Chuck Berry - "Johnny B. Goode"
Johnny B. Goode wasn't actually released as a single and was never a hit. Chart hit or not, the song is firmly ensconced in music history and its legacy lives on today.
The song is the rock and roll version of the American dream - a poor country boy from the backwoods has dreams of becoming a star by hard work and his skill at playing the guitar. The line, "That little country boy could play" was originally "That little colored boy can play", but Chuck Berry knew he had to change it if he wanted the song played on the radio. Berry got the word "Goode" from the street where he grew up, Goode Street in St. Louis. In his autobiography, Berry recalls "‘Johnny’ in the song is more or less myself although I wrote it intending it to be a song for Johnnie Johnson". Chuck met Johnnie Johnson, a pianist and composer, in 1952 when he joined the Sir John Trio. The two continued to work together for twenty years, writing a number of songs including "Maybellene". Johnnie remembers Chuck working on Johnny B Goode but had no idea it was meant to be about him.
Berry created the driving train-like rhythm of "Johnny B Goode" by speeding up a standard twelve-bar blues figure, played on the bottom three strings of the guitar. It became the classic rock'n’roll guitar rhythm, appearing on tracks from the Rolling Stones to Status Quo. Berry’s other great innovation is his own adaptation of the Elmore James attacking slide intro. By combining urban blues with the early electric jazz guitar figures of Charlie Christian and the rhythms and humour of the 40s jump-blues of Louis Jordan and Big Joe Turner he created an irresistible blend of danceable rock.
Note that the word "go" is repeated in the song 45 times !
More sadly, in 2000, Johnnie Johnson sued Berry, claiming that he never got credit for helping write many of Berry's hits, including this one. The case was dismissed in 2002, with the judge ruling that too much time passed between the writing of the songs and the lawsuit.
Available on the album "Chuck Berry On Top"