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How Chuck Berry’s Cadillac and His Guitar, Maybellene, Came to the Smithsonian

by Kevin Strait
This article originally appeared in Smithsonian Magazine.

Curator Kevin Strait from the African American History Museum details the day he met the great musician.

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Chuck Berry's Eldorado Cadillac in the National Museum of African American History and Culture (Jason Flakes)

I wasn’t nervous until we were about five minutes away from arriving at Chuck Berry’s home. 

After landing in St. Louis on November 11, 2011, Mr. Berry’s longtime friend and business associate Joe Edwards picked me up to take me to the expansive, tucked-away estate in Wentzville, Missouri, known as Berry Park. I was there to ask Chuck Berry to give one of his Cadillacs to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

This meeting came after months of preparation, research, building contacts, cancelled plans and extended deadlines—all with the purpose of acquiring artifacts for the museum's exhibition “Musical Crossroads” with an opening date still four years away.

I had scripted every detail of my request and precisely planned how I would ask for specific objects, but Joe reminded me not to expect an ordinary meeting or a simple exchange.

“It all depends on his mood,” he soberly told me as we arrived at the Berry Park gate and I sunk deeper into my seat, wondering how in the world this was actually going to work.

Continue reading on the Smithsonian Magazine website...