Rock and roll pioneer Chuck Berry, spry and smiling at 84 years-old, gave a wave of approval dedicating an eight-foot bronze statue of himself on Friday before a cheering crowd of about 500 people.
The statue was erected in the Delmar Loop entertainment district of St. Louis despite opponents who objected to the monument, citing Berry's legal troubles during his long career.
"I won't keep you long," Berry, wearing his trademark boating cap, told a crowd that gathered despite heat surpassing 90 degrees. "I don't know how to speak, I just sing a little bit. I'm going to say thank you again, and I love you all."
Berry's rapid fire lyrics and revolutionary guitar riffs landed him in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and earned the lifelong St. Louis resident a Presidential medal of honor.
He is listed by Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the five top all-time rock acts along the Beatles, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and Elvis Presley.
Berry, who first played in 1941, still performs every month at Blueberry Hill, across the street from the statue.
Among those sending greetings to Berry was Elvis Costello, who said he was glad to see a Berry statue "in St. Louis where it belongs" and from fellow rock pioneer Little Richard who called Berry "the greatest entertainer in the world."
Berry was joined at the podium by his wife, children and grandchildren who joined his fans in singing "Johnny B. Goode," his signature 1957 hit, as the rock icon made his way through the crowd at the end of the ceremony.
A plaza near the statue features illuminated walls with laser-engraved musical notes of "Johnny B. Goode". Concrete strips in the sidewalk are etched with the lyrics of Berry songs.
Opposition to the statue came earlier this summer when a former city council member gathered 100 signatures aimed at delaying the installation. The opposition centered on felony convictions in Berry's early career, including a 1962 conviction for transporting a woman across state lines for immoral purposes.
Berry spent three years in prison, where he penned several songs, including "No Particular Place to Go."
Berry collapsed during a show in Chicago last New Year's Day but recovered in time to play his next show in St. Louis and showed no signs of ill effects at the dedication ceremony.
His next Blueberry Hill show is scheduled for August 17.