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Ridin’ Along in my Automobile

Chuck Berry was one of the early pioneers of rock and roll music in the United States in the 1950s. He developed rhythm and blues into a new style of music, which included showmanship, guitar solos and lyrics that focused on teenage life.

During his long career, spanning more than 60 years, he released 45 singles and 62 albums, including 20 studio albums. His biggest hit singles were his chart-toppers, Maybelline in 1955, School Day in 1957, Sweet Little Sixteen in 1958 and My Ding-a-Ling in 1972.

Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, he was heralded as having "laid the groundwork" for rock and roll. Three of his songs (Maybelline, Rock and Roll Music and Johnny B Goode) were included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's top 500 songs that shaped the genre.

Chuck Berry

Credit: Wikipedia

 

Early years

Born Charles Edward Anderson Berry in October 1926, into a middle-class family in the neighbourhood of The Ville, St Louis, he became interested in music in his youth and gave his first public performance in 1941, at the age of 15, while a student at Sumner High School.

On leaving school, he took a factory job at an automobile assembly plant, while playing with local bands in the blues clubs of St Louis as a source of extra income. His great showmanship and his musical mix of R&B, country and Muddy Waters-style blues attracted a wider audience.

It was Muddy Waters who advised Berry to contact Leonard Chess, of Chess Records, which proved to be a useful move. He won his first record deal and on 21st May 1955, he recorded Maybelline, the song that rocketed him to the top of the US R&B chart. It sold more than one million copies and made Berry a star overnight.

By the end of the decade, he was a well-established recording artist, with three US number one hits under his belt. His success continued into the 1960s with more hit singles, such as Nadine in 1964, followed by No Particular Place to Go later the same year.

 

Inspiration

For Berry, there was a personal meaning behind No Particular Place to Go, which made number ten in the American singles chart and number three in the UK. Released as a single on 1st May 1964, it was also a track on Berry's album, St Louis to Liverpool, in November 1964.

It was claimed that the inspiration for the lyrics came from a time in Berry's youth, before he became a musician, when he spent much time hanging around with "no particular place to go". However, rather than it being a serious song making a social comment, Berry turned it into a catchy tune with a comic slant.

The lyrics describe how he's cruising round in his car, his girlfriend beside him, when they decide to pull over, but she can't undo her seatbelt and eventually they realise she's trapped in the car!

The opening line is one of the most famous in rock and roll history: "Driving along in my automobile, my baby beside me at the wheel." He describes how they are "cruisin' and playin' the radio, with no particular place to go" when they begin feeling a little amorous, "cuddling more and driving slow". So they cruise into a parking spot, but Berry says, "Can you imagine the way I felt? I couldn't unfasten her safety belt!"

They realise the seatbelt is well and truly jammed and they have to drive off again, with Berry bemoaning what had happened and adding, "All the way home I held a grudge, for the safety belt that wouldn't budge."

 

Reaction

Despite the song being filled with innuendo and the suggestion that the couple were about to get amorous in the car, it had no problems getting past the censors. Berry's stinging guitar, played over Paul Williams' rollicking piano and drummer Odie Payne's distinctive stop-and-start beats, made it a hit with the critics and fans alike. It was described as a "standard cruising number" for road trips, as it was only two minutes and 37 seconds long, which was the typical length of "driving" songs.

Berry wasn't so lucky with his subsequent innuendo-filled song, the novelty hit My Ding-a-Ling, which provoked outrage in the UK after moral campaigner Mary Whitehouse picked up on its suggestive lyrics and declared it a disgrace!

 

Later career

Berry continued playing, recording and touring up to his death at the age of 90 in March 2017. In 2008, at the age of 81, he completed a major European tour, taking in Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Poland, Switzerland and Spain. He also played at the Virgin Festival in Baltimore, Maryland. He continued his gruelling schedule but collapsed during a concert in Chicago on New Year's Day 2011. He was diagnosed as suffering from exhaustion and was helped off the stage.

At the age of 90, he recorded his final studio album, called Chuck, which was released posthumously in June 2017. His children, Charles Berry Jnr and Ingrid, played guitar and harmonica on the album. He dedicated the album to Toddy, his wife of 68 years, describing the music as songs that were "time capsules of a life's work".

Chuck Berry wrote a hit song about a car malfunction, but it's no laughing matter when your car isn't in good shape! Make sure you look after your automobile properly by using Coruba's high quality rubber matting for vehicles to help prevent wear and tear.

Available in all shapes and sizes, it is suitable for cars, vans, lorries and pick-up trucks. Please contact us for details.



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