Early Life in St. Louis
Birth of Rock 'n' Roll Berry married Themetta "Toddy" Suggs, with whom he would eventually have four children. He also took up the guitar again when, in 1951, his former high school classmate Tommy Stevens invited him to join his band. They played at local black nightclubs in St. Louis, and Berry quickly developed a reputation for his lively showmanship. At the end of 1952, he met Jonnie Johnson, a local jazz pianist, and joined his band, the Sir John's Trio. Berry revitalized the band and introduced upbeat country numbers into the band's repertoire of jazz and pop music. They played at the Cosmopolitan, an upscale black nightclub in East St. Louis, which began attracting white patrons.
Berry released his last album of original music, Rock It, to fairly positive reviews in 1979. While Berry continued to perform into the 1990s, he would never recapture the magnetic energy and originality that had first catapulted him to fame during the '50s and '60s. In his later years he developed a reputation for giving out-of-tune, unrehearsed performances.Berry was never the same man after his second stint in prison. Carl Perkins, his friend and partner on a 1964 British concert tour, observed, "Never saw a man so changed. He had been an easygoing guy before, the kinda guy who'd jam in dressing rooms, sit and swap licks and jokes. In England he was cold, real distant and bitter. It wasn't just jail, it was those years of one-nighters, grinding it out like that can kill a man, but I figure it was mostly jail."