ST. LOUIS -- Bill Clinton wasn't among the standing-room-only crowd of fans at a Chuck Berry concert here, but the former president sent birthday greetings to the rock 'n' roll pioneer as he celebrated his 80th birthday.
"I've loved your music for nearly half a century," Clinton wrote in a letter read aloud before Berry came on stage at Blueberry Hill nightclub Wednesday night.
"Our lives are richer, our music more memorable, and our artistic legacy greater because of you, and I'm glad to have this opportunity to salute you for truly being an American treasure."
Berry, the duck-walking, guitar-playing rock genius who defined the music's joy and rebellion in such classics as "Johnny B. Goode," "Sweet Little Sixteen" and "Roll Over Beethoven," performed tirelessly for over an hour at the venue where he's given legendary concerts one night a month for the last 10 years.
He came on stage wearing a red-sequined shirt, dark slacks and his now-trademark skipper's hat. He broke a string on his Gibson ES-355, the same electric guitar he's been playing for 15 years, as he sang "Nadine" midway through the concert.
He swapped guitars with his son, Charles Berry Jr., who performs with the elder rocker, along with daughter Ingrid Berry Clay, on vocals and harmonica. When younger Berry brought the repaired Gibson back on stage, Chuck Berry fell back into it like a comfortable sweater, and announced he was back in tune.
Berry moved the crowd to its feet with his classic "duck walk," a stage moved he patented in a 1956 performance in New York that's been imitated by rockers through all the decades since.
Back-up musicians who have performed with him over the decades took their turns playing with him on stage. At one point, he was joined on-stage by Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry in a surprise appearance.