‘Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll’ Director Recalls Chuck Berry: ‘Most Difficult Movie Star I’ve Even Worked With’

Taylor Hackford also credits the rock icon as “the greatest creative force in the birth of rock & roll”

Taylor Hackford, director of the 1987 concert documentary “Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll,” on Saturday paid tribute to the rock icon Chuck Berry, who died earlier that day at age 90.

“Chuck Berry was the greatest creative force in the birth of Rock & Roll – that’s a fact,” the Oscar-winning director wrote. “That’s why we all came together in 1986 to celebrate him in my film, ‘Hail, Hail, Rock & Roll': Keith Richards (Music Director), Eric Clapton, Robert Cray, Linda Ronstadt, Julian Lennon, Etta James, Robbie Robertson and Bruce Springsteen.”

Hackford also acknowledged the music icon’s reputation for causing a stir.

“But Chuck was complicated — in fact, he was the most difficult ‘movie star’ I’ve even [sic] worked with,” Hackford wrote. “It was like trying to ride a Brahma Bull — you can try to ride him, but he’s going to buck you off.

“Keith Richards and I soon learned that we would have to ‘wing-it,’ if we wanted to get anything on screen. But still, I loved Chuck, because he was the ‘real deal,’ an original genius who created a true American Art Form — why shouldn’t he be difficult.”

Hackford also acknowledged his contributions to music. “Not only did he invent the most famous guitar licks in Rock & Roll history, he could also sing in a totally unique style everything from Blues, to Country to Jazz.  (A friend told me that the first time he heard Memphis on the radio, he thought Chuck Berry was a white country singer.)

“But what made Chuck the greatest of all other 50s Rock & Roll Artists was his talent as a Songwriter — his compositions were miles above anything else written in that decade. Of course, I’m not the first to say that — John Lennon, Jagger & Richards, Bob Dylan all said that they wouldn’t have here without CB. A few years ago Prince told me the same thing.”

Hackford concluded his tribute: “What I’m most happy about is that we were able to capture Chuck when he still had all pistons firing — an auto allusion that’s perfect, because no one could write a song about America’s love [of] the automobile better than Chuck — or a song about the sexiness of a 16-year-old girl, or a love song about a Havana Moon.”