Although Chuck Berry is regarded as an architect of rock & roll, there’s no denying that country music had a profound and lasting influence on his artistry. Berry, who died Saturday at 90 years old, was an innovative guitarist and extraordinarily gifted lyricist whose earliest influences ran the gamut from Western swing to Cajun music.
Berry created one of the most impressive bodies of work in the history of rock & roll, but could have done none of it without the swing, blues and hillbilly tunes he grew up listening to in St. Louis. One of Berry’s most celebrated hits, “Maybellene,” originated as a tune called “Ida Red,” popularized in the late Thirties by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. In the 1978 book Honkers and Shouters: The Golden Age of Rhythm & Blues, by Arnold Shaw, blues artist Jimmy Witherspoon is quoted as saying, “Chuck Berry is a country singer. People put everybody in categories, black, white, this. Now, if Chuck Berry was white… he would be the top country star in the world.” That claim can certainly be backed up by the vast number of country acts who have paid homage to Berry by covering his songs, putting a country – and in some cases bluegrass – spin on some of his most highly regarded tunes. Here are 10 of the best, including one of Berry’s own takes on a Hank Williams classic.