Monday, March 20, 2017

A Chuck Berry Story From Bobby Corona

My Chuck Berry story… I booked Chuck for two shows at Keystone Palo Alto and it was a big deal because he had not been in Northern California in years. This date followed booking a number of these types of acts, that had not appeared in NorCal for years usually because of tax implications, like James Brown, the Four Tops, the Temps, st cetera. The William Morris agency represented him and my buddy Ronnie Kaye was the agent. Chuck was a notorious no show for performances, but I was willing to book him if I had a minimal deposit and paid the balance at the show. I received the rider if the contract, and it was for a back line of equipment and three musicians that I was to hire. As the date approached, my production manager let me know that he had not heard from a tour or road manager and had no idea on what the specific requests were going to be other than what was on the rider. He had no idea what time Chuck would be arriving for rehearsal, sound check, and light check. A couple days before the date, I got really concerned and called the agency and ask Ronnie what the deal was. The next thing I know, Chuck is on the phone to me personally. I ask him what he needs for the date to be successful, and he says "only cash"... I start laughing until he interrupts me and says, "no brother… What I'm saying is, cash before I go on, handed to me!" I said well OK, but what about rehearsal time and he said, "rehearsal? I don't need no rehearsal." I said what about the three guys he's never played with before and he said, "Son, everybody knows my songs… They grew up on them and everybody knows how to play them". Anyways, the day shows up, we have two shows that are both sold out and he hasn't shown up or called. About an hour before the show, I'm starting to get frantic, as I have sold 1600 seats that night and have no Chuck Berry. My sister runs in the promoters office and says that she happen to pick up the information line to tell people that the show was sold out and that Chuck Berry was on the phone. I pick up and try to be as cool as possible with something like, "where the hell are you, you go on in 90 minutes". He says how far is the club from the airport and I say about 30 minutes and he said "well you better get somebody up here to pick me up if you want me to get on stage". Believe it or not, the only person I had handy to pick him up with my mother! She actually drove a Cadillac Eldorado, which truck loved, up to SFO and picked him up at his gate and brought him to the club. She had a ball and he loved her! When he arrived, it was literally 10 minutes before the show and I handed him five minutes before the first show $5000 in cash for the 8 o'clock and at 10:45 another $5000 cash for the 11 o'clock show. Before both shows, he carefully counted every single hundred to make sure that it is exactly correct and then has me walk him to the stage from the promoters office. He swings his guitar over his shoulder and in front of him, slung over his shoulder, plugs it in from the wing of the stage, shakes my hand, winks at me, and says "watch how it's done son", runs out into the middle of stage center facing the drummer, and yells "every man for himself", and starts ripping into Johnny B. Goode. The band immediately jumps in and finds its way, the audience goes crazy, I start smiling and realizing everything is going to be OK, and you know what? He was right… Everybody knew every one of his songs :-) "Every man for himself…":) I will never forget that as long as I live. RIP Chuck ..

(Courtesy from Laurie at KPIG Radio) 



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