One of the highlights of my long career in radio was the night I got to host Chuck Berry at the Ritz in the 80’s.
I’m a HUGE Chuck Berry fan and the man is a LEGEND, not to mention one of the founding fathers of rock n roll. A friend who worked in a photo lab surprised me with a blow up of a classic black and white photo of Chuck doing the duck walk. So I brought the poster sized photo with me that night to the club with the intention of getting Chuck to sign it. When I checked in at the manager’s office and told him I wanted to get Chuck to sign something for me he proceeded to lecture me on how I should stay away from Chuck because he was mean as a snake! Then he told me the famous story about how Chuck was playing at the club a few years before and when Keith Richards went up to his dressing room to say hello Chuck decked him with one punch to the face exclaiming ‘you’re one of those white boys gettin’ rich off my music!”
Undeterred, I went backstage to check in with the stage manager and told him my plan. Again I was told in no uncertain terms, STAY AWAY FROM CHUCK he’s a real S.O.B.! Then suddenly, who should appear in the wings on the other side of the stage, but Chuck Berry himself. As you might imagine, at this point I was pretty wary about approaching him, but I thought hell he’s Chuck effin’ Berry will I ever have another opportunity to meet this giant of an artist and one of my rock heroes? So I quelled my fear and walked over and introduced myself and wouldn’t you know, Chuck was a living doll, sweet and kind. When I told him I was from radio station WLIR he said “I know that station, I’ve been there! It’s in Hempstead right?” After chatting for awhile I asked him if he would sign the photograph and he said “well of course I will darlin'” And he autographed it to me and my boyfriend (who is now my husband).
Now usually when a DJ is hosting a show in a big venue, we don’t actually bring the band on stage, they usually have a recorded intro that they use as the stage lights come up. But not Chuck, he was so chill he walked right on stage with me and after my introduction gave me a great big kiss right there on stage. I was in HEAVEN and it’s a moment I’ll never forget.
God bless you Chuck and may you rest in peace. Your music will live forever.