From Library Journal
Elvis might still reign as the king of rock'n' roll, but Chuck Berry clearly invented the form. Strangely, not much has been written about the seminal songwriter ("Maybellene," "Johnny B. Goode"). Berry himself had the last word in his rather explicit 1986 autobiography. Here Pegg (writing, Syracuse Univ.) attempts to clarify his often troubled life, chronicling Berry's childhood in a segregated and racist St. Louis, successes and failures with Chess Records, run-ins with the law, and ultimate icon status. Interviews with friends and associates shed light on the shadows that Berry was reluctant to reveal in his autobiography (e.g., he was arrested under the Mann Act for allegedly having sex with a minor). Pegg also examines each of Berry's records in depth, tracing the development of his groundbreaking blend of blues, hillbilly, and jazz. Well-known as a gifted guitarist, Berry is also revealed to be a serious businessman. Pegg alternates between hagiography and harsh judgments of Berry, making the book feel off-balance. In spite of this shortcoming, Pegg provides an often-engaging portrait of a musician so devoted to his music that he is duck-walking his way into his eighties. The only biography on Berry in print, this is recommended for most libraries. (Photos not seen.) Henry L. Carrigan Jr., Lancaster, PA
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"Pegg reminds us that if Elvis led the youthquake of the 1950s, it was Berry who became its unlikely poet laureate."
-"Shepherd Express, January 9, 2003
"A measured, carefully constructed tome built upon meticulous research, yet it avoids the sort of dense, impenetrable style of so many scholastic rock bios."
-St. Louis Riverfront Times
"The staggering amount of research Pegg has done into Berry's southern roots and St. Louis makes its own statement about Berry's stature as an artist, while the analysis of individual songs...places Berry in a historical continuum while still conveying his out-of-the-blue uniqueness."
"Pegg's scholarship is tidy, his writing is clear and straightforward."
-The Los Angeles Times