Chuck Berry's Celebration of Life took place at the Pageant Theatre in St. Louis' Delmar Loop. Berry family friend reverend Alex I. Peterson officiated. He began by stating that "we are going to celebrate rock n' roll style."
The first of a long series of speakers included Missouri Congressman William Lacy Clay who read a letter penned by former President Bill Clinton. President Clinton spoke of the times he played at both inaugurations and how much his music has influenced the lives of both his and Hillary's lives.
Newly elected St. Louis mayor Lyda Krewson gave a mayoral proclamation. President of the Board of Aldermen for the City of St. Louis, Lewis Reed spoke of the racial advances that were made by Chuck Berry and his music.
Marshall Chess, the son of Chess Records founder Leonard chess, spoke of Chuck attending a Muddy Waters concert and demanding to know how to score a deal. Chuck was waiting for Leonard the next day at Chess Records.. He was signed as the first ever rock n roll artist on the blues label. As Marshall put it, that signing got him a bicycle as rock n roll artists made way more money than blues Musicians. He, also, spoke of how exciting it was to hear Chuck Berry's music on the radio in Chicago on the "White station," a stride that had not been made prior to Berry.
Condolences were sent by Sir Paul McCartney, who had plans with his grandchildren. He said Chuck had quite an influence on he and "his friends."
The Rolling Stones sent a floral arrangement in the shape of a guitar.
As Reverend Peterson warned, the ceremony took a rock n' roll turn as many of Chuck Berry's former backing musicians performed his famous "Johnny B. Goode." Johnny Rivers performed. Rivers, who was on hand last night in the Delmar Loop for "A Toast To Chuck," had a number one hit with Chuck Berry's "Memphis."
In a surprise to many, Gene Simmons showed up. Gene Simmons was in town and actually played the Pageant last night. He was asked to speak and spoke of moving to the United States and how his world changed when he heard Chuck Berry on the radio. It was like nothing he had ever heard before. He recounted how crazy his Hungarian mom thought he was when she saw him dancing to Berry's music. You can't sit still when you hear Chuck Berry.
In one of the most sentimental moments of the ceremony, Berry's family spoke. Two of his grandchildren sang and played the trumpet. The beauty of Chuck Berry is that despite changing music, inspiring those we know as legends today, and achieving worldwide musical success, he never left St. Louis. He was born here, raised here and died here. His son, Charles Berry, Junior, spoke of the 200 plus relatives.
Delmar Loop mogul Joe Edwards choked up as he introduced Berry for the 210th and final time. (Chuck Berry played 209 shows at Edwards' Duck Room inside Blueberry Hill all introduced by his best friend, Joe).
All good things must come to an end. Chuck Berry was buried at Bellerive Gardens Cemetery this evening. He leaves behind his wife Themetta, whom he met in 1948 at the Annie Malone parade in St. Louis' Ville neighborhood.