Chuck Berry’s funeral was attended by a fleet of white cadillacs, and a host of family and celebrities.
Marshall Chess was interviewed by Billboard after the proceedings.
In 1955 I was riding around with my dad Leonard. Back then, car radios had buttons that you programmed to go to your favorite stations, and my dad was a maniac. He never listened to an entire song. He would just keep pushing buttons. That time, though, he pushed a button, on came a song, and my Dad said, “Oh my God,” and slapped the steering wheel. I said, “What’s going on?” And he said, “That’s the number-one white station in Chicago and they just played “Maybellene.”
I had no idea who Chuck Berry was then, but I met him about a year later when my father took me to Alan Freed’s Rock n’ Roll show at the Brooklyn Paramount. Then in 1963, when Chuck got out of prison he drove right to Chicago. I was 21 and working at Chess Records’ offices, and he came in with his guitar and a teeny overnight bag. He wanted to make music and get back to his career.
The last story I told at the funeral was about the last time I saw Chuck. This was probably in the late ‘90s. He was touring with his kids Ingrid and Chuck Jr. and he played B.B. King’s in Times Square. Jamar wanted to meet him, so we went backstage. We were hugging and kissing, the whole thing. He introduced me to his kids, and I introduced him to Jamar. I told him, “You know, Chuck, I’ve never thanked you.” He said, “For what?” I said, “My family’s life changed because of you.” And he looked me in the eye and took my hands and said,” Don’t you know? It’s the same for me.”