The place was packed, and a cloud of pot and other stimulants was obvious.
We were in a small dressing room, when in walks Chuck Berry, carrying his 335 Gibson guitar in his right hand and a beautiful young blond woman in his left. They had just flown in to a nearby airport and driven to the campus. He was very sweet, with soft eyes and an engaging presence.
We had some fun chit-chat, and were about to go on when Chuck looked out to the stage... And saw one Fender Dual Showman rig. His contract calls for two, so he says “Hold up. Where’s the other rig?"
So the stage manager, promoter and a Board of Regency guy from the college started this lame apology, and they went back and forth for a while until Chuck agreed to play with the one rig. Looks like everything is fine, and we head towards the stage door as the dude from the college hands Chuck an envelop with a check for $7500.00…And before we get through the door Chuck yells out “Hold up! we don’t start the show until I get cash. Period.”
Now it was clear that Mr. Berry was not to be F-ed with… He very calmly asked us to come back in the room, relax and wait. He looked at us and said, ”They’ll get the money.” I was very impressed at his resolute position. This was a man who would never be burned again. So even as the crowd of 2500 was pounding the floor, Chuck Berry sat with us, and we talked about guitars, amplifiers, recording and most importantly getting paid in cash before anyone played a note. We could tell there were a lot of phone calls going around to find the money and the crowd was going nuts…this was a Saturday night!
Finally, someone found a local bank official, got the cash and walked in with handfull of $100 bills.
Chuck calmly counted the money, put it in his pocket, and told us to go.
We hit the stage with the crowd erupting as we burned through a 25 minute set. Then, Chuck comes on stage, says to Steve and Allen, “ You know the changes,” and then comes over to me as he’s ripping into Johnny B Good and yells “ You, play fast!”
There I am, at 20 yrs old playing drums for a true R&B legend…it was all so crazy and cool…about half way through the set he came over to me and asked how I was doing.
I’d never played so fast and so hard in my life but I was doing great!
We played all his hits and ended with “My Ding a Ling”. We hit one last rave up, came down on a loud splashy E chord, and hen he and his guitar and his girl friend disappeared… Showbiz is wonderful.