Keith Richards was on The Tonight Show last night, and the rock legend started his conversation with Jimmy Fallon by telling the childhood tale that inspired his new kids book, Gus & Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar. It didn’t take long for Richards to pivot from that touching experience to a story about getting punched in the face by his idol, Chuck Berry.
Richards’ telling of the story is entertaining, but fellow Rolling Stones member Ronnie Wood had a different take on the altercation a few years ago, one that dealt more with financial paranoia than guitar governing:
‘I used to play with [Berry] quite a lot, and he’d always have to have the money up front in his guitar case and he’d leap straight from the stage with the guitar case full of money, throw it offstage and into the cab.
‘Once Keith was there in the audience and Chuck came off stage and Keith ran up behind him, tapped him on the shoulder, at which Chuck turned round and went whack and smashed Keith in the eye, gave him a big black eye.
‘He said “What you do that for? I was only trying to say hello, Chuck”‘.
It could have been the start of a nasty fight between the pair, but instead, Wood said, Richards, 68, was ‘proud’ of the black eye.
So either Berry punched Richards on multiple occasions, or the pair of Stones were too buzzed out of their gourds to get the story straight. The latter is always a safe bet.
This is a perfect time to post a legendary clip from Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll!, a film that documented a pair of Richards-led 1986 concerts celebrating Berry’s 60th birthday. The video below features a barely lucid Richards talking about Berry’s influence, as well as the duo feuding over an amp and who will play lead on “Carol.” By the session’s end, the master cements his status, much to the chagrin of Richards.