Some say Elvis. Others credit Jerry Lee Lewis or Buddy Holly.
But some votes must go to Chuck Berry for pioneering rock 'n' roll.
"He made the sound that is the modern rock 'n' roll guitar," says Ray Manzarek, the keyboardist for The Doors. "Elvis invented the persona of rock 'n' roll. Chuck Berry invented the music."
He isn't finished yet. Berry, 65, will perform tonight at Magic Mountain's 2,500-seat Showcase Theatre in Valencia, renewing an association that began in 1980. Berry, who performed such popular tunes as "Johnny B. Goode" and "Roll Over Beethoven," will give two shows, at 7 and 9 p.m.
"He appeals to a wide range of people," said Eileen Harrell, manager of public relations for Magic Mountain. "We usually try to book him around a holiday weekend because it's family-oriented entertainment. Parents bring their kids and he's always been very popular here."
Berry's appearance continues Magic Mountain's pattern of booking famous singers and rock groups from the 1950s, '60s and '70s. Other performers slated for this year include The Four Tops and The Spinners.
Berry is credited with melding blues and country music into songs that have influenced countless rock musicians. Among his most ardent admirers have been Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones and The Beatles and Bob Dylan. The Beatles recorded "Roll Over Beethoven," and Dylan reworked Berry's "Too Much Monkey Business" into "Subterranean Homesick Blues." Berry's trademark is the double-string guitar lick.
In the late 1940s, Berry worked on the assembly line at a General Motors plant and studied hairdressing at night school. In 1952, he formed a trio with drummer Ebby Harding and pianist Johnny Johnson, his keyboardist for most of the next three decades.
Other Berry hits include: "Sweet Little Sixteen," "Little Queenie" and "Living in the U.S.A."
\o7 Chuck Berry will perform at 7 and 9 tonight at Magic Mountain's Showcase Theatre in Valencia. The concert is free with admission to the park. Call (805) 255-4111.