Keith Richards Remembers Chuck Berry, the ‘Granddaddy’ of Rock and His Former Temporary Roommate

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Photo: Terry O'Neill/Getty Images

Keith Richards has always been forthright about Chuck Berry’s influence on his music, but the memories of Berry he shares with Rolling Stone are more nuanced than pure adulation. For starters, the now deceased music icon once punched Richards in the face. The black eye, or as the Rolling Stones guitarist calls it, “Berry’s greatest hit,” came after Richards started picking Berry’s guitar backstage without asking permission. “I realized I was in the wrong,” Richard said. “If I walked into my dressing room and saw somebody fiddling with my ax, it would be perfectly all right to sock ‘em, you know? I just got caught.”

It would seem the Berry forgave Richards this mistake, however, because by the 1980’s Richards was planning a full-on 60th birthday bash for the older rocker with Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll!. While producing and working on the documentary film (which the director Taylor Hackford recalled being a “nightmare” to film), Richards lived in Berry’s home for a few weeks, a living arrangement Richards considered “a childhood dream come true.” Like many musicians, Richards believed Chuck Berry to be largely responsible not only for his own sound but for rock n’ roll as a genre. “Chuck is the granddaddy of us all,” Richards said. “Even if you’re a rock guitarist who wouldn’t name him as your main influence, your main influence is probably still influenced by Chuck Berry.”

Keith Richards Remembers Chuck Berry, ‘Granddaddy’ of Rock