In 1994 I had the opportunity to work with Chuck Berry. I was young and barely knew what I was doing but it was a great learning experience.
I had been playing with a pianist named Daryl Davis while I was in Washington D.C. and trying to move to New York City to be a full time professional musician. I did several blues gigs with Daryl and after a while he asked me to perform with Chuck who he had known for many years. I said, “Hell yeah!”
Why wouldn’t I?
Well, my first gig was at a place called Tramps in the Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan. I’ll never forget it because it was my first big gig in the city. A few people who I just met came to see me there and I thought I had officially “made it.” A pretty big venue with an international living legend! I was really excited.
Well, the feeling was short lived. During the second song, Chuck turned around and gave me one of the nastiest looks. I was playing in one tempo and Mr. Berry was in another. His look was like he was saying, “Look motherf*cker, play MY Goddamn tempo! Do you know who I AM?!?”
Well, I carefully adjusted what I was doing and played with him. I guess I was a bit too excited.
We got through the gig and I had a blast.
I played with him again at an outdoor show and I did a week with him in Atlantic City. All of the gigs were fun. It is an honor to have worked with him.
One thing learned from him is how the music business can operate. I didn’t expect much and I was kinda just happy to play with him. But, he got paid $35,000 in cash and I got $90. Yup.
He deserves every penny he can get, but I know that I certainly wouldn’t do that at this point in my career. No sir! Get a young kid to do that or pay me a whole lot more for my time.
There is money to be made in the music biz. You have to find the people with the money and have them funnel those funds into your accounts.
I’m glad I had this experience. It’s fun to look back at these photos to remember a certain time in my life that I’ll never forget.