Ladies and gentlemen, today we celebrate the birthday of the father of rock and roll. Yes, it’s Chuck Berry’s 87th birthday. In the early 1950s, Berry played country riffs over a base of rhythm and blues that would form the basis for early rock and roll.
Berry got his start playing with blues pianist Johnnie Johnson’s trio. The band toured around the South and primarily performed blues. However, they’d occasionally throw in a few country covers. As Berry would later write:
Curiosity provoked me to lay a lot of our country stuff on our predominantly black audience and some of our black audience began whispering ‘who is that black hillbilly at the Cosmo?’ After they laughed at me a few times they began requesting the hillbilly stuff and enjoyed dancing to it.
After a few years on tour, Berry would audition for Leonard Chess’ Chess Records. Although Chess was impressed with Berry’s blues numbers, he was particularly interested in Berry’s revved up take on the traditional American folk song “Ida Red.” Berry would sign to Chess Records and the first thing he’d record was a reworking of “Ida Red” he called “Maybellene.”
“Maybellene” was a smash hit, and soon Berry began setting the gold standard for rock and roll. He was one of rock’s first singer-songwriters, composing clever and iconoclastic songs like “Roll Over Beethoven” and “No Particular Place To Go” that featured pioneering guitar work. Not to mention that Berry helped shaped the look of rock and roll performances with his patented duck walk, which probably inspired Mick Jagger’s famous “rooster strut.” Although it’s been over 40 years since Berry’s last hit song, he still regularly performs and the third Wednesday of every month, he performs at the St. Louis, Missouri area restaurant Blueberry Hill and packs them in.
In 2010, Rolling Stone named Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode,” the “Greatest Guitar Song Of All Time.” The song famously tells the tale of a little country boy with dreams of musical stardom, “who never ever learned to read or write so well/But he could play the guitar like ringing a bell.” So, in the spirit of those lyrics today we’re going to mix a Country Boy Blues. It’s a very sweet blue drink that has a taste of lemonade mixed with berries. I’d advise against having more than one of these in one night; not because it’s highly alcoholic, but because I’m almost afraid it might give you Type 2 Diabetes.
Country Boy Blues
1 ounce Blue Raspberry Vodka
1 ounce Black Cherry Rum
1/2 ounce Blue Curacao
- 1 1/2 ounce sweet sour mix
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.