The True Story of "Chuck Berry, Live At The Roxy."
Posted by John Rhys on Thursday, March 30, 2017 4:27 PM
The call came a few hours after I returned home from a job in Tokyo early in 1982. My friend, Artie Epstein was frantic. It seems he had just produced a show at the Roxy Theater featuring Chuck Berry and, though hiring the best pre and post production house in Hollywood, found serious problems with the recorded master video and audio tapes.
When I arrived the next morning at 10 am at Motown Studios, I found the piano track completely missing, as though it was never recorded, which I later found was the case. It seems the engineer was recording while watching the input levels. Had he watched the output levels he would have seen a malfunction in the twenty-four track machine they used. Imagine the engineer's surprise as he went to check the tape after everyone had gone home and found there was "no" piano track.
To complicate matters, on the first song, while setting the mix perifory, I noticed that the sax player's mic wasn't working. I found later that the sax mic had been mislabled as "audience 1". The mistake was corrected on the second song, thank God!
I was amazed! The premiere pre and post company in Hollywood had completely failed and could do nothing about it. Not to mention, Smitty Smith was at that time, one of the best players in town and, try as I may, could not get the piano into the mix. Yes, you can hear him in the house mix loud as hell but nothing went to tape. It's a shame. There are several copies of this show to be found on You Tube. The person who downloaded the show tried to bring up the piano but since it was only available from the monitors, completely screwed up the sound. I mixed the show in mono for TV which was standard at the time. There was no stereo mix!
In case you didn't know, Chuck Berry arrived at his specified time and when he asked for payment prior to the show, they handed him a check. Chuck went ballistic and told them the aggreement was for cash prior to the show. The producer went through all his hoops when he finally realized there was going to be no show unless Chuck got his cash. So the show as delayed over an hour while the producer went to fetch a large sum of cash on a Saturday night. Oh Boy!
As you will see, the show went on with Tina Turner as special guest. However; something happened during Chuck and Tina's only song together (Rock And Roll Music). Tina steps on one of Chuck's lines and (still playing his guitar), Chuck leans over and says something to Tina. At which, Tina backs away from Chuck as he continues the song. After the song completes, Chuck takes a break and Tina never came back to the stage. I wonder what Chuck said?
The show came out well and Chuck was amazing! An interesting feature at the tail end of this concert is Chuck bringing his daughter (Ingrid Berry) onstage to sing a number with him. She did an excellent job.
There is one video tape roll at the very beginning. Otherwise the video is excellent as I took it from the finished master which was given me when I had finished the job.
The "Poet Of Rock and Roll" is gone but his tremendous volume of work will live on in American music history. A true master of the genre, Chuck Berry's voice and inimitable guitar licks will be played for the next millenium by millions of enthusiastic young players. God Speed my brother!
List of musicians:
Piano....William "Smitty" Smith
We at BluePower hope you enjoy this video and the stories behind the concert. It certainly was a night to remember. We wish to thank Arthur Epstein and Oak Media for permission to use this content.
The BluePower team.