My Day with Chuck Berry

Today rock legend Chuck Berry died.

I had the honor of booking the great Chuck Berry to play a private company event some years back. His rider was unique; his fee by wire in advance, his room a Presidential-level Suite at a five-star hotel, a new white Lincoln Continental that he would drive himself, and a refundable first class airline ticket by FedEx.

I went to meet his plane and give him the keys to the white Lincoln. I thought being in first class he would be among the first off. Instead he was last off. I later figured out he exchanged the $2800 first class ticket for a $300 coach ticket and kept the $2500 difference. I held out the key to the Lincoln. He waved it off, “You drive me.”

He played an amazing show that rocked the house. As he was coming off stage one of our clients yelled to me waving a roll of of $100 bills. He said, “Gary, here’s $3500 if Chuck will play ‘Nadine’ again.” I said, “Hold up Chuck, we have request for a special encore. This gentleman will give you $3500 to play Nadine again.” I started to count out the roll of cash. I got to about $800 when Chuck took the roll out of my hand and headed back on stage.

After the show I told him I’d drive him to his hotel and his Presidential suite. He said, “Nah, just take me to something near the airport.” So I did. The Ramada desk clerk said there were no rooms available because Chuck Berry was playing a private event nearby. I just kind of nodded toward the drive. She leaned over the counter to look and there he was in a bright red shirt and a white captain’s hat.

The clerk handed me a room key. No registration. No bill. Just respect to the father of rock ‘n roll.