THOMAS: Today is April 25, 1983. I am Kenn Thomas of the Western Historical Manuscript Collection and I have with me today Ingrid Berry, daughter of Chuck Berry and a musician in her own right.
BERRY: Thank you.
THOMAS: You were born in 1951, is that correct?
THOMAS: 1950, oh. They had it wrong in the paper. You have two sisters and a brother?
THOMAS: Are they musicians, or what do they do?
BERRY: My brother is the youngest in the family. Charles, Jr., "Butch" for short, plays guitar. He is involved in data processing and audio-video recording, so I'm not too sure exactly which direction he's going to take for sure.
THOMAS: Was he videotaping last July fourth?
BERRY: I'm sorry?
THOMAS: Was he videotaping at the show on July fourth last year?
BERRY: Personal, yeah. He's in business now for it.
THOMAS: And you have two sisters? Are they involved in music at all?
BERRY: No. My sister Melody who's just under me and my sister Aloha Isa Lei are domesticated.
THOMAS: Where did you live when you were young?
BERRY: I grew up here in St. Louis, Missouri.
THOMAS: What part of St. Louis?
BERRY: Let's see, central part, inner city. My early childhood was in the inner city and then I got married in 1969, so I moved on out.
THOMAS: Where did you attend school?
BERRY: I attended grade school at dark, which is on Union, to about the fifth grade then I went to St. Stephen's Lutheran, which was on Olive and Pendleton at the time. Then I went on to Lutheran High North, where I graduated.
THOMAS: Can you tell me a little bit about your childhood?
BERRY: Well, as a little brat, I guess I was kind of mischievous. I was always into things. I always wanted the outdoors. I wasn't very much for indoor type living. So with that, I followed my dad around, you know, with his business and whatever he was doing. I just wanted to go with him. That got me out of the house quite a bit. Growing up through grade school I was involved with choir and music was always on my mind, always a direction for me. I kept shooting for that. On up into high school, I took more music courses, and formed a three-girl group called The Wonderfuls, which lasted about two years, junior and senior years, and then I went on to Forest Park Community for about a year, continuing my music studies. At that point I got married, which kind of left college behind, and I stayed married for about a good six or seven years, and when that didn't work out, I went on to pursue my singing career as such, which was sort of in the baby stage then. With all the music courses I took it was still at, the baby stage.
THOMAS: How did your father affect your interest of music in the beginning? Did he play records for you?
BERRY: Well, I got a good point of reference. At the age of five, Dad took us to Baltimore, Maryland, where we played at the Apollo Theatre, where (he) was playing at the Apollo Theatre.
THOMAS: This was in 1955?
BERRY: Right. And at that time, you know, he had "Maybelline" out and it was going pretty strong. So he took Mother and my sister Melody and during the show (we were on the side of the stage), and Alan Freed was there and he motioned for me to come out. He went like (wave) and looked at me and motioned with his head to come out on stage. That's all Dad had to do was just say something and (snap) I was right behind him. But Mother was holding me pretty tight so Alan Freed intervened and said "Oh, let her go," you know. I was shaking and shimmering, trying to get away from Mamma, and I broke loose and ran on out there and first thing that struck me were the lights, the people in the audience, the musicians and I saw Dad, and I guess with Dad it just kind of stuck fast and....
THOMAS: What did you do when you got on stage?
BERRY: Oh well, I started to... the first thing I did was just stand there for about a few seconds and then I had this little guitar that Dad bought--a little toy guitar and I just strummed it and went across. And that was the first time too, that I ever did the "duck walk," which Dad has in his show.
THOMAS: I just did what he did, you know. I just followed him, and it was pretty good. And at that point it begins to fade, memory begins to fade. That was the initial impact for me. From there I just kept listening to records.
THOMAS: When you were in school, did he have a large record collection or anything that you dipped into?
BERRY: That was in the coming years, and in the following years after '55, the album collection grew and naturally it was at home, you know, up on the ceiling where there was a little ledge and they were all around the room. And so music was as much at home as I heard it out in the streets and other places.
THOMAS: So, what did you listen to, a lot of rock'n'roll and blues?
BERRY: Naturally, rock'n'roll, you know, the Beatles, the Stones, everybody, Elvis Presley, just everybody. Through the '50s I listened to all the harmony groups and I forget the names now—the Supremes, the Temptations, and so forth, Smokey Robinson, i just kept buying records and practicing singing while the record was playing and I think that is where I developed my tempo and probably tone quality and stuff like that.
THOMAS: Do you know Gayle McCormick?
BERRY: Not personally, I don't think.
THOMAS: But you do know her?
BERRY: The name is familiar.
THOMAS: She did “Baby It's You.”
BERRY: That's right.
THOMAS: I just mentioned her because she's a local person.
BERRY: Oh really? From St. Louis? I didn't know that.
THOMAS: I thought you might have known each other. Now, you travelled around with your father a lot then when you were young?
BERRY: Well, I dn'dn't start working with him until 1974. Out of the blue, I was working at the Blue Cross, and I said yeah, you know, and he said "Okay, it's a TV show," and I went "Oh!" you know. TV was a whole other world, you know, singing before parties and school functions and things like private things was all right, but TV was different. So I agreed to it and it was the Dick dark In Concert show. To say the least, I was scared to death, but it went okay.
THOMAS: This was in 1974?
BERRY: It was March 1974.
THOMAS: And then after that you started touring with him?
BERRY: Right. Also in '74, the first tour I did with him was in Mexico.
THOMAS: In Mexico?
BERRY: Uh-umm. Cuernavaca, Mexico City and some other cities I can't think of.
THOMAS: Well, getting back to your early childhood, you didn't then travel a lot with your father?
BERRY: No, I was in school.
THOMAS: You had basically a very normal childhood. Did your mother work?
BERRY: No, she didn't work through our upbringing. Like I said, my sisters Aloha Isa Lei and Melody followed after Mom a lot. She's very home-like, very much into home 1ife.
THOMAS: Can you tell me anything about your mother at all?
BERRY: She's a beautiful woman. I mean in every sense of the word. She was old-fashioned with our upbringing and so forth, very religious-conscious and just a beautiful person.
THOMAS: Didn't you make a record with your father?
BERRY: Yeah, I...the year fails me, but it was a Chuck Berry album and I did a Jimmy Reed song called "Baby, What You Want Me to Do?" and a couple of others that Dad wrote. That was my first experience in a recording studio.
THOMAS: How did you find that?
BERRY: I'm sorry?
THOMAS: Tell me about the experience.
BERRY: Well, it was new, so therefore you have some reservations. You want to do good, but it was more of a learning experience than a professional experience for me.
THOMAS: Have you pressed any record since?
BERRY: Not since then. I did do a recording session with Three Dog Night in LA, but I think it was '76, the year 1976.
THOMAS: Then you recorded with Three Dog Night?
BERRY: Backup. Backup chorus on their Masterpiece album.
THOMAS: But, do you know, namedropping again, Helena Spring?
BERRY: No, not...the name doesn't right a bell.
THOMAS: She's a backup singer for Bob Dylan. She went to Sumner High School.
BERRY: Oh really? All these people, well...there should be a "lowdown on the stars from St. Louis, you know.
THOMAS: They should all have a big party. So your career actually began after you divorced and had a couple of children?
BERRY: Well, it picked up a lot. I have three children—Sophia, Delilah and William Vernon, Jr., and that's my family. I don't want to talk about too much, but it ended in '78, so their lives and my life are separate right now.
THOMAS: And you've been training with your band. Well, you've had a couple bands, right?
BERRY: Yeah, the first band was in '76, at the end of '76. I believe it was in August when it started in '76. It was called Captain Jack, a three-piece group.
THOMAS: Captain Jack?
BERRY: Yes, a three-piece group with Jack Miller on guitar, and Michael Johnson on drums and Jim Sayer on bass.
THOMAS: And currently your band is?
BERRY: I'm with the AII-Star Band now, with Greg Edick on bass, Mike Saffron on drums. Jimmy Lou Kenneth on guitar, Mike Somerville on guitar, and Jan Marks on keyboards.
THOMAS: What, over the years that you've been playing, what has your...you've been playing mostly clubs and things in the north county, or all over?
BERRY: Well, we're branched out now down to the Landing and J.B. Hutto's is coining up the first weekend in May, and we're getting a lot of out of town gigs too.
THOMAS: How would you describe the makeup of the audience? Is it a racial mix?
BERRY: I don't look at those things.
THOMAS: What kind of crowd do you attract?
BERRY: Hopefully, people who like good music. That's the kind of crowd, the audience that I'm after you know. It doesn't matter to me where they come from or who they are. Unless I get personal with them; which I do get out and mingle.
THOMAS: Does your father talk much about his conviction in '59?
BERRY: When it was happening, you know. Then it was talk, but now it's so far back in the past, nobody even thinks about it anymore.
THOMAS: Did it create a lot of problems for the family?
BERRY: No. See, we were all pretty young on the first one and it was pretty much not talked about, you know. We wouldn't understand anyway. So we didn't...it didn't matter.
THOMAS: What can you tell me about Berry Park?
BERRY: Berry Park is an estate with a woodland effect to it. It's not a farm where you have animals and it's my dad's retreat where he goes and studies and takes care of his business. It's pretty much private now. It used to be open to the public, but that ended in, back in the early part of the '70s.
THOMAS: Do you know anything else about the history of the place? It is a real hard place to research.
BERRY: When did he buy it? I was eight years old so....
THOMAS: Do you know any of the circumstances as to why it was open to the public for awhile and then closed down later?
BERRY: It just became...I would think, I don't want to speak for my dad, but I think that it probably just became too much of a hassle. Keeping up with people, lifeguards, and keeping, the upkeep of the park, with so much volume, picnicing, camping and so forth, and fishing, stuff like that.
THOMAS: Do you write songs?
BERRY: I do dabble in lyrics. I'm not very good at setting music to lyrics, which is why I need the band, to help out with that, but I've been writingfor about six or seven years now.
THOMAS: What kind of music would you call the kind of music you do? Rock'n'roll?<
BERRY: I like rock'n'roll. I talk a lot about the___________and performance and the mystical things that can happen, you know, in rock'n'roll. I tend to write blues as well. I've experienced some sorrow in my life, so therefore it comes out in what I write.
THOMAS: What has been the biggest problem being Chuck Berry's daughter?
BERRY: I think it's the labeling. For me, it's the labeling. I don't...I'm proud of Dad and I don't mind being identified as Chuck Berry's daughter. But when you're out there trying to make a name for yourself and show people what you have, you kind of get lost in that title, you know, and people expect certain things of you where you get to do rock'n'roll, you can't sing blues—"I want to hear rock'n'roll because your daddy is rock'n'roll." I want to do rock'n'roll too, but I like a variety of music and performing, so it's a little touchy at times. But through the years, I just brush if off sometimes.
THOMAS: What's been the biggest asset being Chuck Berry's daughter?
BERRY: The biggest asset I suppose is when I want to do something like write or get a record deal or something, I can get the attention. First off, with promotion and so forth like that, which in this business it’s hard to get noticed. So after that initial door opening, which being Chuck Berry's daughter, I've seen happen. I can therefore show myself and that's probably been the biggest asset, getting people to notice you.
THOMAS: Do you see your father a lot nowadays?
BERRY: Off and on. You know he's gigging and taking care of his business. He likes building, he's a carpenter before he became a musician, like his brothers and father before him, but he gets into a lot of that. So every now and then, he comes by and honks, asks me what I need fixed.
THOMAS: Okay. Well, is there anything else you would like to add for the historical record?
BERRY: Oh, let me see....
THOMAS: I'm trying to think of bases we haven't touched.
BERRY: I plan to do some recording soemtime this year. It's tentative, with J.D. Blackfoot. I'd like to pursue a recording career which is uppermost in my mind. I've toured all over the world with Dad, and on my own locally and surrounding states with other bands. I still want to do that, but I've never yet recorded on my own, so I intend to pursue that.
THOMAS: Okay, well....
BERRY: That's it!