Johnny B. Goode

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"Johnny B. Goode"
Johnny B Goode by Chuck Berry US single side-A.png
One of side-A labels of original US single
Single by Chuck Berry
B-side"Around and Around"
ReleasedMarch 31, 1958 (1958-03-31)
RecordedJanuary 6, 1958
StudioChess, Chicago
GenreRock and roll
Songwriter(s)Chuck Berry
Producer(s)Leonard Chess, Phil Chess
Chuck Berry singles chronology
"Sweet Little Sixteen"
"Johnny B. Goode"
"Beautiful Delilah"
Audio sample

"Johnny B. Goode" is a 1958 rock song written and first recorded by Chuck Berry. Released as a single, it peaked at number two on Billboard magazine's Hot R&B Sides chart and number eight on its pre-Hot 100 chart.[1]

"Johnny B. Goode" is considered one of the most recognizable songs in the history of popular music. Credited as "the first rock & roll hit about rock & roll stardom",[2] it has been recorded by many other artists and has received several honors and accolades. These include being ranked 33rd on Rolling Stones's 2021 version[3] and 7th on the 2004 version of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time"[2][4] and included as one of the 27 songs on the Voyager Golden Record, a collection of music, images, and sounds designed to serve as a record of humanity.

Composition and recording[edit]

Written by Berry in 1955, the song is about a semi-literate "country boy" from the New Orleans area, who plays a guitar "just like ringing a bell", and who might one day have his "name in lights".[5] Berry acknowledged that the song is partly autobiographical and that the original lyrics referred to Johnny as a "colored boy", but he changed it to "country boy" to ensure radio play.[6] As well as suggesting that the guitar player is good, the title hints at autobiographic elements, because Berry was born at 2520 Goode Avenue, in St. Louis.[5]

The song was initially inspired by Johnnie Johnson, the regular piano player in Berry's band,[7] but developed into a song mainly about Berry himself. Johnson played on many recordings by Berry, but for the Chess recording session Lafayette Leake played the piano, along with Willie Dixon on bass and Fred Below on drums.[5][8] The session was produced by Leonard and Phil Chess.[8]

The opening guitar riff of "Johnny B. Goode" borrows from the opening single-note solo on Louis Jordan's "Ain't That Just Like a Woman" (1946), played by guitarist Carl Hogan.[9]


A golden record
The Voyager Golden Record contains "Johnny B. Goode" among various musical pieces from many cultures.

In The Guardian, Joe Queenan wrote that "Johnny B. Goode" is "probably the first song ever written about how much money a musician could make by playing the guitar", and argued that "no song in the history of rock'n'roll more jubilantly celebrates the downmarket socioeconomic roots of the genre".[10] In Billboard, Jason Lipshutz stated that the song was "the first rock-star origin story", and that it featured "a swagger and showmanship that had not yet invaded radio."[11]

When Chuck Berry was inducted during the first Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony on January 23, 1986, he performed "Johnny B. Goode" and "Rock and Roll Music", backed by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.[12] The Hall of Fame included these songs and "Maybellene" in their list of the 500 songs that shaped rock and roll.[13] It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999, for its influence as a rock and roll single.[14]

"Johnny B. Goode" has been recorded by a wide variety of artists in different genres. In 1969, country musician Buck Owens's version topped Billboard magazine's Hot Country Sides chart.[15] In 1972, Jimi Hendrix had a posthumous hit with a live version, which peaked at number 35 on the UK Singles Chart.[16] and number 13 on the New Zealand Top 50 in 1986.[17] Peter Tosh's rendition peaked at number 84 on the Billboard Hot 100,[18] number 48 on the UK Singles Chart,[19] number 10 in the Netherlands, and number 29 in New Zealand in 1983.[20] In 1988, Judas Priest's version reached number 64 on the UK Singles Chart.[16] The Sex Pistols also covered it for their soundtrack The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle in 1979.

The song is included, as the eleventh track of disc 1, in the Voyager Golden Record, travelling into deep space outside the solar system.

A cover version is included in the film Back to the Future, when the lead character Marty McFly plays it at a high school dance. Actor Michael J. Fox explained his approach to "incorporate all the characteristics and mannerisms and quirks of my favourite guitarists, so a Pete Townshend windmill, and Jimi Hendrix behind the back, and a Chuck Berry duckwalk. And we worked all that in."[21] Reviewer Gregory Wakeman described it as "one of the best musical performances in movie history".[21]


List Publisher Rank Year of publication
500 Greatest Songs of All Time[2] Rolling Stone 33 2004
50 Greatest Guitar Solos Guitar World 12 2009
100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time Rolling Stone 1 2008
100 Greatest Guitar Tracks Q 42 2005
500 Greatest Songs of All Time[3] Rolling Stone 7 2021
500 Songs That Shaped Rock Rock and Roll Hall of Fame N/A 1995
Top 10,000 Songs Acclaimed Music 5 N/A

Charts and certifications[edit]


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Italy (FIMI)[25]
sales since 2009
Gold 25,000double-dagger
United Kingdom (BPI)[26] Gold 400,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[27] Platinum 1,000,000double-dagger

double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1988). Top R&B Singles 1942–1988. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research. p. 42. ISBN 0-89820-068-7.
  2. ^ a b c "500 Greatest Songs of All Time: 7. Chuck Berry, 'Johnny B. Goode'". Rolling Stone. April 7, 2011. Archived from the original on March 12, 2017. Retrieved March 22, 2017.
  3. ^ a b "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time: Chuck Berry, 'Johnny B. Goode'". Rolling Stone (2021 ed.). September 15, 2021. Retrieved May 5, 2023.
  4. ^ "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone (2004 ed.). December 11, 2003. Retrieved May 5, 2023.
  5. ^ a b c Taylor, Timothy D. (2000). "Chapter 7 – His Name Was in Lights: Chuck Berry's 'Johnny B. Goode'". In Middleton, Richard (ed.). Reading Pop: Approaches to Textual Analysis in Popular Music. Oxford University Press. pp. 165–167, 177. ISBN 0-19-816611-7.
  6. ^ "Johnny B. Goode". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on December 28, 2006. Retrieved February 21, 2010.
  7. ^ Ratliff, Ben (April 14, 2005). "Johnnie Johnson, 80, Dies; Inspired 'Johnny B. Goode'". New York Times. Retrieved February 21, 2010.
  8. ^ a b Altman, Billy (1988). Chuck Berry: The Chess Box (Box set booklet). Chuck Berry. Universal City, California: MCA Records/Chess Records. CHD3-80,001.
  9. ^ Miller, James (1999). Flowers in the Dustbin: The Rise of Rock and Roll, 1947–1977. Simon & Schuster. p. 104. ISBN 0-684-80873-0.
  10. ^ Queenan, Joe (June 21, 2007). "The story of Johnny B Goode". The Guardian. Retrieved March 22, 2017.
  11. ^ Lipshutz, Jason (March 18, 2017). "How Chuck Berry's 'Johnny B. Goode' Helped Define 'Back to the Future'". Billboard. Retrieved March 22, 2017.
  12. ^ Barker, Derek (2009). Liner notes to Bruce Springsteen's Jukebox: The Songs that Inspired the Man [CD]. Chrome Dreams.
  13. ^ "500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll by Artists (A-C)". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on May 24, 2007.
  14. ^ "Grammy Hall of Fame – Past Recipients (Letter J)". The Grammy Awards. United States: National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on January 22, 2011. Retrieved February 1, 2011.
  15. ^ "Charts & Awards: Buck Owens – Billboard Singles". AllMusic. Retrieved February 1, 2011.
  16. ^ a b "Johnny B. Goode - Full Official Chart History". Official Charts Company. Official Charts Company. Retrieved January 19, 2016.
  17. ^ ""Johnny B. Goode" by Jimi Hendrix". New Zealand Top 50 Singles. Hung Medien. Retrieved February 1, 2011.
  18. ^ "Charts & Awards: Peter Tosh – Billboard Singles". AllMusic. Retrieved February 1, 2011.
  19. ^ "Peter Tosh: Full Official Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved January 19, 2016.
  20. ^ ""Johnny B. Goode" by Peter Tosh" (ASP). australian-charts. Hung Medien. Retrieved February 1, 2011.
  21. ^ a b Wakeman, Gregory (June 12, 2020). "Madonna's Choreographer Helped Michael J Fox Perfect Back To The Future's Iconic Johnny B Goode Scene". Retrieved October 21, 2020.
  22. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  23. ^ "Charts & Awards: Chuck Berry – Billboard Singles". AllMusic. Retrieved February 1, 2011.
  24. ^ "Chuck Berry Chart History (Hot Rock & Alternative Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
  25. ^ "Italian single certifications – Chuck Berry – Johnny B. Goode" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved November 26, 2020. Select "2019" in the "Anno" drop-down menu. Select "Johnny B. Goode" in the "Filtra" field. Select "Singoli" under "Sezione".
  26. ^ "British single certifications – Chuck Berry – Johnny B Goode". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved September 2, 2021.
  27. ^ "American single certifications – Chuck Berry – Johnny B. Goode". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved November 18, 2020.