Friday, October 18, 8926
Chuck Berry (b. 1926)
Chuck Berry (b. 1926)
Charles Edward Anderson "Chuck" Berry (born October 18, 1926, St. Louis, Missouri) is an American guitarist, singer, and songwriter.
Charles Edward Anderson "Chuck" Berry (born October 18, 1926) is an American guitarist, singer, and songwriter, and one of the pioneers of rock and roll music. With songs such as "Maybellene" (1955), "Roll Over Beethoven" (1956), "Rock and Roll Music" (1957) and "Johnny B. Goode" (1958), Chuck Berry refined and developed rhythm and blues into the major elements that made rock and roll distinctive, with lyrics focusing on teen life and consumerism and utilizing guitar solos and showmanship that would be a major influence on subsequent rock music.
Born into a middle class family in St. Louis, Missouri, Berry had an interest in music from an early age and gave his first public performance at Sumner High School. While still a high school student he served a prison sentence for armed robbery between 1944 and 1947. On his release, Berry settled into married life and worked at an automobile assembly plant. By early 1953, influenced by the guitar riffs and showmanship techniques of blues player T-Bone Walker, he was performing in the evenings with the Johnnie Johnson Trio.
His break came when he traveled to Chicago in May 1955, and met Muddy Waters, who suggested he contact Leonard Chess of Chess Records. With Chess he recorded "Maybellene"—Berry's adaptation of the country song "Ida Red"—which sold over a million copies, reaching #1 on Billboard's Rhythm and Blues chart. By the end of the 1950s, Berry was an established star with several hit records and film appearances to his name, as well as a lucrative touring career. He had also established his own St. Louis-based nightclub, called Berry's Club Bandstand. But in January 1962 Berry was sentenced to three years in prison for offenses under the Mann Act—he had transported a 14-year-old girl across state lines.
After his release in 1963 Berry had several more hits, including No Particular Place To Go, You Never Can Tell, and Nadine, but these did not achieve the same success, or lasting impact, of his 1950s songs, and by the 1970s he was more in demand as a nostalgic live performer, playing his past hits with local backup bands of variable quality. His insistence on being paid cash led to a jail sentence in 1979 -- four months and community service for tax evasion.
Berry was among the first musicians to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on its opening in 1986, with the comment that he "laid the groundwork for not only a rock and roll sound but a rock and roll stance." Berry is included in several Rolling Stone "Greatest of All Time" lists, including being ranked fifth on their 2004 list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll included three of Chuck Berry's: Johnny B. Goode, Maybellene, and Rock and Roll Music.
Now in his eighties, Berry continues to play live.
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Berry was the fourth child in a family of six. He grew up in the north St. Louis neighborhood known as "The Ville", an area where many middle class St. Louis people lived at the time. His father was a contractor and a deacon of a nearby Baptist church, his mother a qualified principal. His middle class upbringing allowed him to pursue his interest in music from an early age and he gave his first public performance in 1941 while still at Sumner High School.
Just three years later, in 1944, while still at Sumner High School, he was arrested and convicted of armed robbery after robbing three shops in Kansas City and then stealing a car at gunpoint with some friends.
Berry's own account in his autobiography is that his car broke down and he then flagged down a passing car and stole it at gunpoint with a non-functional pistol.
Berry was sent to the Intermediate Reformatory for Young Men at Algoa, near Jefferson City, Missouri, where he formed a singing quartet and did some boxing.
After his release from prison on his 21st birthday in 1947, Berry married Themetta "Toddy" Suggs on 28 October 1948, who gave birth to Darlin Ingrid Berry on 3 October 1950.
Berry supported his family doing a number of jobs in St. Louis: working briefly as a factory worker at two automobile assembly plants, as well as being janitor for the apartment building where he and his wife lived. Afterwards he trained as a beautician at the Poro College of Cosmetology, founded by Annie Turnbo Malone.
He was doing well enough by 1950 to buy a "small three room brick cottage with a bath" in Whittier Street, which is now on the National Register of Historic Places
By the early 1950s, Berry was working with local bands in the clubs of St. Louis as an extra source of income.
He had been playing the blues since his teens, and he borrowed both guitar riffs and showmanship techniques from blues player T-Bone Walker, as well as taking guitar lessons from his friend Ira Harris that laid the foundation for his guitar style.
By early 1953 Berry was performing with Johnnie Johnson's trio, starting a long-time collaboration with the pianist.
Although the band played mostly blues and ballads, the most popular music among whites in the area was country. Berry wrote, "Curiosity provoked me to lay a lot of our country stuff on our predominantly black audience and some of our black audience began whispering 'who is that black hillbilly at the Cosmo?' After they laughed at me a few times they began requesting the hillbilly stuff and enjoyed dancing to it."
Berry's calculated showmanship, along with mixing country tunes with R&B tunes, and singing in the style of Nat "King" Cole to the music of Muddy Waters, brought in a wider audience, particularly affluent white people.
In May 1955, Berry traveled to Chicago where he met Waters, who suggested he contact Leonard Chess of Chess Records. Berry thought his blues material would be of most interest to Chess, but to his surprise it was an old country and western recording by Bob Wills, entitled "Ida Red" that got Chess's attention. Chess had seen the rhythm and blues market shrink and was looking to move beyond it, and he thought Berry might be the artist for that purpose. So on May 21, 1955 Berry recorded an adaptation of "Ida Red"—"Maybellene"—which featured Johnnie Johnson on piano, Jerome Green (from Bo Diddley's band) on the maracas, Jasper Thomas on the drums and Willie Dixon on the bass. "Maybellene" sold over a million copies, reaching #1 on Billboard's Rhythm and Blues chart and #5 on the 10 September 1955 Billboard Best Sellers in Stores chart.
At the end of June 1956, his song Roll Over Beethoven reached #29 on the Billboard Top 100 chart, and Berry toured as one of the Top Acts of '56. He and Carl Perkins became friends. Perkins said that "I knew when I first heard Chuck that he'd been affected by country music. I respected his writing; his records were very, very great." As they toured, Perkins discovered that Berry not only liked country music, but knew about as many songs as he did. Jimmie Rodgers was one of his favorites. "Chuck knew every Blue Yodel and most of Bill Monroe's songs as well," Perkins remembered. "He told me about how he was raised very poor, very tough. He had a hard life. He was a good guy. I really liked him."
In late 1957 Berry took part in Alan Freed's Biggest Show of Stars for 1957 United States tour with the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, and others.
He also guest-starred on ABC's The Guy Mitchell Show, having sung his hit song Rock 'n' Roll Music. The hits continued from 1957 to 1959, with Berry scoring over a dozen chart singles during this period, including the top 10 U.S. hits School Days, Rock and Roll Music, Sweet Little Sixteen, and Johnny B. Goode. He appeared in two early rock and roll movies. The first was Rock Rock Rock, released in 1956. He is shown singing You Can't Catch Me. He had a speaking role as himself in the 1959 film Go, Johnny, Go! along with Alan Freed, and was also shown performing his songs Johnny B. Goode; Memphis, Tennessee; and Little Queenie. His performance of Sweet Little Sixteen at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1958 is captured in the motion picture Jazz on a Summer's Day.
By the end of the 1950's, Berry was an established star with several hit records and film appearances to his name, as well as a lucrative touring career. He had established a racially integrated St. Louis-based nightclub, called Berry's Club Bandstand, and was investing in real estate.
But in December 1959, Berry was arrested under the Mann Act after an allegation that he had sex with a 14-year-old Apache waitress whom he had transported over state lines to work as a hat check girl at his club.
After an initial two-week trial in March 1960, Berry was convicted, fined $5,000, and sentenced to five years in prison.
Berry's appeal that the judge's comments and attitude were racist and prejudiced the jury against him was upheld, and a second trial was heard in May and June 1961, which resulted in Berry being given a three-year prison sentence.
After another appeal failed, Berry served one-and-a-half years in prison from February 1962 to October 1963.
Berry had continued recording and performing during the trials, though his output had slowed down as his popularity declined; his final single released before being imprisoned was Come On.
When Berry was released from prison in 1963, he was able to return to recording and performing due to the British invasion acts of the 1960s -- most notably the Beatles and the Rolling Stones -- having kept up an interest in his music by releasing cover versions of his songs; along with other bands reworking his songs, such as the Beach Boys basing their 1963 hit Surfin' USA on Berry's Sweet Little Sixteen.
In 1964-65 Berry released eight singles, including No Particular Place To Go, You Never Can Tell, and Nadine, which achieved commercial success, reaching the top 20 of the Billboard 100, even though they were reworkings of earlier Berry songs, such as School Day.
Between 1966 and 1969 Berry released five albums on the Mercury label, including his first live album Live at Fillmore Auditorium in which he was backed by the Steve Miller Band.
While this was not a successful period for studio work, Berry was still a top concert draw. In May 1964, he did a successful tour of the UK, though when he returned in January 1965 his behavior was erratic and moody, and his touring style of using unrehearsed local backing bands and a strict non-negotiable contract was earning him a reputation as a difficult yet unexciting performer.
He also played at large events in America, such as the Schaefer Music Festival in New York City's Central Park in July 1969, and the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival festival in October.
Berry helped give life to a subculture... Even My Ding-a-Ling, a fourth-grade joke that used to mortify true believers at college concerts, permitted a lot of twelve-year-olds new insight into the concept of "dirty" when it hit the airwaves...
Berry returned to Chess from 1970 to 1973. Although his 1970 album Back Home yielded no hit singles, in 1972 Chess released a new live recording of My Ding-a-Ling, a song Berry had initially recorded years earlier as a novelty track. The track became Berry's only No. 1 single. A live recording of Reelin' And Rockin' was also issued as a follow-up single that same year and would prove to be Berry's final top-40 hit in both the U.S. and the UK. Both singles were featured on the part-live/part-studio album The London Chuck Berry Sessions which was one of a series of London Sessions albums which included other Chess mainstay artists Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. Berry's second tenure with Chess ended with the 1975 album Chuck Berry, after which he did not make a studio record until 1979's Rockit for Atco Records, his last studio album to date.
In the 1970s Berry toured on the basis of his earlier successes. He was on the road for many years, carrying only his Gibson guitar, confident that he could hire a band that already knew his music no matter where he went. Allmusic has said that in this period his "live performances became increasingly erratic... working with terrible backup bands and turning in sloppy, out-of-tune performances" which "tarnished his reputation with younger fans and oldtimers" alike.
Among the many bandleaders performing a backup role with Chuck Berry were Bruce Springsteen and Steve Miller when each was just starting his career. Springsteen related in the video Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll that Berry did not even give the band a set list and just expected the musicians to follow his lead after each guitar intro. Berry neither spoke to nor thanked the band after the show. Nevertheless, Springsteen backed Berry again when he appeared at the concert for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. At the request of Jimmy Carter, Chuck Berry performed at the White House on June 1, 1979.
Berry's type of touring style, traveling the "oldies" circuit in the 1970s (where he was often paid in cash by local promoters) added ammunition to the Internal Revenue Service's accusations that Berry was a chronic income tax evader. Facing criminal sanction for the third time, Berry pleaded guilty to tax evasion and was sentenced to four months in prison and 1,000 hours of community service -- doing benefit concerts -- in 1979.
Berry continued to play 70 to 100 one-nighters per year in the 1980s, still traveling solo and requiring a local band to back him at each stop. In 1986, Taylor Hackford made a documentary film, Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll, of a celebration concert for Berry's sixtieth birthday, organized by Keith Richards, in which Berry reveals his bitterness at the fame and financial success that Richards achieved on the back of Berry's songs.
Eric Clapton, Etta James, Julian Lennon, Robert Cray and Linda Ronstadt, among others, appeared with Berry on stage and film. During the concert, Berry played a Gibson ES-355, the luxury version of the ES-335 that he favored on his 1970s tours. Richards played a black Fender Telecaster Custom, Cray a Fender Stratocaster and Clapton a Gibson ES 350T, the same guitar Berry used on his early recordings.
In the late 1980s, Berry bought a restaurant in Wentzville, Missouri, called The Southern Air, and in 1990 he was sued by several women who claimed that he had installed a video camera in the ladies' bathroom. Berry claimed that he had the camera installed to catch red-handed a worker who was suspected of stealing from the restaurant. Though his guilt was never proven in court, Berry opted for a class action settlement with 59 women. Berry's biographer, Bruce Pegg, estimated that it cost Berry over $1.2 million plus legal fees.
It was during this time that he began using Wayne T. Schoeneberg as his legal counsel.
Reportedly, a police raid on his house did find videotapes of women using the restroom, and one of the women was a minor. Also found in the raid were 62 grams of marijuana. Felony drug and child-abuse charges were filed. In order to avoid the child-abuse charges, Berry agreed to plead guilty to misdemeanor possession of marijuana. He was given a six-month suspended jail sentence, two years' unsupervised probation, and ordered to donate $5,000 to a local hospital.
In November 2000, Berry again faced legal charges when he was sued by his former pianist Johnnie Johnson, who claimed that he co-wrote over 50 songs, including "No Particular Place to Go", "Sweet Little Sixteen" and "Roll Over Beethoven", that credit Berry alone. The case was dismissed when the judge ruled that too much time had passed since the songs were written.
Currently, Berry usually performs one Wednesday each month at Blueberry Hill, a restaurant and bar located in the Delmar Loop neighborhood in St. Louis. In 2008, Berry toured Europe, with stops in Sweden, Norway, Finland, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Ireland, Switzerland, Poland, and Spain. In mid-2008, he played at Virgin Festival in Baltimore, MD.
He presently lives in Ladue, Missouri, approximately 10 miles west of St. Louis.
While no individual can be said to have invented rock and roll, Chuck Berry comes the closest of any single figure to being the one who put all the essential pieces together. It was his particular genius to graft country & western guitar licks onto a rhythm & blues chassis in his very first single, “Maybellene.”
A pioneer of rock music, Berry was a significant influence on the development of both the music and the attitude associated with the rock music lifestyle. With songs such as Maybellene (1955), Roll Over Beethoven (1956), Rock and Roll Music (1957), and Johnny B. Goode (1958), Chuck Berry refined and developed rhythm-and-blues into the major elements that made rock-and-roll distinctive, with lyrics successfully aimed to appeal to the early teenage market by using graphic and humorous descriptions of teen dances, fast cars, high-school life, and consumer culture, and utilizing guitar solos and showmanship that would be a major influence on subsequent rock music.
His records are a rich storehouse of the essential lyrical, showmanship and musical components of rock and roll; and, in addition to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, a large number of significant popular-music performers have recorded Berry's songs.
Though not technically accomplished, his guitar style is distinctive - he incorporated electronic effects to mimic the sound of bottleneck blues guitarists, and drew on the influence of guitar players such as Charlie Christian, and T-Bone Walker, to produce a clear and exciting sound that many later guitar musicians would acknowledge as a major influence in their own style.
Berry's showmanship has been influential on other rock guitar players, particularly his one-legged hop routine, and the "duck walk", which he first used as a child when he walked "stooping with full-bended knees, but with my back and head vertical" under a table to retrieve a ball and his family found it entertaining; he used it when "performing in New York for the first time and some journalist branded it the duck walk."
The rock critic Robert Christgau considers him "the greatest of the rock and rollers," while John Lennon said that "if you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it 'Chuck Berry'."
Ted Nugent said "If you don't know every Chuck Berry lick, you can't play rock guitar."
Status Quo and AC/DC were heavily influenced by Berry, and both bands have covered his songs from time to time. Among the honors he has received, have been the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1984, the Kennedy Center Honors in 2000, and being named seventh on Time Magazine's 2009 list of the 10 best electric guitar players of all-time.
Maybellene is a song recorded by Chuck Berry, adapted from the traditional fiddle tune Ida Red that tells the story of a hot rod race and a broken romance. It was released in July 1955 as a single on Chess Records of Chicago, Illinois.
It was Berry's first single release and his first hit. Maybellene is considered one of the pioneering rock and roll singles: Rolling Stone magazine wrote, "Rock & roll guitar starts here."
The record is an early instance of the complete rock and roll package: youthful subject matter, small guitar-driven combo, clear diction, and an atmosphere of unrelenting excitement.
In 1955, the song, a 12-bar blues, peaked at number five on the Billboard rock charts and was a number one R&B hit.
Berry was the first African-American rock-n-roller to reach the top ten on the Billboard list with a rock and roll single.
The title is often misspelled as Maybelline, even on some of Berry's own compilation CD's.
Many have considered the story of the evolution of the country song Ida Red important to the history of Rock n Roll's emergence as a popular music. According to Berry, his favorite song to sing at “salt and pepper clubs” as he called them, (black and white clubs) was the country song Ida Red, an uptempo dance number recorded by country singer Roy Acuff in 1939. With encouragement from Muddy Waters, Berry in 1955 brought to Chess Record a tape of his cover of the tune which he had renamed Ida May and a blues song he wrote Wee Wee Hours, which he stated was inspired by Joe Turner’s Wee Baby Blue.
To Berry’s surprise, Leonard Chess showed little interest in the blues material but was enthusiastic about the commercial possibilities in a “hillbilly song sung by a black man.”
Chess wanted a bigger beat for the song and added a bass and maraca player to the trio at the recording session. He also felt the titles Ida Red and Ida May were “too rural.”
Spotting a mascara box on the floor of the studio, according to Berry’s partner Johnnie Johnson, Chess said, “Well, hell, let’s name the damn thing Maybellene” altering the spelling to avoid a suit by the cosmetic company. The lyrics were rewritten at the direction of Chess as well. “The kids wanted the big beat, cars, and young love,” Chess recalled. “It was the trend and we jumped on it.”
It has been claimed that taking old recording and modifying them, by changing the instrumentals and the lyrics was a common practice in the 1950s. With these changes the original songs were often not detectible particularly if the melody was slightly modified. This practice took place because copyright laws on older recordings were rarely enforced.
As Chess had predicted, the lyrics struck a chord with teenagers fascinated by cars, speed, and sexuality. With Alan Freed (to whom Chess assigned one-third of the writing credit and royalties) promoting the song on his radio program, "Maybellene” became one of the first records to score big on rhythm and blues, country and western, and pop charts. Featuring some inimitable Chuck Berry riffs, some blues-style picking on a country guitar, and Johnson’s piano, which added a hummable rhythm to the steady backbeat, Maybellene was a pivotal song in the emergence of Rock n Roll. This exciting fusion of a rhythm and blues beat with a rural country style was the catalyst for the type of Rock n Roll that emerged and excited the nation in the mid-50s.
In comparison, Elvis Presley brought this dynamic combination of musical genres onto the scene in 1954 with his first recording, "That’s Alright [Mama]." Both "That’s Alright" and "Maybellene" have been argued as the first true Rock n Roll songs because both were clearly born of this poignant amalgamation of culture and sound, crossing racial lines, to create an entirely new music. The back beat and the lyrics geared to the youth (cars and sex) came to be seen as signature elements to this new music as well. One distinction is the lyrics that typified this emerging Rock n Roll were not present in "That’s Alright", which was recorded with its original lyrics by bluesman Arthur Crudup. A further distinction between "Maybellene" and "That’s Alright" is the latter fused the sound of country hillbilly with the "blues" genre rather than rhythm and blues. Both Berry and Presley can be seen as unique artists that were successful in blending extremely diverse musical genres in the creation of a new kind of music that excited the nation and greatly impacted the course of popular music.
In the 1950s, some record companies assigned co-composer credits to disc jockeys and others who helped "break" a record, a form of "payola" via composer royalties. This accounts for disk jockey Alan Freed receiving co-writer credit for "Maybellene". Russ Fratto, who had been loaning money to Chess, also received credit.
The Freed and Fratto credits were later withdrawn.
Allmusic lists cover versions by more than 70 performers, including Elvis Presley, Simon and Garfunkel in a medley with "Kodachrome," George Jones, Carl Perkins, Bubba Sparks, Foghat, Gerry & The Pacemakers, Johnny Rivers, and Chubby Checker.
Roll Over Beethoven is a 1956 hit single by Chuck Berry originally released on Chess Records, with Drifting Heart as the B-side.
According to Rolling Stone and Cub Koda of Allmusic, Berry wrote the song in response to his sister Lucy always using the family piano to play classical music when Berry wanted to play contemporary popular music.
In addition to classical composers Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, the lyrics mention or allude to several popular artists. "Early in the Mornin'" is the title of a Louis Jordan song and "Blue Suede Shoes" refers to the Carl Perkins song. Finally, "Hey Diddle Diddle" which comes from the nursery rhyme, "The Cat and the Fiddle", is an indirect reference to Berry's Chess stablemate Bo Diddley, who was an accomplished violin player. Although the lyrics mention rocking and rolling, the music that the classics are supposed to step aside for is always referred to as "rhythm and blues" (R&B). Arthur Alexander appropriated the lyric "a shot of rhythm and blues" for the title of his later song.
Later in the song, a "rhythm revue" describes the old style R&B show with many featured artists appearing on one bill in front of a big band.
Berry's version was originally released as a single by Chess Records in May 1956 with "Drifting Heart" as the B-side.
"Roll Over Beethoven" and three other Berry songs appeared on the Rock, Rock, Rock album, ostensibly a soundtrack to the film of the same name, but only four of the twelve songs on the album appeared in the film.
There have been many subsequent releases on compilation albums.
"Roll Over Beethoven" is one of the most widely covered songs in popular music –"a staple of rock & roll bands" according to Koda – with notable versions by Jerry Lee Lewis, The Beatles and the Electric Light Orchestra. Other covers were made by Mountain, Ten Years After, Raul Seixas, Leon Russell, Status Quo, The Rolling Stones, The Byrds, The 13th Floor Elevators, The Sonics, Wes Paul, Gene Vincent, Quartz, Uriah Heep, Kickhunter and Iron Maiden.
"Roll Over Beethoven" was a favorite of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison even before they had chosen "The Beatles" as their name, and they continued to play it live right into their American tours of 1964. Their version of "Roll Over Beethoven" was recorded on 30 July 1963 for their second British LP, With The Beatles, and features George Harrison on vocals and guitar.
In the United States, it was released 10 April 1964 as the opening track of The Beatles' Second Album.
In 1994, The Beatles released a live version of "Roll Over Beethoven" on Live at the BBC. This live version was recorded on 28 February 1964 and broadcast on 30 March 1964 as part of a BBC series starring The Beatles called From Us to You.
This version of "Roll Over Beethoven" was used in the film Superman III directed by Richard Lester who also directed The Beatles' first two films, Help! and A Hard Day's Night.
The Rutles' song "Blue Suede Schubert" is based on The Beatles' cover of this song.
"Roll Over Beethoven" is the second single released by the Electric Light Orchestra. It became their second consecutive top ten hit in the UK, as well as a hit in the United States when an edited version of the track was taken from the album ELO 2 in 1973. ELO's elaborate eight-minute reworking of the track included an opening musical quote from Beethoven's Fifth Symphony and clever interpolations of material from the symphony's first movement into Berry's song; the band closed all their concerts using this number, their signature song. The B-side Queen of the Hours was the first ever ELO published song, released by Harvest Records in November 1971 in a compilation called The Harvest Bag which featured various Harvest records artists.
Meat Loaf has performed many rock covers for his concerts throughout his career, including Chuck Berry songs. His covers of "Roll Over Beethoven" have been in his "Rock Medleys" of Elvis, Chuck Berry, and Little Richard favorites. Though a cover was never officially released into the medley, being edited out of the CD recording of the tour, it has been on one of Meat Loaf's Objects in the Rear View Mirror singles, recorded for VH-1 in the early 90's according to the CD jacket.
Iron Maiden included a cover of the Berry song on the B-side of their single "From Here to Eternity", called "Roll Over Vic Vella". The song features different lyrics (written by Steve Harris) about the band's long-time tour manager, Vic Vella.
Rock and Roll Music is a song written and originally recorded by Chuck Berry which became a hit single in 1957, reaching #8 in the U.S. chart, and was later covered by many artists, notably The Beatles and The Beach Boys.
Berry performed his song on December 16, 1957, on ABC's short-lived variety program, The Guy Mitchell Show.
The Beatles performed the song in many of their early Hamburg shows, and also played it on the BBC show Pop Go The Beatles. In late 1964, exhausted from non-stop touring and recording and short of original material, they decided to record several of their old rock and rhythm and blues favorites to fill out their LP release Beatles for Sale. Among these was a version of Berry's tune that eventually became as well-known as the original. The lead vocal in the Beatles' version was performed by John Lennon. In contrast to Berry's even-toned rendition, Lennon sang it as loudly and dynamically as his voice would permit. In the United States, it was released on the LP Beatles '65. The group also performed this song during the Get Back/Let It Be Sessions in January 1969.
It also served as the title song to the Beatles' 1976 compilation album, Rock 'n' Roll Music.
The Beatles' version of Rock and Roll Music was released as a single in some countries, and topped the charts in Finland, Norway, the Netherlands (double a-side with No Reply) and Australia.
The Beach Boys' version is notable for the use of backing vocals which repeat the phrase "Rock, roll, rockin' and roll." There is a difference between the LP version and the single version in that the LP version has more synthesizer. Their version reached #5 in the US chart in 1976.
Johnny B. Goode is a 1958 rock and roll song composed by Chuck Berry. It is one of Berry's most important songs. It reached #8 on the Billboard pop chart.
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."
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.
The title is suggestive that the guitar player is good, and hints at autobiographic elements because Berry was born on Goode Avenue in St. Louis.
The song was initially inspired by Berry's piano player, Johnnie Johnson, though developed into a song mainly about Berry himself.
Even though Johnnie Johnson played on many other Chuck Berry songs, it was Lafayette Leake who played piano on this song.
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.
Berry has written three 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-minute instrumental track from it, as Concerto in B. Goode.
Chuck Berry - Vocals and guitar
Lafayette Leake - Piano
Willie Dixon - Bass
Fred Below - Drums
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 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, he performed Johnny B. Goode and Rock and Roll Music, backed by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.
The Hall of Fame included these songs and Maybellene in their list of the 500 songs that shaped Rock and Roll.
Johnny B. Goode is among the most widely covered rock and roll songs in history, including versions by:
Alvin and the Chipmunks
Big Tom And The Mainliners
Bill Haley & His Comets
Bon Scott (with Cheap Trick)
Mark Campbell as Marty McFly
Five Iron Frenzy
Freddie & the Dreamers
The Grateful Dead
Jerry Lee Lewis
LL Cool J ("Go Cut Creator Go")
Men at Work
The Rolling Stones
The Sex Pistols
Slaughter & The Dogs
Peter Tosh (1983)
The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain
John Mayer Trio
[8928 Haazen / 8926 Berry / 8926 Coltrane]