Jefferson City musicians will never forget performing with Chuck Berry

Mike Eveler (Left) performs with Chuck Berry at the Algoa Correctional Center in 1984. Harrison Sweazea (Right) performs with Berry at the Blue Note in 2001 (Courtesy Scott E. Thomas)

Mike Eveler and Harrison Sweazea will never forget performing with Rock and Roll pioneer, Chuck Berry.

"It was surreal, my heart was beating so fast," said Eveler.

Eveler played drums with Berry at the Algoa Correctional Center in August of 1984. The bass player in Eveler's band at the time was friends with an officer at the facility. Berry left it up to venues to decide who would back his performances, according to the drummers.

"Chuck did not tell us what song he was playing, and he did not tell us what key the song was in, and it was a situation where the bass player would have to give signals to the guys on the guitars and keyboards," said Eveler.

The drummer remembered Berry being very serious about his on-stage cues.

"When he dropped his leg that means [for me to] stop, that was a Chuck Berry break. After about the second or third time [I didn't stop], he turned around and grabbed my hand and said 'Brotha', when I do like that, that means break!'," said Eveler.

Sweazea played with Berry at the Blue Note in Columbia in 2000 and 2001. A friend of his who plays the keyboard knew Berry was looking for a drummer to help with the performances.

"He was a little aloof the first time I played for him," said Sweazea. "He played his gig and then got on the bus while he was still playing. The bass player looked up at us and said 'I guess we're done,' and we just finished playing."

"The second time, he was much more amicable, I have a picture of us shaking hands with Chuck after the gig," said Sweazea.

Sweazea said he remembered Berry bringing children up onto the Blue Note stage while he performed 'Johnny B. Goode'.

"He had every bit as much energy at that time as he did when he was younger," said Sweazea. "He still did the duck walk, although it was a little shorter in length than in previous years."

Both musicians remembered Berry as cordial, friendly, and nice.

About five years ago, the drummers said they met at Prison Brews in Jefferson City. They bonded over their experience performing with Chuck Berry.

"Usually drummers don't let other drummers use their kits or sit in on their drums," said Eveler. "Harrison liked me for some reason, and he let me sit in with his band."

The two were shocked to hear about Berry's death Saturday.

"I was sad, I didn't realize he was 90-years-old, I guess because guys like that don't show their age when they're musicians," said Sweazea.

"It was such an honor and a privilege to be able to play with someone who was in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame," said Eveler.

Eveler is the drummer for the Starlight Memories Band. The band plays classic country and Rock and Roll for special events.

Sweazea is the drummer for Burnin' Down the House, an 80's band which performs at local bars and events.

Photographs of Sweazea and Berry's performance at the Blue Note are courtesy of Scott E. Thomas

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