Chuck Berry was honored this morning by his hometown of St. Louis with the dedication of an eight-foot-tall statue in his honor. "It's glorious – I do appreciate it to the highest, no doubt about that," Berry told Rolling Stone just prior to the ceremony in University City, just outside St. Louis. "That sort of honor is seldom given out. But I don't deserve it."
The project caused controversy last month when Elsie Glickert, a former University City council member, charged that the privately funded statue was a poor use of public property, given Berry's checkered past. "This man is a felon and not a friend of women," she said.
Her petition to block the statue was signed by over 100 residents, but no protesters showed up to the ceremony. Instead, several hundred fans braved temperatures that soared into the 90s to catch a glimpse of Berry, 84, who was dressed in a denim shirt, string tie and his trademark sailor's cap.
Elvis Costello sent his regards to Berry via a taped message. "Congratulations to everybody for getting a beautiful statue of Chuck Berry put up in St. Louis where it belongs," Costello said. "I guess now the campaign begins to have another statue in every town that Chuck Berry mentioned in his songs."
Other greetings for Berry came from across the musical spectrum, with messages from Little Richard, Merle Haggard, Aerosmith's Joe Perry, and former Doobie Brother Michael McDonald, a St. Louis native.
"I'm not going to keep you out here for very long," Berry told the crowd. "I don't know how to speak. I can sing a little bit. Thank you and I love you all."