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Having Lunch With Chuck Berry at Twelve Years Old

There were two videos that I wore out when I was a kid – Back to the Future and Crossroads. Pirated from TV, I can tell you now by watching the “unpirated” versions, where the commercials kicked in and where the “tracking” needed adjusting. Oh the wonders of video! Definitely not the most discrete way to loop over a nudie shot as a curious 11 year old.

It was no surprise as an aspiring guitarist, that the video quality turned particularly poor during the scene where Michael J Fox is cutting up his fretboard on stage at “The Enchantment under the Sea Dance” on Johnny B Goode. “Blues riff in B, watch me for the changes and try and keep up okay..” BOOM! My brother and I use to act out that scene in the living room using the couches and my guitar as props. We’d mimic Fox as he turned “Van Halen” on 1955 – rolling around the stage and kicking his amp over. It only heightened my fascination with guitar.

Fast forward to Zurich in 1994. I played a festival called Out in the Green. It was the biggest festival I had ever played. Straight from a tiny San Fran Blues Club called “Blues at Lous”. I don’t know why the bookers of the festival felt that they needed an instrumental blues act to kill time on the main stage after Elton John and before Page and Plant. Either way…I was shitting myself! I’ll pull apart my memories of this festival in more detail at a later time. It left an incredible impression on me.

The next day, we were chilling out back stage when my manager came up to me and said that Chuck Berry would like to have a private lunch. Now, this is one of the many moments where I had little clue as to how big of a deal that was. For a 12 year old, I knew who Pamela Anderson was, but no clue who Led Zeppelin were. I knew who Ugly Kid Joe was, but no idea who Buddy Guy or Otis Rush were. This was almost one of those moments. I did kind of know who Chuck Berry was. Well, at least I thought I knew. I kick myself whenever I reflect on this moment. I’m kicking myself because I didn’t remember the conversation. I remember that they had organised a table for the two of us in the catering area. I distinctly remember he was eating some sort of creamy salad. Like a coleslaw or something because it accompanied his animated mouth during conversation. He was a character and a tonne of vibe. Incredibly smiley and passionate and very curious in me. Whilst I don’t quite remember the details of our conversation outside of music banter, his energy was contagious. After we finished up with much love, I remember walking out thinking, “Wow! I just met the guy who did a cover of Michael J Fox’s “”Johnny B Goode!”.. Ha!

I look back on these moments and wonder whether they would have been as magical if I knew exactly who I was playing/talking with. Don’t get me wrong, I was never ever precocious or disrespectful, I just didn’t know any better. I learned a lot from being like that. I wasn’t blocked by fear or nerves or awe or expectation, just a sponge wanting to soak up as much about music and music lifestyle as possible. Even if it went down the wrong way.

I later watched Chuck Berry rocking out on stage in front of 60,000 people, singing with a smile and in love with every moment that he was on stage. It just proved that you don’t have to be frowning on stage to look cool!

Michael J Fox Back to the Future

Chuck Berry, Keith Richards Oh Carol


For those who are new to the site, hit up my introduction post and the about tab to understand what inspired this website as well as what’s to come. 

11 Comments

  1. Roddy14/11/2016

    This part of the story never heard it before.

    Reply
    1. Nathan Cavaleri15/11/2016

      I still kick myself!

      Reply
  2. david14/11/2016

    very informative and insightful. Your childhood was definitely not the norm. I am surprised however that your dad did’nt sit you down and give you a little background on him and others you admired. I was constantly informing my kids of the source of all their music interests.Great blog Nathan and thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    1. Nathan Cavaleri15/11/2016

      Thanks mate! Well, I think it’s because I grew up on blues rather than RnR. I knew who B.B, Stevie, Albert were and I suppose in this situation, the last thing my parents expected was that Chuck would hit them up about having a private lunch with me. And as a kid, it doesn’t really sink in either. Someone could be the biggest artist in the world, but its not until you live life that you realise what goes into becoming that. So glad that you are enjoying the stories.

      Reply
  3. Troy14/11/2016

    I love Crossroads!! I often clarify to people when talking about that movie, that it’s not the Britney Spears ” Crossroads” ???

    I can’t imagine what meeting some of these legends would have been like, but completely get that as a 12 year old, you’d have no real grasp of the situation. Pretty cool thing to be around and not have the built up pressure of fully understanding how big some of these people were.

    Reply
    1. Nathan Cavaleri15/11/2016

      Hahaha someone else on FB said the same thing about Crossroads…. I actually have a post on that coming out soon too. What a movie! Made a huge impression on me.

      Reply
  4. Malcolm Gully15/11/2016

    Meeting so many music greats so young would be like “drinking from a fire hose” you can be forgiven for not remembering all the details. It’d be interesting to get a series of memoirs the other way around, how you were remembered in the early days. These are great memories thanks for being so open.

    Reply
    1. Nathan Cavaleri15/11/2016

      What a great metaphor! So true mate… Glad you are still diggin it!

      Reply
  5. Andrew17/11/2016

    We have seen Angus Young perform the Duck walk on stage too, during AC/DC concerts

    Reply
  6. Andrew Tierney20/11/2016

    What was it like to have lunch with Chuck Berry when you were 12?

    Reply
    1. Nathan Cavaleri21/11/2016

      As most things are for a twelve year old. Cool! But later in life, the memory deepened as I realised what an incredible experience it actually was.

      Reply

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