Looking back, the Aerosmith guitarist says he credits Berry for influencing him as a young musician.

“Some of the first licks you learn are Chuck Berry licks,” Perry told PEOPLE. “You’re captured by rock n’ roll, and when I heard Chuck Berry it was perfect.”

“It can’t get any better than that,” continued Perry, 66. “Then to be able to sit down and that first time you can actually play along to Chuck Berry songs—that’s like the key that unlocks the door. Like, ‘Wow I can do that, let me try to this.’ It’s that kind of a thing.” 

Perry notes that there are “not too many other people” who have Berry’s “incredible body of work and great songs.”

 “I mean he was the cat,” says Perry. “It’s timeless. A friend of mine, a good friend of mine’s son is 15 years old said, ‘Dad, I can play “Johnny B. Goode,”‘ and he’s 15. It’s timeless. He’s an icon, a pioneer.”

Before Berry’s death, Perry had the incredible opportunity to perform at his 80th birthday party a decade ago.

“It was really amazing,” recalled Perry. “I met him in passing a couple of times, but this was the first time I actually had a chance to sit down and talk to him at his place in St. Louis and to sit in on a couple of songs. It was really an honor for me. As a fan and as a guitar player, I’m just glad I had a chance to do it. He came to an Aerosmith show—he never goes to anybody’s shows, so that was just great to have that. That weekend was a great time.”

By Brianne Tracy and Mariah Haas for People