Saddened to hear of the passing of Chuck Berry. Like many fellow guitar players, I was drawn to the sound of the instrument after hearing Chuck — well, for me it was hearing George Harrison, and then going back to discover Chuck. I had one of the most incredible episodes of my musical career when I played in Chuck’s pick-up band on an Australian tour many years ago. Many of my friends know this story (I’ve dined out on it for years..!) but for those of you don’t know it, this is the abbreviated version.
On this particular night, excited to be not only meeting one of my heroes but actually playing in his band, Chuck was up to his notorious best. He left the stage early in the first show and refused to return despite the crowd booing and feeling ripped off, he demanded more money from the promoter, and by the time he eventually got back on stage for the second show (when the compromise with the promoter was to let the audience for the first show remain for the second), he was absolutely shitfaced. The stuff that happened on stage I could write about for pages, but the incredible moment for me as when someone stood on his guitar lead and snapped it off, so Chuck came over to me and said “man, I’m gonna take your guitar, you keep playing the right hand”. With that he crouched down beside me, took over the left hand on the fretboard, lifted my strap off with his right hand, and put it over his neck, and took over with the right hand. There was only one problem..Chuck finished his sets by just walking off the stage and letting the band finish the song. He couldn’t do that this time, because there would be no guitar playing ! So he called me over and we did the same thing in reverse, he walked off the stage and I finished the song with he band. Unbelievable. I got to actually share my guitar with Chuck Berry.
I wrote this song many years later to commemorate that story. It’s called “When Heroes Turn Villains” and it’s off my GREEN SIDE UP album from 2014. Do I really think my hero became a villain that night? Well, he certainly behaved badly I guess, but hell, not only did I share the stage with a legend, I got the story of a lifetime out of it. The guitar I used that night by the way, is the very same Gibson SG in this video (go to my video page).