“Hail, Hail Rock and Roll!”

Chuck berry

With singles from the previous two years and an appearance in the soundtrack for the movie Rock, Rock, Rock, Chuck Berry was ready to take the world by storm with 1957’s After School Sessions. The singles that appeared in the 1955 soundtrack were Thirty Days (which peaked at number two in the R&B charts), Roll Over Beethoven (29 U.S. Hot 100, two in R&B in 1956) and the landmark single, Maybellene, which skyrocketed to number five in the U.S. Hot 100 and number one in the R&B charts. Maybellene made Chuck Berry a star, setting the foundation for his successful career.

The landmark album, Chess Records’ second album ever released, was a compilation album of Chuck Berry’s first five sessions for Leonard and Phil Chess. The album, I might add, was completely written, musically and lyrically, by Berry, adding to the almost mythical legend of his career. Sessions begins with the hugely popular and career-defining song School Day (Ring! Ring! Goes the Bell) the track that speaks of adolescence fun in dancing and waiting to finally get out of class. “Hail, Hail Rock and Roll!” is the cry of this song, the album and the generation, with the song climbing to number three in the U.S. Hot 100 and number one in the R&B charts.

With Chuck Berry came the instrumental songs in rock and roll. The second song, Deep Feeling is Berry’s first instrumental on the album. A nice and smooth track, it’s a great song to chill out to in the bluesy state that Berry plays his guitar in. Monkey-ing around to number four in the R&B charts is another popular single, Too Much Monkey Business. Berry’s playful guitar playing and sarcastic singing adds to his talented songwriting repertoire for the time. A great blues-based song is Wee Wee Hours, the B-side of 1955’s Maybellene, which reached number ten on the R&B charts by itself. The drummer, Fred Below, works in perfect sync with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame sideman bassist Willie Dixon both of which work with the slow-rhythmic singing of fellow R&R Hall of Famer Chuck Berry. The song also has a perfect blues piano solo by Johnnie Johnson.

In the up-tempo instrumental, Roly Poly, Chuck Berry once again shows off his guitar playing skills comparable to Robert Johnson, greater piano playing by Johnnie Johnson. Berry’s last single from 1955 was the next song on the album, No Money Down, which went to number eight in the R&B charts. Another blues-type song with great piano playing, No Money Down is a great car song to listen to when you’re picking out your next vehicle. Another one of Berry’s most well-known songs is the non-charting, semi-civil rights empowering single, Brown Eyed Handsome Man. The song is another playful tempo-ed track with good piano playing always makes people want to sing along.

Berry Pickin’ is yet another instrumental with a great piano solo by Johnnie Johnson. This song’s piano playing overshadows Berry’s guitar playing just a bit. Smoothly stepping in is the distorted guitar sounds of Together (We’ll Always Be). More great piano playing in the background, this song is sure to make you tap your foot while head bobbing. A slower song, Havana Moon, sways in with soft singing and Berry guitar tapping. Downbound Train feels as if you are on a train with faster guitar picking and singing. The final song of the album, Drifing Heart, starts off with Johnnie Johnson on piano and Chuck Berry playing guitar into an ever-so familiar sweet combination.

The combinations between Willie Dixon and drummer Fred Below make up the grooving bluesy sound of the band, while the singing of Chuck Berry and brilliant piano playing of Johnnie Johnson works for a sweet and tasteful combo that made the ground breaking debut that started Chuck Berry’s legendary career. Check out After School Sessions, it will teach you the roots of rock and roll while feeding you the iconic line of “Long live rock and roll!” I agree.