Chuck Berry is 90 years old today, and for his ninetieth birthday, he announced the release of his newest album dedicated to Themetta “Toddy” Berry, his wife of 68 years.
On his 90th birthday, here are five facts you do not know about the rock and roll legend.
1. Chuck started singing early. He sang in his St. Louis church’s Baptist choir at the age of six. His first performance of note was on his school’s stage singing “Confessin’ the Blues” alongside his friend Tommy Stevens who played guitar. It was actually Stevens who inspired Berry to learn how to play the guitar.
2. From 1948 through 1955, Berry worked as a janitor at Fisher Body auto assembly plant. He also trained to be a hairdresser at the Poro school, has a degree in cosmetology from the Gibbs Beauty School, and freelanced as a photographer.
3. Chuck joined the Sir John Trio in 1953 named after the piano player Johnnie Johnson, who would continue working with Berry and collaborate on many of his hits. In fact, Chuck got the moniker ‘Johnny’ from the pianist. Johnson wrote songs on the piano while berry converted them to guitar and wrote the lyrics.
4. Having been burned, having some issues with the IRS and after studying accounting, Chuck became very concerned about the business side of the business, he never takes the stage unless he is paid in full and only in cash. One notable occasion was in Australia in 1975 where Berry was caught at Sydney Airport with $50,000 in cash in a briefcase.
5. The melody of The Beach Boys’ classic “Surfin’ USA” is so similar to Chuck Berry’s 1958 classic “Sweet Little Sixteen,” that The Beach Boys had to give Chuck co-writing credit on their song. Considering the success of “Surfin’ USA,” the profits from the co-writing credit must rival those of Berry’s original.