On Saturday, October 27, we were truly honored when Hall of Fame Inductee and 2012 American Music Masters honoree Chuck Berry – along with his family, band members, and friends – paid a visit to the Rock Hall’s Library and Archives. After I gave them a brief overview of the Library and Archives and a quick tour of our Library Reading Room, Berry and his group spent time viewing the materials in our Chuck Berry archival exhibit, which was curated by our head archivist Jennie Thomas. Next, the Rock Hall's curatorial director Howard Kramer and I led the group into our Archives Reading Room, where I had pulled out a number of materials from our collections in advance of the group’s visit.
These materials included posters from 1950s rock and roll shows featuring Berry himself, as well as legendary performers such as Big Joe Turner, Muddy Waters, and Elmore James; photographs of Louis Jordan from various archival collections; recording session logs from the Milt Gabler Papers; our collection of Big Joe Turner’s personal papers, which includes letters, passports and photographs; 78-rpm records of the Nat King Cole Trio and the Benny Goodman Sextet (the latter featuring one of Berry’s guitar heroes, Charlie Christian); a 45-rpm record of Big Joe Turner’s “Wee Baby Blues,” the song that inspired Berry’s own early hit “Wee Wee Hours”; and deejay Alan Freed’s senior-year high school yearbook and personal family photographs. Berry was delighted and occasionally moved to see these unique and rare items relating to so many of his musical heroes and personal friends, and he was impressed by the fact that our Library and Archives makes these materials available to anyone who wants to use them for their research.
Berry’s visit was quite an unexpected surprise for the patrons who happened to be at the Library and Archives when he arrived that afternoon. For those of us fortunate enough to work here, it was definitely a highlight of our week, if not our careers! Since the Library and Archives first opened to the public 10 months ago, we’ve certainly had some cool people walk in, but I think we can all agree that they don’t come much cooler than Chuck Berry. Hail, hail, rock and roll!
To learn more about Chuck Berry and to explore the Library and Archives’ resources about him, please visit the Chuck Berry subject guide.
(pictured, top: (l-r) Library and Archives director Andy Leach, Chuck Berry, Themetta; bottom: (l-r) Rock Hall curatorial director Howard Kramer, Chuck Berry, Library and Archives director Andy Leach)