Chuck Berry was a music legend, but he left behind another enduring legacy: His marriage of 68 years to Themetta “Toddy” Suggs.
At the time of the marriage, Berry was working as a janitor at a Fisher Body auto assembly plant. Berry and his wife were devoted to one another, and their marriage lasted as Berry found fame and became a rock ‘n’ roll legend. Theirs was one of the most enduring love stories in music.
According to ABC News, Berry died at the age of 90. Cause of death was not yet clear as the news broke.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Berry & His Wife Spoke of Their Love & Devotion to Each Other
According to the book, Brown Eyed Handsome Man: The Life and Hard Times of Chuck Berry, both Chuck Berry and Suggs spoke about their enduring love for the other.
“We have had a wonderful marriage,” Themetta was quoted as saying after the couple had already passed their 38th anniversary mark. “We love each other as much as we did the day we met.”
Berry spoke about how he worked to “keep the home fires burning,” the book said.
He worked hard to support his young family, toiling in a factory, as a janitor in the apartment where he lived with his wife, and training as a beautician.
2. Berry Dedicated His Last Album to ‘Toddy’ & The Berrys’ Net Worth Was Placed at About $19 Million
Berry was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1926 as Charles Edward Anderson.
Over the years, the music legend accumulated a fortune with his wife estimated at about $19 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.
In October 2016, at the age of 90, he announced he was “releasing his first album in 38 years, a follow up to 1979’s ‘Rock It.’ The album, titled ‘Chuck,’ will be come out sometime in 2017 through Dualtone Records,” reported The Huffington Post.
“This record is dedicated to my beloved Toddy,” Berry said in a statement on his website. “My darlin’ I’m growing old! I’ve worked on this record for a long time. Now I can hang up my shoes!”
3. Berry & Themetta Had Four Children Together & Two of Them Were Involved in His Last Album
According to Celebrity Net Worth, Chuck Berry’s “private life has remained constant and peaceful since he married Themetta ‘Toddy’ Suggs in 1948.”
The site says they had four children: “Their first child Darlin Ingrid Berry was born in 1950, followed by Melody Exes Berry-Eskridge, Aloha Isa Lei Berry and Charles Edward Berry Jr.”
Charles Berry Jr. plays guitar on Berry’s new album and Ingrid Berry plays the harmonica, Chuck Berry wrote on his website.
“What an honor to be part of this new music,” Charles Berry Jr. said on the website. “The St. Louis band, or as dad called us ‘The Blueberry Hill Band,’ fell right into the groove and followed his lead. These songs cover the spectrum from hard driving rockers to soulful thought provoking time capsules of a life’s work.”
4. Berry Had Just Been Released From Prison When He Married Themetta & Soon Took up Guitar
Until Berry met Themetta, his life was rocked with turmoil.
According to Biography.com, “Berry served three years in the Intermediate Reformatory for Young Men outside of Jefferson, Missouri, before gaining release on good behavior on October 18, 1947, which was his 21st birthday.”
He married Themetta the following year. It wasn’t the end of troubles. In his autobiography, Berry recounted how Themetta had come to see him graduate inside the prison later on. As Deseret News puts it, in 1959, Berry “was convicted and sentenced to prison for human trafficking after his 14-year-old, hat-check-girl companion was arrested for investigation of prostitution.”
Themetta stuck by his side.
“When I finishes (sic) the credits and extra courses in business management and accounting I was ready for graduation.” he wrote. “My wife, Toddy, came to hear me deliver the valedictory speech and witness me receiving my diploma and extra certificates. One of the more pleasant memories, yet a bit sad, was that she wept as I was nearing the close of the valedictory address, causing me to stumble over some lines. Later she told me her sorrow was caused by the location of the occasion within the confines of a prison.”
However, he was also on track to a music career.
“He also took up the guitar again when, in 1951, his former high school classmate Tommy Stevens invited him to join his band. They played at local black nightclubs in St. Louis, and Berry quickly developed a reputation for his lively showmanship,” Biography.com says.
According to Deseret News, Berry started playing guitar in part to support his new family. He “developed into a guitarist in the early 1950s out of necessity. He was newly married and was working odd jobs,” the site reports.
5. Chuck Berry Was a Rock ‘N’ Roll Pioneer Who Influenced the Beatles & Many Others
Chuck Berry is one of music’s greats, known as a pioneer of a new sound: Rock ‘N’ Roll.
“Berry penned a great number of hits in the ‘50s and ‘60s like ‘Sweet Little Sixteen,’ ‘Roll Over Beethoven’ and ‘Rock and Roll Music’ that influenced generations of rock groups, including The Beatles,” The Huffington Post reported.
John Lennon famously said, “If you tried to give rock ‘n’ roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry,’” according to Huffington Post.
Read more about Chuck Berry’s family in Spanish at AhoraMismo.com: