Keith Richards Admitted That He Probably Deserved to Get Punched in the Face by Chuck Berry

The Rolling Stones co-founder Keith Richards has never been shy about his admiration for rock and roll pioneer Chuck Berry. The artist’s influence is clear in many of the Stones’ songs, something Richards freely admits. Despite their mostly sunny relationship, Berry once punched Richards in the face.

Chuck Berry and Keith Richards face each other onstage, smiling.
Chuck Berry and Keith Richards | Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Chuck Berry influenced The Rolling Stones’ songs

Richards met Mick Jagger on a train in London and was immediately impressed by his possession of a Berry album. From there, one of music’s most prolific bands was born. Richards’ love of Berry started long before this meeting, though.

“To me, [Berry’s music] had sort of a crystal clear clarity of what I wanted to hear, and what I was aiming for,” Richards told the LA Times of listening to Berry as a teenager. “And they were having fun — that was the underlying aspect of it all. There was an exuberance and they were not too serious. What was serious was what was going down — they weren’t serious about it.”

Keith Richards recalled a time the musician punched him in the face

Despite his reverence for Berry, Richards once irritated the rock and roll legend to the point of getting swung on. Once, after watching Berry in concert, Richards went backstage to his dressing room, where he found his guitar. 

“We saw him play in New York somewhere, and afterward I was backstage in his dressing room, where his guitar was lying in its case. I wanted to look, out of professional interest,” Richards wrote in his remembrance of Berry in Rolling Stone.

Apparently, Berry didn’t take kindly to seeing someone else handle his instrument.

“As I’m just plucking the strings, Chuck walked in and gave me this wallop to the frickin’ left eye,” Richards explained. He neatly summed up the incident, writing, “Chuck Berry once gave me a black eye, which I later called his greatest hit.” 

Richards later admitted that he was at fault and would likely have done the same thing if he saw someone else with his guitar. 

“I realized I was in the wrong. If I walked into my dressing room and saw somebody fiddling with my ax, it would be perfectly all right to sock ’em, you know? I just got caught,” he said.

Keith Richards and Chuck Berry have clashed before

While Richards and Berry didn’t make a habit of coming to blows, they’ve clashed more than once. Both played in a concert to celebrate the 31st anniversary of Berry’s song “Maybellene” and his 60th birthday.  

Per the LA Times, tensions reportedly rose between Richards and Berry during rehearsals. Eventually, in a rehearsal open to the press, Berry grew irritated when Richards set the tempo.  

“You’re gonna have to let me lead on the songs I sing,” he said to Richards. “I’m responsible for how they go over.”

Richards then left the stage until the song was over. Ultimately, though, the pair made up, and Richards described the process of working with Berry as a “childhood dream come true.” 

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