“BIG CHICK” Bigger Than Life

These are the words that come to mind when I think about my mentor and friend, the man who taught me about working hard, and helped me on my career path:

Strong.3_15031.jpg
Funny.
Firm.
Competitive.
Outgoing.

Most people recognized him back in the day–At 6’8″ nearly 400 pounds, and with his distinctive Santa Claus beard, Charles”Big Chick” Huntsberry became something of a celebrity in his own right. Prince’s former bodyguard had a cameo appearance in the film Purple Rain, and served as his lead bodyguard until 1985.

Hard to believe it has been 17 years since his passing. He was only 49.

I first met Big Chick when my buddy Brown Mark invited me along to a few band rehearsals. Big Chick had been in Law Enforcement in Tennessee at one time, and worked for the band AC/DC. After meeting Chick, I was inspired to do this type of work, and thankfully, Brown Mark put in a good word for me. I was a big guy, but both guys pretty much laughed when I naively stated “I want to be a bodyguard, too.” I spent the next 6 months working out like crazy –yes, I was under the assumption you just needed to be big to be a bodyguard (see What It Means To Be Professional) to learn the truth about this career!) Big Chick thought I had the right personality and attitude for the job, and saw the work I’d put into getting physically fit. He gave me my first job as a bodyguard.

He then taught me there was a lot more to the work than being a big man.

Big Chick and I spent a lot of time together on the road in the mid-1980s, working on the Purple Rain tour. He was a funny, funny guy who loved to laugh, loved to cuss, and was constantly busting me with practical jokes. I remember the one time I got him pretty good, though. I went to his room and knocked on his closed and locked hotel door…well, what he didn’t know was that I had my stun gun on the metal door handle, and hit the juice, so when he tried to open it to let me in, he got a little jolt. He yelped, then tried it again. Another jolt. “What’s wrong?” I asked, “I keep getting shocked when I touch the M.F. door,” he replied. (Insert any number of colorful expletives) I told him it was probably a malfunction with the electronic card reader, and to try again. Well, I zapped him a coupla times, then put away my stun gun.

WELL one of my road brothers squealed on me and Big Chick got wind of how I’d messed with him. I was put back on luggage detail for a few weeks–the crummiest, lowest task to deal with on tour. He was the boss, though, and he had the last laugh!

Big Chick had the most sinister laugh–he’d stick his tongue out the side of his mouth, and laugh that evil little laugh–and you’d just KNOW you were in for some trouble. Because he was such a big man, he’d often split his pants–and he’d get so mad!! Meanwhile, we’d all nearly cry from laughing–which would just make him more angry.

One of the funniest things I can recall is when Big Chick decided to design uniforms for all of the bodyguards in the entourage. I still cringe when I think about it. He designed suits that were double-breasted, purple satin with white belts. We looked like little school patrol boys. All the guys argued and complained and told him we really didn’t want to wear those uniforms. He insisted we put them on. So, we’re all standing there, when Prince comes in to rehearsal. He takes one look at all of us and FALLS out laughing…if I remember correctly, he said Big Chick and all of us looked like “Friar Tuck and his Merry Men.” We never had to wear those again. I did feel kind of bad for Chick though–he had the best of intentions and was so earnest in his attempt to get the guys looking sharp.

I miss Big Chick, he was a good man to work with and really made those days on the road fun. We worked hard, but we sure laughed hard and played hard, too. He once told Gilbert and I “you two are like my sons–and I didn’t used to like black people.” Given that he was a good ‘ole boy from Tennessee, I took that as a big compliment.

I guess you could say we both taught each other something important.

  • Cornelia

    Very interesting and funny! Thank you for the good laugh! :-)

  • Mr Madhouse

    Thanks for sharing these nice stories, they are very amusing and shows the human realities behind the public persona.

  • http://myspace.com Herman

    I always wondered what happened to big Chick, I thought Prince fired him or something. I love to hear about good practical jokes, one you could play on Prince would be to get a guitar made like the old one he has & you & a couple more guys pretend to be shooting dice back stage or during rehearsal & as soon as Prince gets close enough to see the guitar pretend to get into an argument & tell one of the guys I know I owe you the money but Prince would kill me if I gave you his guitar. I’d destroy it first before I ever gave it to you, & then smash the guitar. :-)

  • Tina Kahn

    Hucky,
    I thought I’d let ya know that dad’s name was Charles “Big Chick” Huntsberry.
    Just to set the record straight – he’s always liked “black” people. (see your last paragraph). He always taught us that we all bleed red. We’re from Ohio – not Tennessee. We lived in Tennessee for a year. Loved the story. Tried to call you a few weeks ago, but you didn’t answer. Sorry we couldn’t hook up. We’ll have to get together before the snow flies!
    (Note to Herman – Prince didn’t fire dad).
    Take care,
    Tina

  • peter

    nice post,i miss big chick 2

  • anyhow

    thank for the laugh

  • THP

    that was a good story i rarely read so yeah,but it was fun to read that the pic is intimidating lol i would be scared to mess with big chick

  • Hucky

    Tina thanks for responding to this article. Tina I never
    intended any disrespect, Gilbert and I obviously didn’t think Chick was racist.
    I think he would say things just to pull my leg or for shock value. As far as
    Tennessee he’d always
    talked about it as if he’d lived there for some time, I was going from what he
    was telling me about his past. When doing my stories I do my best to get all
    the facts right, but some of these over 20 years ago, so please forgive me if I don’t get everything spot on. Your dad
    was a great guy, and I’m glad I got to spend some time with him.

  • david

    wow he was so young when he passed… do you mind posting the reason behind his early passing?

    he sounds like a true warrior, i bet he is upstairs guarding the big guy now!

    David

  • Hucky

    Heart failure

  • WC

    Great story, I really enjoyed it………..Thanks

  • William K.

    I think we can admit that Prince is a great musician, but was he a great person… kinda like Chick?

    Was he respected because of respecting others, dig?

    What of the interaction with Morris Day? Who waz tha coolest brotha? P or D?

  • james

    hi im looking for work anyone can help me ???

  • http://www.perfspot.com/purplesurfeit PurpleSurfeit

    I am [soon-to-be] a 35-year old black guy and I landed in the space, seeking information about Chuck “Big Chick” Huntsberry. Prince is my favorite singer and almost everytime I watch the movie, Purple Rain, I am intrigued to seek more of the Prince & Associates story. I didn’t know of his passing away and am deeply sorry to hear of such. As well, I didn’t realize he was no longer of the Prince entourage (as of 1985). I am interested in learning more of what brought that about… and is the Gilbert aforementioned G. Davidson (former president of Paisley Park)? In such a small article, much was learned. I’ve always been impressed by his stature in the movie. Haha, me and Prince are equal in size.

  • http://www.perfspot.com/purplesurfeit PurpleSurfeit

    I’m just returning to say that I noticed the credit to Hucky in the closing credits on Sign “O” the Times for tour security.

  • johnny

    I work his brother Terry at Argosy Casino. he talks about him all the time.

  • Bobby hopkins

    Big Chick loved the lord and was a good friend to me.We went in and out of different prisons teaching the inmates about the lord.Big Chick was a soldier for christ.

  • Tim Hoeflich

    I met Big Chick in September of 1984 when I was working on the house sound crew at Bogart’s in Cincinnati. Warner Brothers had arrange a pre-tour gig and had it billed as “Red Hot & Blue”. I got to Bogart’s at 7am on the day of the show, to set some extra snakes for all of the miking that was anticipated. I met Big Chic after noon when the band and their personal gear showed up. He came out onto the house floor to meet with the crew. The man was simply intimidating by sight alone. I don’t remember him saying much to us. He mainly wanted to know who were where and what we would be doing. When Warner Brothers sound folks showed up, they took over the operation. I wound up being asked to protect Prince’s ladder on stage right. Prince climbed this to get on top of the PA speaker stack. It was a wild night and I was impressed with the whole operation.

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  • http://fenholt.com jeff fenholt

    Charles “Big Chick” was my best friend. We grew up in Ohio. I think about him all the time and still LMAO at my memories of him. He has a beautiful family. ‘Miss him much.

    I do believe we will see him again…..soon.

    Jeff Fenholt

  • Rick Phillips

    I saw Big Chick when he was in Sydney Australia in 1989 with Jeff Fenholt.He was preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and telling stories of being bodyguard to Prince and other rockers.He got saved or born again when his little grandchild died and Big Chick said “if You are real GOD then bring my grandson back”. The Lord did Chick’s wish and that’s how Big Chick had his life changed.He was a real man as he kept his word to God and went preaching THE KINGDOM OF GOD and he is with THE LORD today.

  • carl clark

    i met chick in the 80s at cletus’s house and he was one of the nicest men i ever met! my sister was best friends with one of his daughters and i just want to say hello from Pataskala.

  • Rick Welch

    I met Chick & his family back in the 70’s.I went to church with his family & then met Chick. Tina, I remember what a golden heart he had. Hope your doing well

    Rick

  • Chris

    in the 80s, my dads best freind was working at a bar in Lancaster, Ohio called the Charlie Horse. Some how Prince got word of this venue and wanted to check it out between shows. They stopped in and Big Chick and everyone met Mike Mays who was about 6’6 300lbs and was offered a security job with Prince. I remember being 12 and hanging out at the hotel before a show in Cleveland on the Purple Rain tour and Big Chick and Mike Mays were up to practical jokes and was messing with Sheila E’s brother to a point he was almost in tears. I have never forgot that time. Being 12 years old and how big Purple Rain was and how Prince was propelling himself into a SuperStar. I still brag about those days with old friends. It is still hard to beleive that both Big Chic and Mike are gone and have been for awhile. But never forgotton good people!!! Both could make everyone smile and laugh at the snap of a finger.

  • Clay Chesney

    Chick was my best friend when we were kids growing up in the south end of Columbus. He was always tall but was kind of skinny when he was young. Had a really magnetic personality and was a lot of fun. The girls really liked him. When we were about 12 years old both of us told our parents we were going to spend the weekend in the country at the aunt’s house of the other boy. Then we took off on our bikes and rode down to southern Ohio, slept outside. We had to ride double part of the way. We were tanned nearly black and our lips were cracking by the time we got back but it was a great trip. He was always entertaining, always a leader, always honest and always kind.

  • Randy Anderson

    Hey all, I knew Big Chick personally, (sorry Tina he told me to just call him Chick), He definitely had a VERY INTIMIDATING appearence. The first time I ever saw him I was at Cletus’s house in Pataskala,(pronounced pa-tas-ka-la) OH, I saw this MASSIVE white haired biker looking guy with the black and white “Santa Clause” beard walk thru an overhead garage door and he had to duck to walk in the garage….HOLY CRAP…WHO IS THIS GUY, HE’S FRIGGIN’ HUGE!!!!!
    I went to his house once with Cletus and he took us down the basement to see a new arm wresting training machine he built. I grabbed ahold of it and I couldnt budge it. He grabs it and does several reps…holy shit.
    Then there was a time when we went to a bar on Brice Road in Reynoldsburg, Cletus who at the time was about 6′ tall 275 lbs on one side of me and Chick 6’8″ and almost 400 lbs on the other and all of us drinking beer. I was about 16 and the bartender was looking at me like I know you’re not old enough to be drinking but she would look at Chick and Cletus and just walk away…lol. I have since quit drinking.
    Then there were the stories I’ve heard about when Chick was stocking drywall or as some call it sheetrock and Chick unloading carts of drywall with just his thumbs, he was that strong.

    I saw Chick working security at the AC/DC Back In Black concert at St Johns Arena on the O.S.U campus, he immediately recognized me and said if he had known that I was going to the concert he would have got my girlfriend and I backstge passes to meet the band

    I knew his wife Linda who was a real sweetheart and I went to school with his daughter Tina.

    If you were lucky enough to have Chick as a friend you had one of the truest friends anyone could ask for.

    God rest his soul.
    Miss you Chick.

    Randy Anderson

  • Wayne

    WoW, this is great reading all this. My friend and i are off to a celebration of Purple Rain this weekend at a cinema in the centre of London. It’s a fancy dress evening with cocktails before and he’s going as Dr Fink and i’m gonna go as Big Chick!! I’m skinny as hell but i’ve got some costume ideas up my sleeve. Big love to all that is ‘Huntberry’. Peace

  • Wayne

    Sorry! ‘Huntsberry’

  • http://grinch@usfamiley.com Sam Riley

    late one after noon i stoped by the set of Puple rain to inqiure about a job,after waiting a minute or two,a voice spoke from behind me,saying what do you need.as i turned i stood in front of big Chick,and my reply was’i want to work with ya.from that day on’i grew to respect him as a mentor and as time went by’he became to be a teacher as well as the kindest person you could know.it was a true pleasure to have been groomed by the best, may god hold him in the palm of his hand always.

  • Stewart Johnson

    I met Big Chick in the late 70’s he was very good friends with my next door neighbor Cletus Dillion. I am 6′ 2″ in height and Chick towered me he also had an arm wrestling machine in his basement, he would practice with four springs I couldn’t even get one spring down, Big Chick laughed but he never made fun he was a complete gentleman, my boys called Big Chick Big Foot. He was a gentle giant. I went to his house once and met his wife she was a very beautiful lady. At this time in Chick life he had not become ACDC or Prince body guard he was a bouncer at a club called the Agora on High Street in Columbus Ohio across from Ohio State. I remember Chick very well and will never forget him he was a great guy and he had strong belief in our lord. Chick will be missed and I know that he was loved by many. God Bless Big Guy we miss you and I know that the Lord has you standing watch on the Pearl Gates.