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Chuck Berry was a rock and roll icon who had one of the longest careers in the music industry. His hit songs, such as “Johnny B. Goode” and “Roll Over Beethoven,” influenced a generation and inspired rockers like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. However, Berry dealt with various scandals over the course of his career, even when the icon was well into his senior years.

One of the biggest scandals in Berry’s career came about in 1990. The musician was busted for allegedly possessing footage of hundreds of women in various stages of undress. He obtained this footage using cameras installed in his Missouri-based restaurant.

When did Chuck Berry become famous?

chuck berry
American singer and guitarist Chuck Berry performs on stage at the Rainbow Theatre in London, England on September 07, 1973. | Fin Costello/Redferns

Berry was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1926. Born into a middle-class family, Berry rose into the stratosphere thanks to his ability to musical talent. Throughout the ’50s, Berry worked on his craft. By the end of the decade, he had become an established rock star.

His music influenced many other musicians of the day. Most notable are the Beatles, who would often perform many of Berry’s songs during their live concerts. Throughout the ’60s and ’70s, Berry was in continuous demand as a live performer. He traveled throughout the United States to play his familiar favorites to hundreds of adoring fans. By the ’80s, Berry expanded his portfolio of business efforts, managing a restaurant in Wentzville, Missouri, not far from where he grew up.

Chuck Berry dealt with a major scandal in 1990

It was Berry’s role as manager of the restaurant Southern Air that would really land the rocker in trouble. According to a video from the MsMojo YouTube channel, in 1990, a cook at the restaurant alleged that Berry had installed hidden cameras in the bathroom at the restaurant and that he had captured video footage of hundreds of women and girls (many of them under the age of 18) as they used the restroom or undressed.

A handyman at the restaurant reportedly found a box of videotapes containing the incriminating footage, which had apparently been edited into compilations. The scandal made headlines, and many slammed Berry for his actions. Interestingly enough, Berry managed to avoid jail time. Still, he was the subject of a class-action lawsuit thanks to the incident. And he ended up having to pay out $1.2 million. The restaurant itself shut down in the wake of the scandal. But according to Grunge, Berry sued to have his tapes returned, in an act of sheer audacity. 

Chuck Berry endured several scandals in his life


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The camera incident wasn’t the only time Berry made scandalous headlines in his life. As Grunge reports, the same year that Berry faced his lawsuit for the videotapes, he became the subject of a massive federal drug bust, at his estate in Wentzville, Missouri. The musician also had his troubles with tax authorities, thanks to his preference that he be paid for his performances in cash.

According to Rolling Stone, Berry’s own misdeeds and actions caused him considerable negative publicity in his career, although it didn’t slow him down much, with his energetic performance style earning him the nickname “the Father of Rock and Roll.”

Berry died in 2017 at the age of 90. The rock veteran played shows well into his senior years, with fans from all around the world traveling to hear him sing the songs that had made him a rock icon.