Personnel includes: Chuck Berry (vocals, guitar, steel guitar); Hubert Sumlin, Matt Murphy (guitar); Johnnie Johnson (piano); G. Smith, Willie Dixon (bass); Fred Below, Ebby Hardy, Jasper Thomas (drums); The Ecuadors (background vocals).
Producers: Leonard Chess, Phil Chess.
Compilatin producer: Andy McKaie.
Recorded between 1955 & 1965. Includes liner notes by Bill Dahl.
Chuck Berry grew up on the blues, taking Muddy Waters as a particular hero, so when he signed with Chess Records in the mid-'50s, the label undoubtedly figured they were getting a blues artist. Which Berry was, but his bright, skittering guitar style and penchant for writing songs with lyrics that set aside blues clich‚s for something closer to beat poetry meant Berry's forward-looking version of the blues became something else altogether, creating the very template for rock & roll. It also brought a younger teenaged audience into the game, and Berry increasingly aimed for it. But before that groundbreaking shift in style and demographic, Berry turned out some interesting straight blues sides for Chess, several of which are collected here, and it's intriguing to wonder what might have happened had Berry stuck with the blues rather than redefining it into rock & roll. Highlights include the powerful "Wee Wee Hours," a chugging version of Don Raye's "Down the Road a Piece," a try at Guitar Slim's "Things I Used to Do," the hybrid "Driftin' Blues," which features a near doo wop backup chorus, and a revved up and rocking rendition of W.C. Handy's "St. Louis Blues." Berry's guitar work is revealing on these early numbers, his tone always bright and fresh, as if he was a colt who just couldn't wait to get out there and run. And run he did. ~ Steve Leggett