Tuesday, August 21 , 2018, 12:10 am | A Few Clouds 67º


Jeff Moehlis: Hail, Hail Chuck Berry

The rock-and-roll legend reels and rocks Hootenanny 2010

When it comes to the early history of rock-and-roll, the giants are Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard and the four Bs — Bo (Diddley), Buddy (Holly), Bill (Haley) and (Chuck) Berry.

Two of the three on this list who are still alive — Berry and Lewis — were scheduled to perform at Hootenanny 2010 at Oak Canyon Ranch in Irvine on July 3. (For the record, Little Richard is also still alive, and Elvis is indeed dead.)

Disappointingly, Lewis, who turns 75 in September, had to cancel at the last minute because of illness. Let’s hope that he is back in action soon.

On the other hand, 83-year-old Berry was certainly feeling good as he played a helping of his witty guitar-driven gems that helped define rock-and-roll more than 50 years ago. He kicked off with a trio of classics: “Roll Over Beethoven,” which was memorably covered by The Beatles; “School Days,” which declares “Hail, hail rock and roll / Deliver me from the days of old”; and “Sweet Little Sixteen,” the blueprint for The Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ USA.”

Berry’s set also included the playfully raunchy “My Ding-A-Ling” — amazingly, his only No. 1 single — and “You Never Can Tell,” which was memorably used for John Travolta and Uma Thurman’s dance scene in Pulp Fiction.

Berry is quite sprightly, walking around stage as he plays and even doing a brief 83-year-old version of his famous duck walk to a roar from the crowd. His singing voice is still amazingly good. And although his guitar playing might show his age, I’m willing to cut the old guy some slack, and will go out on a limb and say that even his wrong notes ooze with a certain rock-and-roll authenticity.

Berry was accompanied by bassist Jim Marsala, keyboardist Andy Hill and 3 Bad Jacks drummer Kyle Helm, who seemed to have a smile on his face the whole set. The latter two were local recruits for the show, essentially thrown into the enviable opportunity of playing with one of the true originals.

When he grew tired — understandable at his age — Berry slowed things down with the standards “Every Day I Have the Blues” and “(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons.”

Berry closed with a rockin’ medley of “Carol” and “Little Queenie,” then “Memphis, Tennessee” in response to a request from the audience, and finally the guitar masterpiece “Johnny B. Goode.” For this last song, he invited a group of women to come up onstage to dance, and even let a little girl help play his guitar.

Although Berry’s one-hour set was too short to hit all of his great songs — for example, he didn’t play “Maybellene,” “Rock and Roll Music,” “Too Much Monkey Business,” black pride song “Brown Eyed Handsome Man,” “Reelin’ and Rockin’,” or “No Particular Place To Go” — it still was a joy to behold a legend who had almost incalculable influence on rock-and-roll.

The day included many other acts that were popular with the predominantly Orange County psychobilly crowd, ranging from Whorehouse Massacre, who played an impassioned set on the second stage, and 3 Bad Jacks, who inspired a huge wrecking pit, to raucous Texas-based alt-country band Old 97’s, to Nick 13 and psychobilly favorites Tiger Army playing a country-infused set.

But for my money, it was Berry who ruled the Hootenanny, and made it well worth the drive down from Santa Barbara. Click here for more photos.


Roll Over Beethoven
School Days
Sweet Little Sixteen
Every Day I Have the Blues
Let It Rock
My Ding-A-Ling
Wee Wee Hours
You Never Can Tell
Around and Around
(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons
Carol / Little Queenie
Memphis, Tennessee
Johnny B. Goode

Noozhawk contributor Jeff Moehlis is an associate professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.

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