Chuck Berry: The True King of Rock and Roll

By Anjali Nayak 

Welcome to the early 1950s of America. The Montgomery Bus rebellions are in full swing, the shape of DNA  has been recently discovered, and blasting out of every jukebox in town is Chuck Berry’s Berry on Top. Donning a sly grin and the iconic cherry red Gibson, Chuck Berry was truly like no other. With obvious influences from the rhythm and blues that dominated the 1940s, Berry released one of the most influential albums of all time. Classics such as Maybelline, Johnny B. Goode (popularized by Back to the Future) and Carol, make others easily mistake the LP for a Classic Hits Compilation. Paving the way for Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles, and other future rock stars, Berry released the first defining Rock and Roll album.

When making a case for Chuck Berry’s rock royalty, it’s hard to ignore the giant diamond studded elephant in the room. Chuck Berry was the creator of the genre, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins all added their own twist, but no one reached the peak of stardom like Elvis. Releasing hits such as “Hound Dog” and “Heartbreak Hotel,” Elvis Presley was one of the first rockstars. A teenage heartthrob with a chiseled jaw and baby blue eyes, as well as a deep crooning voice and an energetic presence on stage, Elvis is one of the most iconic musicians of all time. However, there is one deciding factor to the success of Elvis and Chuck Berry, their skin color. 

Although in the wake of a new social movement, racism still maintained a big influence on the music industry and the vast majority of artists played on the radio were white. Elvis was simply “a white man with the black sound and the black feel.” Although black musicians were just as good as white musicians, the public audience was  not as willing to listen to them because of their race. Not to say that Elvis has little to no talent, but him being white and more socially acceptable might be the reason for his immense stardom. Listening to both of their music, one can hear the obvious similarities between the two types of music. Not to discredit Elvis Presley, but now is the time for Chuck Berry to take his throne.