Chuck Berry, rock ‘n’ roll pioneer, master guitarist … and actor? Certainly not his greatest skill, but Berry did take his shot as a thespian – by playing versions of himself – in two feature films.
First up was Go, Johnny, Go! (1959), with Berry playing the fictional partner of pioneering rock deejay and promoter Alan Freed, also playing himself. Berry “puts in a good, low-key performance,” according to the reference book Hollywood Rock. He also sings Johnny Be Goode, Memphis and Little Queenie. Other musical acts in the film include Jackie Wilson, Eddie Cochran and Ritchie Valens.
Then, 17 years later, Berry played a younger version of of his real rock star self in the Freed bio-pic American Hot Wax (1976). Tim McIntire stars as Freed, and Berry – in a small role toward the end of the film – saves a pivotal concert from police interference by performing for free. Hollywood Rock called this a “fairy tale” since Berry was well known as a “notorious penny-pincher.” He also sings Roll Over Beethoven and Reelin’ and Rockin. Other musical acts in the film include Jerry Lee Lewis singing Great Balls of Fire. Saturday Night Live’s Lorraine Newman has perhaps her greatest movie role, and Jay Leno acts!
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