The Day Chuck Berry Sucker Punched Keith Richards


Keith Richards may not look like he's having the time of his life if you see him on stage with the Stones, but trust him, he is!! Telling GQ Magazine he lives for the live shows even though at times in the vast past legacy of the band, Keith has performed shows in a, shall we say, compromised state? In an interview with the men's 'zine he recollects being at shows where he was merely planted, never moving except to deliver killer guitar riffs while Mick did the heavy lifting of prancing around on stage. There were other times he was feeling 'more active' during shows, and once while performing solo, he fell asleep mid-song foot on the reverb pedal, awakening to an ear splitting feed back loop. But these days, cleaner living has resulted in a cerebral Keith Richards, spending the Covid lockdown in Connecticut reading literature in his multi-story manse library and indulging his model wife and daughters until he can get back out there on the road. And nobody wants that to happen more than fans like me who are stuck holding the multi hundred dollar tix til whenever.

Keith also remembers meeting an idol, Chuck Berry backstage after one of the Chucker's gigs at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles where he was so geeked to see Berry, he jumped up on stage to perform. Chuck's bodyguards gave the Rolling Stone the bum's rush--with Chuck saying, " I didn't know who he was, I thought the cat had something, but I didn't recognize him." Even after they knew each other , Chuck cuffed Keith for picking up his guitar backstage during the filming of the Chuck Berry tribute concert, "Hail Hail Rock n Roll".

It's entertaining to think of Keith as the star struck fan, realizing how close I was to getting smacked upside the head by the famous duckwalker, myself. I worked at a radio station in Columbus when Chuck Berry was in town to perform at the Ohio State Fair, and being a legendary tightwad, Chuck had neglected to arrange transportation from the radio station to his gig, demanding we take him over in the station van. Riding along, I was astonished to be privy to Chuck stripping off his street clothes and suiting up in his performance togs in the back of that van on the way to the show, looking away to respect the star's modesty, of course. There are a lot of stories about Chuck Berry, but the prickly collaboration with Keith is my favorite, though there's also the 'This Day In Rock History' footnote of today's anniversary of Chuck getting out of prison in '79 where he'd done 4 years for tax evasion. Apparently, Willie Nelson wasn't in his orbit to advise Chucker on the finer points of how to avoid doing hard time for ditching your taxes. Hopefully, he hired a better lawyer after that.