'Hail! Hail! Rock n' Roll' Honors Chuck Berry

Keith Richards, Etta James and others celebrate the father of rock & roll in Los Angeles

Chuck Berry performs onstage with Keith Richards at the Chicago Blues Festival in Chicago, Illinois in 1986.
James Fraher/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
November 19, 1987

"I'm flattered, I'm weak in the knees, and I'm hungry," said Chuck Berry at the premiere of Chuck Berry Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll on what was officially Chuck Berry Day in Los Angeles. Hours earlier, Berry got misty eyed when he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. "I was thinking about how many years had passed and how I was still here," he said later. At the postscreening party, the sixty-year-old rocker jumped up onstage with the band and played "Roll Over Beethoven."

"Nobody feels they're as good as Chuck Berry," said Brian Setter. Luther Vandross said, "I don't move that much now, and I'm thirty-six." Wolfman Jack stated simply, "He's the father of rock & roll." And what does that make Little Richard? "I'm the originator and the emancipator," he cried, then added softly, "I'm just glad he got his dues while he's still alive." Also on hand was rhythm & blues great Etta James, who appears in the documentary. Berry said his favorite part of the movie was "the scene where Keith Richards and I get it on," referring to a somewhat discordant rehearsal. "There were fireworks," said director Taylor Hackford. "Keith forced Chuck for the first time in twenty years to play like he hadn't played in a long time." Hackford added that he was interested in showing what it really took to mount the film's concert. "If it's sweetness and light, everyone kissing on the lips, it's not that interesting to me. These were two strong personalities. The pupil and the mentor, and in this case Keith was the leader of the band, and he put together a great band. Keith forced Chuck to rehearse, and he didn't like that. But there was a mutual respect."

The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time: Chuck Berry, by Keith Richards

What does Berry really think of Richards? "You'll never get anything out of him," growled the Stone, who appeared at the party with wife Patti Hansen on his arm. "Although he says he wants me to produce his next album." Onscreen, Richards says of Berry, "He's given me more headaches than Mick Jagger, but I still cannot dislike him." After the screening of the film, Richards said, "It was worth it."

This story is from the November 19, 1987 issue of Rolling Stone.

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