Like hundreds of other musicians, Daryl Hall backed Chuck Berry during the late rock icon's long career. And he lived to tell the tale.
Hall's moment came during the late '60s at the Philadelphia Spectrum, where he was hired to play piano for a rock 'n' roll revival package that featured Berry, Fats Domino and others. "Every musician of my generation that ever was a sideman has a Chuck Berry story of course -- and it's always the same story," Hall tells Billboard. "He wouldn't play until he got paid up front. You had to give him the money in cash or he wouldn't walk on stage. Then as a player he changed tempos constantly within the songs; He would start a song in one tempo and it would just go up and down and all over the play. To try to keep up with him was a challenge -- and then of course he would look at you like there was something wrong with you if you couldn't pull it off.
"He always stood out as being kind of a character. And hard to deal with. But great, too."
Hall, of course, went on to his own greatness with partner John Oates -- starting with their "Whole Oates" album, which celebrates its 45th anniversary this year. The duo hits the road again for a spring tour with Tears For Fears on May 4, and Hall says there will be a different mood to the tour, from deeper song choices (look for "Is It A Star" from 1974's "War Babies" album, among others) to the musical approach to the performances.
"I've been off the road for a little while, and it gave me time to sort of rethink some things musically," Hall says. "I think the show is going to be more diverse, texturally. Instead of just that bang, bang, bang, song after song energy, there's going to be more room for the songs to breathe. The arrangements are changing a little bit. I'm doing part of the show on grand piano. The songs are going to be familiar; It's going to be the music everyone wants to hear, but it's going to be presented in a slightly different way. It's just more heartfelt as opposed to being aggressive -- that's the best way I can put it."
There are still no plans for new Hall & Oates music, but Hall is planning to finish work on his next solo album, his first since 2011's Laughing Down Crying, for a 2018 release. "I'm still working on it," he says. "I'm finishing it up in August, and it should be out probably the beginning of next year. It's gritty and funky and very heartfelt. There's a lot of gospel. It's got a bit of a southern influence, but with my signature melodies and all that. And it's very raw. I'm really happy with it."