The Real King of Rock and Roll

This one is gonna get me in a lot of trouble.


Elvis was good, hell Elvis was great.  He made colored music acceptable (or at least accessible) to prejudiced white folks.  He was also a great performer and really probably a pretty good guy all in all.  He could identify a great song.  He was criminally manipulated by his so-called friends and screwed by the US government.  But my friend, I’m sorry to tell you, despite all of this, he is not the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.  No siree.  He is merely the White King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.  Not a bad thing to be really.  Right up there.


So who is the real King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, you ask?  Chuck Berry.  That’s it.  The real King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.  Why?  Because he invented it, plain and simple.  The riffs T-Bone Walker was fingering, Berry was bending; that and four major chords says it all.  Johnny B. Goode is as much an autobiography as any blues song ever written.  At the same time Berry was bending he was also freeing rock and roll from its blues roots, making it acceptable for a white boy to sing and play it.  No more blues minor chords.  We’re off to feelin’ good now.  Off to the Beach.  Surfin’ USA.

Berry is the oh so woefully underappreciated inventor of rock and roll.  No longer would it be called “race music.”  So why is this self evident fact largely unacknowledged.  Why is Elvis the marquee while good ol’ Chuck is almost a footnote?  Why don’t we say:  “Chuck:  The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll?”  Because America was (is?) a racist society that is sculpted by the Media.  Chuck was Black.  Chuck was a Man (not a cute teenager).  Chuck was not the sleek white American ideal of what a star should be.  And heaven forbid that 13-year old white girls should swoon over a black man.


So the next time you listen to Sweet Little Sixteen, Johnny B. Goode, Roll Over Beethoven, Rock and Roll Music, Maybelline, Run Rudolph Run, Little Queeny, Carol, or the Sex Pistols, or Johnny Thunders, or the New York Dolls, or The Ramones, or The Beach Boys, or the early Beatles, or the Rolling Stones remember who the real King of Rock ‘n’ Roll is.

He could play that guitar just like a ringin’ a bell.


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