The following is an article which appeared in The Bournemouth Daily Echo (December 2007) and is reprinted with their kind permission:

Deep down Lower Parkstone close to Sandbanks beach
Way back near the woods full of firs and beech
There stood a tidy house made of bricks and wood
Where lived a Bournemouth boy named Roger B. Goode
Who only ever learned to play guitar so well
So he could play Chuck Berry just like a ringing a bell
Go go, Go Roger go, Go Go Roger go ...

Rock on

By Nick Churchill

IF you've been touched by rock music at any time in the past 50 years, the chances are you can trace it all back to Chuck Berry.

His hits - Johnny B Goode, Roll Over Beethoven, Reelin' and Rockin', No Particular Place To Go, Maybellene - are pounded out by bar bands every night of the week all over the world. Without Chuck Berry there would never have been The Beatles or The Rolling Stones.

John Lennon famously said: "If you tried to give rock n' roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry." Inducting Chuck into the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame, Keith Richards said he was embarrassed because he'd stolen every guitar lick Chuck Berry ever played.

Chuck's playing style is there in all the great guitarists from Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix to Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. You can hear it in the glam rock of Marc Bolan and the stardust playing of David Bowie's Ziggy-era sideman, Mick Ronson.

Punk icon Joe Strummer was drenched in Chuck's renegade spirit, and so it goes on - right up to the raw scratches of Pete Doherty's guitar and the chunky chords of the Arctic Monkeys.

Next July, at the age of 81, Chuck will be headlining the Camp Bestival gathering at Lulworth Castle.

"And we'll probably be in America, I don't believe it!"

The UK's foremost Chuck Berry tribute guitarist Roger Downton, with his wife Sandra, have booked a dream holiday from their Lower Parkstone home to go on a musical tour of the States just as their musical hero is heading for Dorset!

Still, if they can't alter the dates, Roger can console himself with having played with the great man, and Sandra had the honour of dancing on stage with him in Portsmouth three years ago.

"I've loved his music ever since I heard it as a kid," says Roger, whose band Corkscrew (with Sandra on keyboards and their friend Dick Irish on bass) specialise in Chuck Berry nights.

"For me it wasn't about finding out what he had for lunch for anything like that, it was the music and learning to play his songs. I'd done the Hank Marvin thing, but hearing the raw power and energy of Chuck Berry changed everything.

"I saw The Beatles at the Gaumont and went out and bought a Gretsch Country Gent guitar like George Harrison's because it could make those Chuck Berry riffs sound amazing. I've still got the guitar, it cost 300 guineas."

In the early '60s Roger was playing in a series of first-generation Bournebeat groups around town, most notably The Sandstorms, and replaced the young Tony Blackburn in the Pavilion's resident Jan Ralfini Orchestra.

One night, after a Zoot Money gig in Kinson, Roger ran to the bus to get home and practise a Chuck Berry riff he had seen Zoot's young guitarist Andy Summers (now back with The Police, of course) play.

"It was a bit in Reelin' and Rockin'. I'd learned it from playing the single over and over and I couldn't work this one bit out, but Zoot's guitarist had it nailed. So I watched him then rushed home to get my guitar out - that was how it was in those days, very primitive.

"My dad had the 45 Club on Poole Hill, which was Mr Smiths until a couple of years ago, and we had the residency there."

Having once waited outside the Winter Gardens to meet Chuck ("He got out of this rusty old Ford Consul, gave us few fans a wry look and said: "Autograph? Uh-uh. They didn't get no gravy outta me."), the next time Chuck was in town Roger was determined to meet his idol.

"We used to play sets at the Queens Garden restaurant up at the Lansdowne which was run by this Chinese guy called Robert who did Elvis impressions. It was the mid-1960s and Chuck was playing the rooftop club run by Jimmy Savile in Fir Vale Road, it was packed.

"Robert used to invite the bands to his restaurant after the gig and he told me Chuck was coming over. Dave Edmunds played before us, but Chuck came in and I asked if he would sit in and jam. He agreed but told me I could play the lead parts and he'd do the rhythm - Chuck Berry asked me to play his lead parts!

"I wanted to do Johnny B Goode, but he didn't so we did Wee Wee Hours as it was getting late.

"Then, just as we finished, I played the opening to Johnny B Goode and he gave me this look then, all of a sudden he started up with the chugging rhythm and there I was playing lead guitar on Johnny B Goode with Chuck Berry!"

Sandra was instantly entranced when she was invited to join him on stage in Portsmouth in 2004.

"He's ever so sexy, that man can move. You can see he feels his music through his whole body, it's wonderful to see up close. He's tall and lean and has a real aura about him - pure charisma," she says.

For all the wonderment in their voices, hearing Roger and Sandra talk about Chuck Berry, it isn't the unquestioning faith of the slavish devotee that strikes you, but the considered students' appreciation of a rock n' roll pioneer.

Last year, when Corkscrew hosted a Chuck Berry night in honour of his 80th birthday, Roger phoned to tell him. Chuck thanked the band, said he was honoured and sent an email to wish them well.

The band's tribute CD has now been fully endorsed by Chuck Berry and is available through his official website.

"Everyone has a debt to pay Chuck Berry, although I think Chuck has a bit of a chip on his shoulder about not getting the recognition he deserves," says Roger.

"I've had this Chuck Berry musical in development for a while and wanted to get hold of his management. I got a number, called it and ended up speaking to Chuck himself. He listened to my plan then said: What do I get out of it?' Classic Chuck Berry response - he still insists on being paid in cash before each show and won't play a minute over the contracted time, but can he play?

"People think his songs are simple, but he does incredible things with music and rhythm.

"There's a chord in Maybellene that is like an Appalachian fiddle chord which, of course, would come from his backwoods upbringing. His voice is almost caucasian - it's a country singer's voice, the opposite to Elvis's who sang gospel-style.

"I've seen Chuck Berry several times and his guitar is old and battered with knobs missing and bolts stuck on, but it's magical. I've never heard him play a song the same, his rhythms chop and change, as do the arrangements and the key he sings in - in later years he's got this sort of calypso thing going on, it's very subtle."