Can Am Jammin
It was spring circa 1978 and I was employed by Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, NC. My job was as assistant PR Director working for legendary promoter H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler. I will always view him as a modern day P.T. Barnum.
This particular spring we were hosting an SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) racing weekend with the feature race a stop on the Canadian American Challenge Cup. These exotic race cares were reverently referred to as Can Am's. At best this event was considered minor league for a facility that would in a few short weeks be hosting the World 600- a part of NASCAR's figurative triple crown- where 125 thousand folks would show up to take part.
Being the "assistant" I was in charge of promoting the minor league events. We promote to attract the paying spectator and in this part of the south where love of stock car racing flows in the veins, exotic sports cars were a tough sell, so to speak. With "Humpy's" nudge we decided to couple a headline music act with the race and bill the spectacle as "Can Am Jam!" It just so happened that an aging music legend was touring through the area and we were able to book the legendary Chuck Berry at a bargain.
As I look back from the perspective of forty years, I remember Mr. Berry a humble gracious man who in his early fifties and past his prime was having the time of his life. Parents had brought their children. There were lots of dads with their boys. When Mr. Berry performed his classic "Johnny B. Goode", he invited the boys to come on stage and boogie with him. It was a grace filled scene. One of our Speedway photographers captured the image in black and white. It has been hanging in my home(s) forever since. Every time I look at the smiles on those boys faces I know our Creator smiles just as wide and those boys- probably now fathers- have told their children the day they boogied on stage with the great Chuck Berry!
A few years later I went to see "Back to the Future", a movie that ranks in my all time top 10. There is a great scene in which Chuck Berry makes an implied appearance in conjunction with Marty McFly's performance of "Johnny B. Goode." For more on that: Back to the Future
Amen Brother Chuck RIP