ‘2120 South Michigan Avenue’ which is of course the address of Chess Records.

The sound that was created by Chess engineer, Ron Malo, was perfect, when added to the ‘young guns on hallowed ground’ approach of the Rolling Stones. As the band’s manager, and producer, Andrew Loog Oldham says in his liner notes, “This new EP was recorded in Chicago during their recent American tour and is yet another showcase for their exciting vocalising and unique instrumental sound. And by way of saying ‘thank you’ to you, their friends and fans, we have included an extra track on this their latest disc outing.”

The Stones pay tribute to Chuck Berry by way of ‘Around and Around’ and while they were recording it, the Chess legend visited the studios, keen to see his song covered. When they finished playing he said, “Swing on, gentlemen, you are sounding most well, if I may say so.” Also featured is ‘Confessin’ The Blues’ a song that was a hit for Chuck Berry, although not written by the guitarist. Along with these was a Wilson Pickett song, ‘If You Need Me’, that was covered by Soloman Burke. The fifth song on the EP was ‘Empty Heart’, another Nanker Phelge tune – this being the writing credit the band gave to group compositions.

On 7 August 1964 the NME announced that sales of the band’s latest single ‘It’s All Over Now’ (also recorded at Chess) had reached the half million mark in the UK, and the advance orders for ‘Five by Five’ were 180,000. The EP even reached No.7 on the NME singles chart and failed by just three places to emulate the Beatle’s ‘Twist and Shout’ EP which made No. 4 in August 1963. The Beatles and the Stones were the only two bands in the sixties to achieve such strong sales with their EPs. The Five By Five EP made No.1 on 29 August 1964 and stayed there for the next 15 weeks.