Johnny B. Goode

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For the posthumous live album by Jimi Hendrix, see Johnny B. Goode (album).
"Johnny B. Goode"
Single by Chuck Berry
from the album Chuck Berry Is on Top
B-side "Around & Around"
Released March 31, 1958
Format 7" 45 RPM, 10" 78 RPM
Recorded January 6, 1958 at Chess Studios, Chicago, Illinois
Genre Rock and roll
Length 2:30
Label Chess
Writer(s) Chuck Berry
Producer(s) Little "Bongo" Kraus
Chuck Berry singles chronology
"Sweet Little Sixteen"
(1958)
"Johnny B. Goode"
(1958)
"Beautiful Delilah"
(1958)
Audio sample
file info · help

"Johnny B. Goode" is a 1958 rock and roll song written and originally performed by Chuck Berry. The song was a major hit among both black and white audiences peaking at #2 on Billboard magazine's Hot R&B Sides chart and #8 on the Billboard Hot 100.[1]

The song is one of Berry's most famous recordings, has been covered by many artists, and has received several honors and accolades. It is also considered to be one of the most recognizable songs in music history.

Composition and recording[edit]

Written by Berry in 1955, the song is about a poor country boy who plays a guitar "just like ringing a bell," and who might one day have his "name in lights."[2] Berry has acknowledged that the song is partly autobiographical, and originally had "colored boy" in the lyrics, but he changed it to "country boy" to ensure radio play.[3] The title is suggestive that the guitar player is good, and hints at autobiographic elements because Berry was born at 2520 Goode Avenue in St. Louis.[2] The song was initially inspired by Berry's piano player, Johnnie Johnson,[4][5] though developed into a song mainly about Berry himself. Though Johnnie Johnson played on many other Chuck Berry songs, it was Lafayette Leake who played piano on this song.[2]

The opening guitar riff on "Johnny B. Goode" is essentially a note-for-note copy of the opening single-note solo on Louis Jordan's "Ain't That Just Like a Woman" (1946), played by guitarist Carl Hogan.[6]

Berry has written thirty more songs involving the character Johnny B. Goode, "Bye Bye Johnny", "Go Go Go", and "Johnny B. Blues"; and titled an album, and the nearly 19 min instrumental title track from it, as "Concerto in B. Goode".

Musicians[edit]

Legacy[edit]

Berry's recording of the song was included on the Voyager Golden Record, attached to the Voyager spacecraft as representing rock and roll, one of four American songs included among many cultural achievements of humanity.

When Chuck Berry was inducted into the first Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on January 23, 1986, he performed "Johnny B. Goode" and "Rock and Roll Music", backed by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.[7] The Hall of Fame included these songs and "Maybellene" in their list of the 500 songs that shaped Rock and Roll.[8] It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999, for its influence as a rock and roll single.[9]

In the 1984 film Threads, the song is heard twice. The first time is when core characters Ruth Beckett and Jimmy Kemp discuss the future of their relationship before the outbreak of nuclear war, in his car overlooking Sheffield. The second time is fourteen years after the nuclear holocaust, as Ruth and Jimmy's daughter Jane, heavily pregnant, struggles to find a hospital in which to give birth. The song seems to be emanating from a nightclub, pub or brothel within the devastated post-apocalyptic town.

In the 1985 film Back to the Future, Marty McFly performed the song with Marvin Berry and the Starlighters during the "Enchantment Under the Sea" high school dance, which took place in November 1955. Mark Campbell (of Jack Mack and the Heart Attack fame) sang the vocals for Michael J. Fox, and Tim May played the guitar. This scene was revisited in Back to the Future Part II (1989). During Marty's Berry-esque rendition of the song, Marvin telephones his cousin Chuck, to have him hear what might be the new sound Chuck was looking for.

During his time in World Championship Wrestling, wrestler Marc Mero wrestled under the name Johnny B. Badd which was an homage to the song

Accolades[edit]

List Publisher Rank Year of publication
500 Greatest Songs of All Time Rolling Stone 7 2010
100 Greatest Guitar Tracks Q 42 2005
100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time Rolling Stone 1 2008
Top 3000 Songs Acclaimed Music 6 N/A
500 Songs That Shaped Rock Rock & Roll Hall of Fame N/A 1995
50 Greatest Guitar Solos Guitar World 12 2009

Cover versions[edit]

Cover versions that charted[edit]

"Johnny Be Good"
Single by Judas Priest
from the album Ram It Down
B-side "Rock You All Around the World" (live)
Released 1988
Format 7" 45 RPM, 12" maxi
Recorded 1987
Genre Heavy metal
Length 4:36
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Chuck Berry
Producer(s) Tom Allom, Glenn Tipton, K. K. Downing, Rob Halford
Judas Priest singles chronology
"Ram It Down/Heavy Metal"
(1988)
"Johnny Be Good"
(1988)
"Painkiller"
(1990)

Country musician Buck Owens version of "Johnny B. Goode" topped Billboard magazine's Hot Country Sides chart in 1969.[10] Jimi Hendrix had a posthumous hit with "Johnny B. Goode" peaking at #35 on the UK Singles Chart in 1972[11] and #13 on the New Zealand Top 50 in 1986.[12] Peter Tosh's version of the song peaked at #84 on the Billboard Hot 100,[13] #48 on the UK Singles Chart,[14] #10 in the Netherlands, and #29 in New Zealand.[15] Judas Priest's version reached #64 on the UK Singles Chart in 1988.[16]

Additional cover versions[edit]

The list of performers includes:

Other songs[edit]

Leo Sayer included a song called "The Last Gig of Johnny B. Goode" on his 1975 album, Another Year, about a fallen rock star.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Charts & Awards: Chuck Berry – Billboard Singles". Allmusic. United States: Rovi Corporation. Retrieved February 1, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Taylor, Timothy D. (2000). "Chapter 7 – His Name was in Lights: Chuck Berry's 'Johnny B. Goode'". In Middleton, Richard. Reading Pop: Approaches to Textual Analysis in Popular Music. Oxford University Press. pp. 165–167, 177. ISBN 0-19-816611-7. 
  3. ^ "Johnny B. Goode : Rolling Stone". rollingstone.com. Archived from the original on February 1, 2011. Retrieved February 21, 2010. 
  4. ^ "Johnnie Johnson". Blues Music Now. Retrieved February 21, 2010. 
  5. ^ Ratliff, Ben (April 14, 2005). "Johnnie Johnson, 80, Dies; Inspired 'Johnny B. Goode'". The New York Times. Retrieved February 21, 2010. 
  6. ^ Miller, James (1999). Flowers in the Dustbin: The Rise of Rock and Roll, 1947-1977. Simon & Schuster, 104. ISBN 0-684-80873-0.
  7. ^ Barker, Derek (2009). Liner notes to Bruce Springsteen's Jukebox: The Songs that Inspired the Man [CD]. Chrome Dreams.
  8. ^ "500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll by Artists (A-C)". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on February 1, 2011. 
  9. ^ "Grammy Hall of Fame – Past Recipients (Letter J)". The Grammy Awards. United States: National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Retrieved February 1, 2011. 
  10. ^ "Charts & Awards: Buck Owens – Billboard Singles". Allmusic. United States: Rovi Corporation. Retrieved February 1, 2011. 
  11. ^ ""Johnny B. Goode" by Jimi Hendrix" (PHP). UK Singles Chart. Chartstats. Archived from the original on July 31, 2012. Retrieved February 1, 2011. 
  12. ^ ""Johnny B. Goode" by Jimi Hendrix" (ASP). New Zealand Top 50 Singles. Hung Medien. Retrieved February 1, 2011. 
  13. ^ "Charts & Awards: Peter Tosh – Billboard Singles". Allmusic. United States: Rovi Corporation. Retrieved February 1, 2011. 
  14. ^ ""Johnny B. Goode" by Peter Tosh" (PHP). UK Singles Chart. Chartstats. Archived from the original on July 29, 2012. Retrieved February 1, 2011. 
  15. ^ ""Johnny B. Goode" by Peter Tosh" (ASP). australian-charts. Hung Medien. Retrieved February 1, 2011. 
  16. ^ ""Johnny B. Goode" by Judas Priest" (PHP). UK Singles Chart. Chartstats. Archived from the original on July 28, 2012. Retrieved February 1, 2011. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"I Love You More Today"
by Conway Twitty
Billboard Hot Country Singles
number-one single
(Buck Owens and the Buckaroos version)

July 26 – August 2, 1969
Succeeded by
"All I Have to Offer You Is Me"
by Charley Pride