Johnny B. Goode

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"Johnny B. Goode"
Chuck berry - johnny b goode - record label.jpg
Single by Chuck Berry
from the album Chuck Berry Is on Top
B-side"Around and Around"
ReleasedMarch 31, 1958 (1958-03-31)
RecordedJanuary 6, 1958
StudioChess, Chicago
GenreRock and roll
Length2:41
LabelChess
Songwriter(s)Chuck Berry
Producer(s)Leonard and Phil Chess[1]
Chuck Berry singles chronology
"Sweet Little Sixteen"
(1958)
"Johnny B. Goode"
(1958)
"Beautiful Delilah"
(1958)
Audio sample

"Johnny B. Goode" is a 1958 rock-and-roll song written and first recorded by Chuck Berry. The song was a major hit, peaking at number two on Billboard magazine's Hot R&B Sides chart and number eight on its Hot 100 chart.[2]

"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",[3] it has been recorded by many other artists and has received several honors and accolades. The song is also ranked seventh on Rolling Stone's list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".[3]

Composition and recording[edit]

Written by Berry in 1955, the song is about an illiterate "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".[4] 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.[5] 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.[4]

The song was initially inspired by Johnnie Johnson, the regular piano player in Berry's band,[6][7] but developed into a song mainly about Berry himself. Johnson played on many recordings by Berry. Some sources state that Lafayette Leake played the piano on this song,[4] but others give the credit to Johnson.[1] The session was produced by Leonard and Phil Chess,[1] and the sound engineer was studio owner Jack Sheldon Wiener.[8]

For the recording, Berry used either his 1957 Gibson ES-350T with then-new PAF pickups, or his 1956 Gibson ES-350TN with Gibson P-90 pickups, which were the two guitars used for the majority of his Chess Records output.[9]

The opening guitar riff of "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.[10] Berry, in accordance with his custom, first recorded the intro and rhythm guitar and later overdubbed the other solo runs.[11]

Berry wrote four more songs involving the character Johnny B. Goode, "Bye Bye Johnny", "Go Go Go", "Johnny B. Blues" and "Lady B. Goode"; and titled an album, and the nearly 19-minute instrumental title track from it, as "Concerto in B. Goode".

Personnel[edit]

Chart history[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Italy (FIMI)[17]
sales since 2009
Gold 25,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[18] Platinum 1,000,000double-dagger

double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone

Legacy[edit]

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".[19] 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."[20]

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.[21] The Hall of Fame included these songs and "Maybellene" in their list of the 500 songs that shaped rock and roll.[22] It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999, for its influence as a rock and roll single.[23]

"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.[24] In 1972, Jimi Hendrix had a posthumous hit with a live version, which peaked at number 35 on the UK Singles Chart.[25] and number 13 on the New Zealand Top 50 in 1986.[26] Peter Tosh's rendition peaked at number 84 on the Billboard Hot 100,[27] number 48 on the UK Singles Chart,[28] number 10 in the Netherlands, and number 29 in New Zealand in 1983.[29] In 1988, Judas Priest's version reached number 64 on the UK Singles Chart.[25]

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 duck walk. And we worked all that in."[30] Reviewer Gregory Wakeman described it as "one of the best musical performances in movie history".[30]

Accolades[edit]

List Publisher Rank Year of publication
500 Greatest Songs of All Time Rolling Stone 7 2004
100 Greatest Guitar Tracks Q 42 2005
100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time Rolling Stone 1 2008
Top 3,000 Songs Acclaimed Music 6 N/A
500 Songs That Shaped Rock Rock and Roll Hall of Fame N/A 1995
50 Greatest Guitar Solos Guitar World 12 2009

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f "Details For Recording Session: 6. 1. 1958", The Chuck Berry Database. Retrieved 22 January 2020
  2. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1988). Top R&B Singles 1942–1988. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research. p. 42. ISBN 0-89820-068-7.
  3. ^ a b "500 Greatest Songs of All Time: 7. Chuck Berry, 'Johnny B. Goode'". Rolling Stone. April 7, 2011. Retrieved March 22, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e f 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.
  5. ^ "Johnny B. Goode". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on December 28, 2006. Retrieved February 21, 2010.
  6. ^ "Johnny Johnson". Blues Music Now. 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. ^ Dietmar Rudolph, "The Johnny B. Goode Session", The Chuck Berry Collectors Blog. Retrieved 22 January 2020
  9. ^ "Chuck Berry Guitar Rig on Johnny B Goode – Equipment Used". KillerGuitarRigs.com. Retrieved June 30, 2020.
  10. ^ Miller, James (1999). Flowers in the Dustbin: The Rise of Rock and Roll, 1947–1977. Simon & Schuster. p. 104. ISBN 0-684-80873-0.
  11. ^ Rudolph, Dietmar. "Johnny B. Goode take 3 isn't - I mean take 3 - The Chuck Berry Collectors Blog". Crlf.de. Retrieved August 29, 2016.
  12. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  13. ^ "Charts & Awards: Chuck Berry – Billboard Singles". AllMusic. Rovi. Retrieved February 1, 2011.
  14. ^ "Cash Box Top Singles 5/31/58". tropicalglen.com. Archived from the original on June 3, 2018. Retrieved March 19, 2017.
  15. ^ "Chuck Berry Chart History (Hot Rock & Alternative Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
  16. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1958/Top 100 Songs of 1958". Music Outfitters.
  17. ^ "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 online" under "Sezione".
  18. ^ "American single certifications – Chuck Berry – Johnny B. Goode". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved November 18, 2020. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH. 
  19. ^ Queenan, Joe (June 21, 2007). "The story of Johnny B Goode". The Guardian. Retrieved March 22, 2017.
  20. ^ Lipshutz, Jason (March 18, 2017). "How Chuck Berry's 'Johnny B. Goode' Helped Define 'Back to the Future'". Billboard. Retrieved March 22, 2017.
  21. ^ Barker, Derek (2009). Liner notes to Bruce Springsteen's Jukebox: The Songs that Inspired the Man [CD]. Chrome Dreams.
  22. ^ "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.
  23. ^ "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.
  24. ^ "Charts & Awards: Buck Owens – Billboard Singles". AllMusic. Retrieved February 1, 2011.
  25. ^ a b "Johnny B. Goode - Full Official Chart History". Official Charts Company. Official Charts Company. Retrieved January 19, 2016.
  26. ^ ""Johnny B. Goode" by Jimi Hendrix". New Zealand Top 50 Singles. Hung Medien. Retrieved February 1, 2011.
  27. ^ "Charts & Awards: Peter Tosh – Billboard Singles". AllMusic. Retrieved February 1, 2011.
  28. ^ "Peter Tosh: Full Official Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved January 19, 2016.
  29. ^ ""Johnny B. Goode" by Peter Tosh" (ASP). australian-charts. Hung Medien. Retrieved February 1, 2011.
  30. ^ 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". Yahoo.com. Retrieved October 21, 2020.