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Chuck Berry Tour memories
by Richard Williams
source : Ted (Kingsize) Taylor


The most memorable concert I did manage to attend at The Odeon was on May 12th 1964, the fourth date of a 22 night package tour headlined by Chuck Berry, with support from Carl Perkins, The Animals, The Nashville Teens and King Size Taylor & The Dominoes. It was great just to see Chuck, who provided so many of us with inspiration for our own bands, but he gave a pretty uninterested performance - as indeed he would do on every subsequent occasion on which I saw him. He was accompanied by King Size Taylor's excellent band, and I seem to remember that about half the set consisted of throwaway instrumentals; has any great songwriter ever taken less obvious pride in his achievements?  But it was enough to hear those guitar intros ringing out, and to witness his perfunctory demonstration of the duck walk.

Carl Perkins was not exactly spectacular either, in his very short set. And so, curiously, the musical highlights were provided by two English bands.

The Animals, of course, were excellent. "Baby Let Me Take You Down", copied from "Baby Let Me Follow You Down" on Bob Dylans first album was nudging the top twenty, and their act still had the R&B edge honed in Newcastle's Clun A Go-Go.  But they also played their epic four and a half minute version of another song from Dylan's debut album: "House Of The Rising Sun". It hadn't yet been released, or heard on the radio, and it's arrangement - featuring Hilton Valentines arpeggiated guitar, Alan Price's wailing Vox Continental Organ and Eric Burdon's baleful vocals - was nothing short of stunning. Five weeks later it would enter the charts on it's way to No. 1. 

It was the same with The Nashville Teens, whose set included John D Loudermilk's "Tobacco Road": another dramatic song, it's structure and mood inspired by the compositions Willie Dixon had provided for Muddy Waters and other blues stars. The group, from the Surrey stockbroker belt, did an enthusiastic job of impersonating the sound of the Chicago stockyards, and by July (1964) they were on their way to the UK Top 10.  By August "The House Of The Rising Sun" was on its way to No 1 in Billboards Hot 100, while "Tobacco Road" topped out at No 14 in the USA a month later. Heard for the first time in live performance, both made an immediate impression.