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Chuck Berry collapses on keyboard at Congress Theater

Chuck Berry Congress Theater Saturday night. (Scott Stewart/Sun-Times)

Chuck Berry at the Congress Theater on Saturday night. (Scott Stewart/Sun-Times)

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Updated: May 25, 2011 4:18PM



Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Famer Chuck Berry collapsed over his keyboards about an hour into his “Winter Dance” show before a standing-room only crowd Saturday night at the Congress Theater.

The 84-year-old Berry’s head lay on a keyboard, and he didn’t move for a couple of minutes before he was helped off stage by three people shortly before 10:30 p.m. He returned 20 minutes later after most of the auditorium had cleared out. He tuned up his guitar and tried to play before telling the audience he had no strength. He then did a variation of his legendary duck walk off stage.

A Chicago Fire Department ambulance was called to the theater on the Northwest Side, and emergency crews gave Berry a check-up at the scene, Fire Department Spokesman Joe Roccasalva said. But he said he “felt better” and signed a refusal for further medical treatment, Roccasalva said.

Berry flew into Chicago after performing two New Year’s Eve shows at B.B. King’s Blues Club and Grill in New York City. The St. Louis-based legend was having trouble connecting with his Chicago-based pick-up band all night.

In a rare moment earlier in the show, Berry even cast aside his guitar and took over the keyboards to play “Let it Rock.” He performed his best-known hits like “Roll Over Beethoven” in slow, disjointed tempos and when he hit stride with more appropriate understated material like “Everyday I Have the Blues,” he stopped halfway through the song. The only tune he was able to muscle through was his 1972 novelty hit, “My Ding-A-Ling,” which featured a call and response with his adoring fans.

Contributing: Bobby Reed and Sally Ho



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