Time ripe for city gig

Dave Berry 2011
Dave Berry 2011

NOTHING will stop Dave Berry.

Forty-odd years have passed since his chart hit The Crying Game and the 60s teen idol may well be in his sixties, but that doesn’t stop South Yorkshire’s eminent singer from carrying the rock and roll baton.

Now, Berry - aka David Holgate Grundy - is in the middle of a 56-night tour as part of the annual Solid Silver Sixties Show, which comes to Sheffield this month. “It’s great. We’ve had some really big audiences as it’s a well established tour, which includes a date at the Royal Albert Hall. I’m really pleased to be on the tour a second year running as I’m sharing a lineup with Chris Farlowe - he’s a great R & B and blues singer who played with Van Morrison.”

The tour also takes Berry back to his musical roots. It was R & B and the early rock and roll of Chuck Berry and Eddie Cochran that turned the young Sheffielder on to music in the first place: “The tour’s given me the opportunity to go back to my roots. R & B and rock n roll got me into music and I think however old you are your first influences stick with you. I remember seeing some of my heroes, including Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry, at the City Hall – and that’s what sparked me off.”

Berry has himself been something of a sparkplug too: “Roger Taylor from Queen came up to me once and said that I was one of the first live shows he ever saw. People will say to me: ‘I saw you in 1964 and you’re one of the reasons I got into music.’ It goes on and on.”

Berry’s first homage to one of his music heroes was a cover of Chuck Berry’s Memphis Tennesse. “I covered the track then went on tour with the Rolling Stones but shortly after Chuck Berry released it. It’s a great song – very sad too, about a father who can no longer see his daughter because her mother had taken her away.”

Born in 1941, Berry was a teenager when Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Eddie Cochran and Little Richard were electrifying the airwaves with hits like C’mon Everybody and Johnny Be Goode. “It was a great time and the excitement of seeing and hearing this music was tangible in the air. Suddenly everyone was tuning in and queuing up to buy singles – I can’t imagine that now. There are so many things to do now that I don’t think music is quite as important to people as it used to be.”

But in the 1950s and early 1960s, the hits were rolling, and the times were changing: “Before artists like Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly came along all we had in the UK were acts like Frankie Vaughan who sang variety show-style pop without any balls. So to see an original black artist from America like Chuck Berry was something else.”

Dave Berry may not have penned the rock and roll classics as those of his namesake, but the South Yorkshire singer’s career is dotted with hits and prestigious collaborations. His Ray Davies penned hit, The Strange Effect, became a number one hit in the Netherlands. And on the back of the song Berry won the Radio Veronica Special Award for the best selling pop single of all time. His Don’t Gimme No Lip Child was also covered by the Sex Pistols and the punk stars, perhaps incongrously, cited Berry as a major influence. Berry also worked with session musicians including Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, who would later join forces in Led Zeppelin.

Later this month Berry will bring his R & B repertoire to City Hall, “People love the Solid Silver Sixties Show and I still love doing it too. I’m looking forward to playing at the City Hall very much, I’ve always loved the venue and for me to walk on stage at the venue is still something else.”

Dave Berry plays at Sheffield City Hall on April 29.