Losing Chuck Berry to the ages

Chuck Berry. Even more than 20 years after hitting the scene he was still putting on the act in the 70s.

Rock and roll pioneer and legend Chuck Berry died Saturday at his home in St. Charles County, Missouri, not far from St. Louis.

Although I grew up with his music, I saw him in concert during the 1970s while photographing the Mississippi River Festival on the campus of Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville just across the river from the Gateway City.

He appeared at rock and roll revival shows, even tried to crash one where he was not on the bill, and put on a show to remember.

At his first appearance at MRF — July 29, 1971 — my review said he seemed tired and not very energetic.  Some readers of The Telegraph disagreed with me in letters to the editor.   Berry appeared again on June 24, 1977, and my review then praised his performance.  He appeared more into the show.

Berry’s sprawling farm near Wentzville, Missouri, in St. Charles County, also housed Mid-America Raceway, which hosted sports car races and I photographed several, including actor and racer Paul Newman when he was chasing one of his championships with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA).

I spent a lot of my time at the MRF, photographing rock, pop, jazz and other music acts and often reviewing the shows for The Telegraph, the daily newspaper in Alton, Illinois, near SIUE.

The summer festival in a natural amphitheater on the university grounds was the scene of many good shows, including The Who, Grateful Dead, The Eagles, Arlo Guthrie & Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Harry Chapin, Gordon Lightfoot, Three Dog Night and many other big acts of the 70s.

It was a pleasure to photograph the concerts.  Most of my best photos of the era are in whatever happened to the negative archives of The Telegraph.  I have some prints, though, and a lot of great memories.

The Mississippi River Festival on the grounds of Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.
Review of the rock and roll revival show in 1971.

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© 2021 Blue Ridge Muse