Berry Is On Top (1959)

Chuck Berry

The old trickster of rock revives his ES-350T for his new record (at least for the album cover)

You can expect anything from an old trickster. Said in the kindest sense of the word, although in Chuck Berry's case, maybe it falls short for some spells of his life by ending up with his carcass and guitar in jail. He had had this record composed since 2012, and already recorded, but has waited until his 90th birthday in 2016 to announce its year.
That's the advantage of being immortal.

At the same time he recalls that he’d never dedicated one to Toddy, the woman he married 68 years ago. The most pleased of all, was his son Charles Berry Jr., who accompanies his father on guitar.  ‘An honour’, says this offspring of the man who gave rock n roll its true essence.
With Elvis’ consent, of course.


While his new album is released, (Chuck is the original title) we'll need to rev up the engines on his classics, and none better than Berry Is On Top from 1959, considered to be his masterpiece. It contains many of his biggest hits, those which have never stopped blaring at any party worthy of being called a party, whether with his quiff or long mane, Johnny B. Goode, Roll Over Beethoven, Carol...but also some almost forgotten gems like Blues for Hawaiians, a
delicate instrumental piece just before the short, and a no-less brilliant tease than Hey Joe.

It was the era of his mythic Gibson ES-350T from 1957, and some of its versions: the 335 and 355. These were part of his image and of his legend during the Chess times. Later on, he would replace them with a Les Paul Custom before donning the Lucille signature, all well known, whose secrets were imitated a thousand times generation after generation.  

One after another, from the Beatles to the Rolling Stones, they fell for the lure of the old trickster. It seemed easy to play like him, but they soon found out it wasn't at all. And they surrendered at his feet. It was quite a challenge for Harrison, Richards and company.

To keep up with him in those days you had to be Bo Diddley, whose unmistakable Gretsch he had to face (there's no other word to describe it) in August 1964 in one of the biggest super-sessions of all times. Both alone in the studio. Two Great Guitars was the name modestly given to that essential and memorable record.


The colour of his skin snatched the crown of rock and roll from them, again with Elvis’ consent. If the Chuck Berry official website is to be believed, the album cover of his 90-year-old record, with his new Gibson between his flexed legs, shows him in one of his legendary poses, which set a trend, once again, among the ‘bad boys’ in the hood.

The rest just moved their hips.

For your listening:

Two Great Guitars.

(Images: ©CordonPress)