• Paul Wirt

Happy 62nd "Birthday" Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Good"

Released March 31, 1958 on Chess Records, Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B, Goode” would eventually go on to become an instantly recognizable hit that influenced countless musicians to pick up a guitar. It also introduced a wider audience to the force of nature that was Chuck Berry. The world had never seen a musician and entertainer like Berry before with his signature duckwalk move and the ability to almost do a complete split without missing a note on his guitar. Berry oozed personality on stage and that helped to separate rock n’ roll music from the blues. Where blues was dominated by songs of hard times and trouble, rock n’ roll was fun. No one (with the exception of Little Richard) was having more fun than Chuck Berry on stage in the late 1950’s. Sure, Elvis could “shake like a man on a fuzzy tree” but he couldn’t play guitar like Chuck. Unlike many of today’s rock songs that are produced in Pro-Tools and end up having countless tracks and dizzying instrumentation, “Johnny B. Goode” still sounds good in 2020 because it reminds us that sometimes all we really need to create a great song is a cool lick, a good lyric, a great beat, and some musicians to bring it all to life. What most people don’t know about this particular composition is that the main guitar riff was lifted from a Louis Jordan song called “Ain’t That Just Like A Woman”. “Johnny B. Goode’s” inclusion in 1985’s Back To The Future (and its first sequel) proved just how essential it was to late 1950’s era rock n’ roll and helped a new generation connect to Berry’s music. It also provided one of the film’s most memorable moments when Marty McFly played a red Gibson ES-345 guitar and confidently told the band to “watch me for the changes.”


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