Johnny B. Goode

Album: Chuck Berry Is On Top (1958)
Charted: 8
  • This song is based on Berry's life. It tells the tale of a boy with humble beginnings with a talent for guitar. Some details were changed: Berry was from St. Louis, not Louisiana, and he knew how to read and write very well. He graduated from beauty school with a degree in hairdressing and cosmetology.
  • The line "that little country boy could play" was originally "that little colored boy can play." Berry knew he had to change it if he wanted the song played on the radio, and he didn't want to alienate his white fans, who could better relate to the tale of a "country" boy.
  • Berry got the name "Johnny" from Johnnie Johnson, a piano player who collaborated with Berry on many songs, including "Maybellene," "Roll Over Beethoven" and "Sweet Little 16." Johnson often wrote the songs on piano, and then Berry converted them to guitar and wrote lyrics. Berry joined Johnson's group, The Sir John Trio, in 1953, and quickly became the lead singer and centerpiece of the band.

    Johnson was very well-respected among many musicians. He played with Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, John Lee Hooker and many others before his death at age 80 in 2005.
  • Berry lifted some guitar licks for this song: the intro came from the Louis Jordan song "Ain't That Just Like A Woman," and the guitar break came from a 1950 T-Bone Walker song called "Strollin' With Bones." Jordan was a very influential R&B singer and a huge influence on Berry; Walker was a famous guitarist in the '40s and early '50s who came up with an electric guitar sound and raucous stage act that Berry incorporated.
  • Berry got the word "Goode" from the street in St. Louis where he grew up. He lived at 2520 Goode Avenue, which in 1986 was renamed Annie Malone Drive after the woman who financed a children's home on the street.
  • In 2000, Johnnie Johnson sued Berry, claiming that he never got credit for helping write many of Berry's hits, including this. The case was dismissed in 2002, with the judge ruling that too much time passed between the writing of the songs and the lawsuit.
  • This song is a great example of the care and precision Berry used when writing and delivering his lyrics. He wanted the words to his songs to tell a story and stand on their own, and took care to clearly enunciate so listeners could understand them. Many of the Country and Blues singers who preceded Berry weren't so clear with the words.
  • In 1981, Keith Richards went backstage at a Chuck Berry show in New York, where he made the mistake of plucking the strings on one of Berry's guitars. Chuck came in and punched him, giving Richards a black eye. This wasn't out of character for the sometimes-prickly Berry. Richards later said: "I love his work, but I couldn't warm to him even if I was cremated next to him."
  • Berry recorded a sequel to this song called "Bye Bye Johnny," which tells the story of Johnny as a grown man.
  • Johnny Winter played this at the Woodstock festival in 1969. He released a studio version the same year on his album Second Winter.
  • At the Summer Jam in Watkins Glen, New York in 1973, The Band, The Allman Brothers and The Grateful Dead played this song as an encore. It was the largest rock concert ever, with about 600,000 people attending.
  • This was featured in the 1985 movie Back To The Future. Michael J. Fox' character goes back in time and plays it to a stunned crowd as Marvin Berry looks on. Marvin rings his cousin, Chuck, saying that he thinks he has found the new style he is looking for, then points the telephone so that it catches most of the music coming from Marty McFly. This scene produced a classic line when McFly comes on stage and tells the band, "It's a blues riff in B, watch me for the changes, and try to keep up."

    A musician named Mark Campbell sang Fox's vocals, but was credited as "Marty McFly."
  • This has been covered by Peter Tosh, Jimi Hendrix, and The Beatles. Peter Tosh's version reached #48 on the UK singles chart in 1983.

    Tosh's producer Donald Kinsey recalled to Mojo magazine that the reggae musician had struggled to add anything sufficiently original to Chuck Berry's rock and roll classic then about three in the morning, "it hit me: the bassline, the vocal melody, The Almighty gave it to me. I was so excited, I woke everybody up. The next day I told Peter, we need a hit record. Let me get the band and lay the track, brother. And if you don't like it, burn it up."
  • The Sex Pistols covered this in a medley with "Roadrunner."
  • In 1977, NASA sent a copy of this on the Voyager space probe as part of a package that was meant to represent the best in American culture. Someday, aliens could find it and discover Chuck Berry.

    The contents of the golden record were selected for NASA by a committee chaired by Carl Sagan. Some disagreed with the inclusion of "Johnny B. Goode" on the disc, claiming that rock music was adolescent. Carl Sagan responded, "There are a lot of adolescents on the planet." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Antonio - Orlando, FL
  • In 1991 Johnnie Johnson released his first solo album: Johnnie B. Bad.
  • In 2004, John Kerry used this as his theme song at most of his campaign events when he was running for president of the US. In 2008, John McCain used the song in his successful run for the Republican nomination, but phased it out and began using ABBA's "Take A Chance On Me." Chuck Berry made it clear that he supported McCain's opponent, Barack Obama. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • When AC/DC opened for Cheap Trick at a show in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on July 7, 1979 the bands joined together to play this song, a recording of which was circulated as a bootleg single. It was officially released in 2007.

Comments: 54

  • Dave from UsThe song was covered by Judas Priest for the 1988 film, "Johnny Be Good" starring Anthony Michael Hall & Robert Downey, Jr.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyPer:
    Legendary singer/songwriter/guitarist Chuck Berry was found dead Saturday, March 18th, 2017 at his residence outside St. Louis. Paramedics were called to the home and found the 90 year-old unresponsive and could not revive him. Born in St. Louis (not Santa Clarita, California as he said to a young lady who later became his publicist in order to impress her), he was studying to be a beautician when he traveled to Chicago and hooked up with Muddy Waters and, through him, impressed Leonard Chess of Chess Records. An adaptation by Chuck of the country tune "Ida Red" that he called "Maybellene", became a #5 hit for him in 1955. Chuck never looked back, racking up such hits as "Sweet Little Sixteen" (#2-1958), "School Day" (#3-1957), "Rock & Roll Music" (#8-1957) and "Johnny B. Goode" (#8-1958). Amazingly, his only #1 hit was the live recording in London of the risque tune, "My Ding-A-Ling" in 1972. Along the way, Chuck (who was incarcerated in 1944 for armed robbery) was jailed for taking an underaged girl across state lines for an immoral purpose in 1963 and income tax evasion in 1979. He was an original inductee of the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 and was given a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 1984. His recording of "Johnny B. Goode" was included on a 'golden record' sent along with the Voyager I spacecraft which is presently outside our solar system.
    May he R.I.P.
  • Steve Napier from California Chuck Berry died today at age 90. What a loss...
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn June 8th 2008, Rolling Stone magazine published its list of the 'Top 50 Guitar Songs' of all time...
    "Johnny B. Goode" by Chuck Berry was ranked at #1*...
    Exactly fifty years earlier on June 8th, 1958 the song was at #18 on Billboard's Top 100 chart; two weeks earlier on May 25th, 1958 it had peaked at #8 {for 1 week} and stayed on the chart for 15 weeks...
    * Rounding out the Top 5 were "Purple Haze" by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, "Crossroads" {live version} by Cream, "You Really Got Me" by the Kinks, and the Rolling Stones' "Brown Sugar".
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn February 16th 1972, Chuck Berry, accompanied by John Lennon, performed "Johnny B. Goode" on the syndicated TV program 'The Mike Douglas Show'...
    Fourteen years earlier on April 22nd, 1958 it entered Billboard's Top 100 chart; eventually it peaked at #8 and spent 15 weeks on the Top 100...
    It reached #2 on Billboard's R&B Singles chart...
    John Lennon, who was co-hosting the Douglas show, made the statement 'If rock and roll was known by another name, that name would be Chuck Berry'...
    R.I.P. Mr. Lennon (1940 - 1980), Mr. Douglas (1920 - 2006), and Charles Edward Anderson Berry celebrated his 87th birthday four months ago on October 18th (2013).
  • Mike from Newhall , CaIt is funny how Berry always said said the white artists and promoters ripped him off yet here he does the same to the man who helped get him to where he is today
  • Brian from Boston, MaIn terms of guitar playing no one was more influential on bands like the Stones and the Beatles than Chuck Berry.In my opinion if not for Chuck rock and roll as we know it would have a whole different sound
  • Hank from Boston, MaTo rebutle - Alan, London, England & answer - Chris, Arvada, CO - Michael J Fox did NOT record this for the movie. Mark Campbell II is the one who played it. Check imdb for Campbells credit. Hope this clears up some stuff.
  • Steve Hobbs from Santa Clarita, CaActually, Chuck Berry's Grandfather lived in a Louisiana, in a log cabin, back up in the woods in the evergreens... which is here he developed he line. I don't think Chuck ever went there, but that's how Chuck's Mother explained in to him... She also was the one responsible for developing the line, someday your name will be in lights, saying Johnny B. Goode tonight. Although, I'm sure she used her sons name, Charles/Chuck.
  • Drew from B'ham, AlWhat about "I guess you guys weren't ready for that. But your kids are gunna love it!"? And "Chuck... it's Marvin. ... You don't know your cousin Marvin Berry? ... You know that new sound you've been looking for? Well, listen to this...!" Anyone remember Marvin holding the phone toward Marty?
  • Rahul from Chennai, Indiathis song is still a huge rocker after so many years..... yeahhhh.... go johnny go......
  • Ted from Phoenix, AzTo Gene in Hammond, IN: The only "king of rock and roll" I ever heard of was the late Elvis Presley. Chuck Berry's nickname is just as good: "The father of rock and roll." And while Chuck plays a lot of lead guitar in this song, it was his rhythm guitar work that inspired musicians such as Keith Richards.
  • Nick from Indianapolis, InI just rated this song 4 stars, because although it does not have an extreme beat or a huge twist, it tells a deep story and that tells me that that it's not all too bad.
  • Ewan from Hereford, United Kingdomim writing an essay about this song, and comparing 2 recordings of it. does anyone know who recorded the version used in back to the future? my a level depends on it!
  • Lozza from Sydney, Australia"alright this is a blues riff in B, watch me for the changes and try and keep up ok?"

    anyone recognize that?
  • Guy from Woodinville, WaThis is it folks, the ultimate rock 'n' roll song of all time. As John Lennon so wisely stated, "If rock 'n' roll had another name, it would be Check Berry.
  • Thang from Led Zep, Viet NamGreat song. My band cover it many times
    It's really great.. Dream of becoming a huge star
  • Jeffery from Myrtle Beach, ScWhy does it say Chuck Berry is dead? He is not dead. I seen him a few months ago at a concert. Anyway Chuck Berry is the founder of rock 'n' roll and this is one of the best rock songs ever.
  • Andrew from Birmingham, United States"Well, it's an oldie where I come from." "Marty, that was quite interesting music." I love Back To the Future! By the way Ray, what don't you like about Elvis? OK, let's don't go on a tangent. For a few years when I first heard this song, I thought it was about someone telling Johnny to behave ("Johnny, Be Good!"). But no, that's his name. This song is usually played in B-flat minor, but I'd prefer that it get played in B minor. Marty McFly shifts from B-flat minor to E minor (opposite key on the Key Wheel). Did Marty not know what other chords to play at that point? Oh yeah, the Beach Boys have an identical intro in "Surfin' USA" and, even more, in "Fun, Fun, Fun!", except that both of those are played in D-sharp minor (E minor is easier to play). Long live Chuck Berry!!
  • Bianca Sanchez from Alburquerque, NmJeeves I know who said that It was John Lennon I watched it on You Tube.
  • Bianca Sanchez from Alburquerque, NmThis song is Flipping awsome and I memeeized it. Got it in my heart!
  • Ian from Lethbridge, CanadaAwesome, awesome song.
  • Alan from London, EnglandTo Answer your question Chris, I believe Michael J. Fox played the guitar part in that. He was the actor who played Marty McFly and before he bacame an actor he had always wanted to be a rock & roll guitarest--so its not very far fetched of an idea to have him play it.
  • Jeeves from Dc, Dcsomeone said if rock and roll had another name itd be chuck berry
  • Chris from Arvada, CoSo who actually played the lead part on Johnny B. Goode in BttF? Marty McFly is not a real person. And... who sang lead?
  • Jerry from Brooklyn, NyI have an album called "Chuck Be Covered" where other artists do their takes on Chuck Berry's greatest hits. Reggae singer Peter Tosh does a great twist on Johnny Be Good, making Johnny a reggae singing "Jamaica boy" instead of a rock-and-roll "country boy".
  • Larry from Knoxville, TnEveryone stole guitar riffs from chuck. Surfing USA by the Beach Boys has an almost identical intro to one of Chuck Berry's songs
  • Marsha from Fort Worth, TxJimi Hendrix performed this song at The Berkeley Community Center, California on May 30, 1970.
    -Marsha, Houston, TX
  • Louie from Phoenix, AzSupposedly, Chuck liked to use an e string for this g string, which would let him bend the hell out of the string for his most famous lick. I'm not sure if this is true. Keith Richards says Chuck has uncommonly large hands which would allow him to reaech the flattened 7ths he used a lot of his songs.

    All in all...the greatest guitar player ever, or at least certainly the one who had it all...looks, singing abililty, personality, a signature "gimmick" (ie the duckwalk), and not least of all, songwriting ability...but not just songwriting ability, but he literally created a lyrical vision of America that was popular then, but has become frozen in time as representative of a golden age, before the sissy, un-American rich white drugg addles pansies had to ruin everything for all the generations to come (except for the Stones and the Raiders).
  • Danny from Sydney, AustraliaThe Judas Priest version is so over the rocks hard.
  • Ray from Stockton, NjThis song in my opinion better than Rock and Roll Music but Chuck Berry is that King of Rock and Roll, not Elvis(i hate him) or the beatles ( i love them).
  • Devon from Westerville, OhJudas Priest covered this song on their album Ram it down. Their version is interesting compared to the original.
  • Sam from Provo, Uti love the piano in this song, not that the guitar isnt great either. Chuck Berry rocks!
  • Jordan from Moorhead, MnPhish has covered this song too.
  • Jim from Troy, Ny"It's a blues riff in B..." I'm pretty sure its in B flat. That's where I always play it anway.
  • Angus from Ransomville, Nyi love this song, but i agree with alan about chuck berry being the "true" king of rock and roll. he was definetly one of the most influencial, but not so much as to be called "king"
  • Alan from Grande Prairie, Alberta, CanadaThe male anthem to the early days of rock and roll. Buddy Holly's Peggy Sue being the female equivalant. As far as Chuck Berry being the real king of rock and roll I beg to differ. As great as Berry is no argument but name me one rock ballad he ever sang. Holly on the other hand could sing Rave On or That'll Be The Day and come back with True Love Ways or Well Alright. Songs all covered by British rock bands. Even Holly's cover of Berry's Brown Eyed Handsome Man is better than Berry's own version. Reached #1 in England in '63.
  • Dana from Biloxi, MsWhat fledgling wanna be rock guitar player has not been inspired to learn at least one lick from this classic?
  • Ken from Louisville, KySaturday Night Live's "Weekend Update" mentioned NASA sending this song on the Voyager mission. In their "news report", they said that the reply from "extra-terrestials" that intercepted Voyager was "Send more Chuck Berry!".

  • Gordon from Glasgow, Scotlandthe beatles version is on the bbc sessions double cd
  • Gordon from Glasgow, Scotlandac/dc covered it with bon scott
  • Joseph from Atlanta, GaYou have to admit, the style of Chuck Berry certainly
    did have a big influence on decades of musicians to come.

    Side note:This is also one of my favorite Karaoke songs to sing
  • Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, ScI meant "Roll Over Beethoven".
  • Brian from La Mesa, CaThe Voyager Space Probe has a gold LP disk on it with 27 songs from around the world, not just the US. They include a flute piece from Japan, gamelan from Indonesia, Beethoven's 5th, folk music from Peru, and an Indian raga, among others. "Johnny B. Goode" was chosen to represent, along with a Louis Armstrong song, American popular music. Quite an honor.
    "Send more Chuck Berry!"
  • Sam from Edinburgh, Scotlandthink you might have missed Judas Priest off the list of covers... its brilliant. really.
  • Ross from Independence, MoThis is #7 in Rolling Stone's list of 500 greatest songs.
  • Dan from Jefferson Township, NjAlso covered by John Denver on his self-titled album.
  • Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, Scthe song was covered by the Beatles. I didn't know that, and Ive been a huge beatles fan for a while. The Beatles did do songs by chuck berry, like "Poll Over Bathoven".
  • Victor from Vienna, Vawhat music should always be like
  • Tim from Milestone, CanadaThis is a great early rock song, ya gotta love Chuck Berry, also the last night in the first verse is: But he could play a guitar just like a ringin' a bell


    But he could play the guitar just like a ringin' a bell
  • Erik from Elm Grove, WiGrateful Dead also covered this song
  • Gene from Hammond, InMany rock artists have been dubbed "The King of rock 'n' roll" or "King of pop". In my humble opinion as a musician for nearly 40 years, Mr. Chuck Berry TRULY deserves the nickname "King of Rock 'n' Roll". Few, if any, guitarists have had such a profound influence on many guitar players. Catch Chuck in the made for TV movie "American Hot Wax"...Chuck saves the day and performs even after he's told he can't be paid for the gig. Chuck is "THE MAN"!
  • Ken from Boise, IdThe word "go" is repeated in the song 45 times, (I read it in a trivia book and sat down and counted it to be certain).
  • Randy from Beaumont, TxIn his autobiography, Berry says that his mother actually told him "..someday your name will be in lights..."
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