UNIVERSITY CITY — Music legend Chuck Berry is about to make his 200th performance at Blueberry Hill in University City, and he hopes to make 200 more.
At 87, the rock 'n roll legend famous for hit songs including "Roll Over Beethoven," ''Sweet Little Sixteen," and "Johnny B. Goode" says he's not ready to retire. The St. Louis native has been performing in the Duck room at the Blueberry Hill venue on the Delmar Loop since 1996. He is scheduled to mark his 200th performance on Wednesday.
"I'm thankful for each and every day," Berry said. "We never know when time is up. I'm thankful for performing as long as I am allowed. I didn't know (God) was going to let me be around, but it feels like he gave me a little more time.
"I'll keep going for as long as the big man upstairs allows, and I'm looking forward to 200 more."
It's a stark contrast to comments Berry made in October 2012, during an event honoring him presented by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. He had called his future as a performer "dim."
"My singing days have passed," Berry said at the time. "My voice is gone. My throat is worn. And my lungs are going fast."
Berry's friend, Blueberry Hill owner Joe Edwards, first asked Berry about playing the small venue 18 years ago. Edwards said he had no idea that Berry's run in the Duck Room would last as long as it has, though it helps that Berry lives in Wentzville, about 40 miles west of St. Louis.
"That's rare for a city to have such a loyal citizen — especially a superstar," Edwards said.
Keyboardist Bob Lohr, who has played with Berry for more than 17 years, says music has kept Berry going.
"As soon as he walks out on a stage, whether it be at Blueberry Hill or any other concert hall worldwide, and that crowd roars, I see it on his face," Lohr said. "He breaks out in a smile as big as that concert hall, his adrenaline rush kicks in and all those years instantly melt away for the next hour.
"Retirement? Who would ever want to retire from that?"
The shows still sell out quickly.
"I always want to play the songs that people want to hear," Berry said. "I'm hanging in there, and I'm going on. And I don't push the future. It's coming fast enough."