Rock great Chuck Berry falls ill at New Year's show

Sun Jan 2, 2011 4:00pm EST
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By Eric Johnson

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Rock 'n' roll great Chuck Berry was feeling fine and headed back to his hometown of St. Louis, associates said on Sunday, hours after the musician fell ill during a New Year's performance in Chicago.

The 84-year-old entertainer startled fans on Saturday night when he slumped over his electric piano before a crowd of some 3,000 at Chicago's Congress Theater and had to be helped off stage.

Berry returned about 30 minutes later, waved to the crowd and said he was OK, according to concert-goer Jim O'Malley. Then, as if to reassure the audience, he did an abbreviated version of his signature duck-walk move before leaving the stage again.

An assistant to Berry said in a telephone on Sunday morning that the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer he was feeling well and returning to his home outside St. Louis in the afternoon.

Another associate, Joe Edwards, owner of the Blueberry Hill nightclub in St. Louis where Berry performs monthly, told Reuters, "I spoke to people with him, and he is en route to St. Louis and he is OK."

"He is in flight right now. I think he was just tired," Edwards added. "He is in phenomenal health, and he doesn't drink or smoke and is a very strong person."

Hotel staff at the Hard Rock Hotel in Chicago, where Berry was staying, also told Reuters they saw the performer on Sunday morning and that he looked good.

O'Malley said Berry had appeared to be struggling through much of Saturday night's set, and paused a number of times for difficulties with his guitar, before he finally ceased performing about an hour into the show, slumped at the piano and waved for help.   Continued...

<p>Rock and roll legend Chuck Berry performs during the Bal de la Rose in Monte Carlo March 28, 2009. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard</p>