Chuck Berry Collapses In Chicago
As reported by the Chicago Tribune and on the All Songs Considered blog, Chuck Berry collapsed at a New Year's Day concert at the Congress Theater in Chicago. At 84 years old, Berry, a St. Louis native and one of the founding fathers of Rock 'n Roll, is one of only a few original Rock 'n Roll performers still living. In a profession where many of the stars die earlier than most of the general public, Berry's longevity seems miraculous.
Berry began with show with "Roll Over Beethoven," one of his many classic 1950's hits, which formed the foundation for guitar-based rock and roll that heavily influenced bands like The Beach Boys, The Beatles, and the Rolling Stones among others. Berry made his way through several songs and snippets of songs, but many were performed at slower than usual tempo or inconsistent. After a version of "Reelin' and Rockin'", Berry made his way to the piano, where the show came to an end.
Berry apparently briefly lost consciousness after slumping over the piano while on stage. He tried to resume the show about 15 minutes later, but he was escorted from the stage when paramedics arrived to check out the musician. Chicago Tribune reporter Kevin McKeough reported, "After being examined, Berry returned one last time to thank the fans who had waited in hopes for the show to continue, but he left the stage -- using a bit of his signature "duck walk" -- without playing again. Shortly afterward, he walked out of the theatre's stage door on his own into an awaiting limousine. Berry signed a release saying he was OK, and he was not taken to a hospital, according to Fire Department spokesman Joe Roccasalva."
"Obviously, something was off," said concert promoter Michael Petryshyn. "Fifteen minutes into the set it went from fine to something wasn't right. He was starting songs mid-song, playing 15 seconds of a song."
Berry has entertained the music fans in St. Louis almost monthly for the past 15 or so years by playing sold out shows at Blueberry Hill in University City or at the Argosy Casino in Alton, IL. However, in this case Berry's schedule may have contributed to the collapse. The previous night, Berry played a New Year's Eve show at B.B. King's Blues Club in New York City. According to his website, Berry played 30 dates in 2010. He played about three dates a month except for playing three days in a row in May on a rare trip outside the country to Brazil.
I'm sorry to see his health be in that shape," piano player Vijay Tellis-Nayak from the Chicago show said. "He obviously loves performing. The music is still there. It's hard to see his health deteriorating. He may be working harder than he should."
After the remainder of the concert was cancelled Berry left the theater on his own and refused an ambulance. Reportedly Berry flew back home to St. Louis to recover and his representative reported to the Chicago Tribune that the musician was in good health. Berry's next performance at Blueberry Hill in U-City is scheduled for Wednesday, January 19. At this time it is unclear if Berry will keep the scheduled performance. Check back with the Blueberry Hill website for further details.
Here's a clip of Berry in his prime from a French TV performance: