Lemmy Kilmister (MOTÖRHEAD) was one of the musicians who honored Chuck Berry at the 17th annual American Music Masters tribute concert on Saturday, October 27 at PlayhouseSquare’s State Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio.
Prior to the event, RockHall.com spoke to Lemmy about his impressions of rock and roll’s poet laureate. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
RockHall.com: Do you remember the first time you heard Chuck Berry‘s music?
Lemmy Kilmister: It was on a jukebox where I lived in North Wales, which is pretty desolate, so we didn’t get stuff like London did — there were no TV shows then with rock and roll on them, and there was no way to hear because the radio didn’t play it. You had to tune into Radio Luxembourg, which was in Luxembourg, in Europe, so that was very dodgy with the reception. You’d often find that a song would come on and you didn’t find out who played it until three weeks later — the fucking tuner would fade out. So, I first heard Berry on the jukebox, in the local cafe that we used to go to — I think it was “Sweet Little Sixteen”. I’m not sure. Would’ve been 13-14.
RockHall.com: It must’ve made quite an impression on a teen living in North Wales, no?
Lemmy: There were only two things to be then: you were either in or out. You were either straight or rock and roll. Some songs just spoke to you and some didn’t, and Berry‘s songs always did. We’d already heard Elvis and Little Richard and, I guess, Johnny Burnette — people like that filtered through. But [Berry] was the first one who really told stories.
RockHall.com: Berry had a way with words, a sense of humor, a certain economy of language…
Lemmy: Berry always had humor even though he was going through shit in his life. That was about the same time he went to jail for that bullshit charge involving a minor, which you wouldn’t have ever heard about if it were a white man. He always gave you all the details, even in the car songs, which were kind of state of the art — he’d give you all the makes of the cars, the things he was having done to them to make them fine. In just a few words, he’d lay it all out, and that was his great skill. He was the first one.
Read more from RockHall.com.
Video footage of MOTÖRHEAD covering Chuck Berry‘s classic song “Let It Rock” on the “Late Show With David Letterman” can be seen below.