"Johnny B. Goode" is a 1958 rock and roll song written and originally performed by Chuck Berry. The song was a major hit among both black and white audiences peaking at #2 on Billboardmagazine's Hot R&B Sides chart and #8 on the Billboard Hot 100.[1]

The song is one of Berry's most famous recordings, has been covered by many artists, and has received several honors and accolades. It is also considered to be one of the most recognizable songs in music history.

Composition and recording[edit source | editbeta]Edit

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." [2] 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.[3] The title is suggestive that the guitar player is good, and hints at autobiographic elements because Berry was born at 2520 Goode Avenue in St. Louis.[2] The song was initially inspired by Berry's piano player, Johnnie Johnson,[4][5]though developed into a song mainly about Berry himself. Though Johnnie Johnson played on many other Chuck Berry songs, it was Lafayette Leake who played piano on this song.[2]

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 guitaristCarl Hogan.[6]

Berry has written thirty 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 min instrumental title track from it, as "Concerto in B. Goode".

Musicians[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Legacy[edit source | editbeta]Edit

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.[7] The Hall of Fame included these songs and "Maybellene" in their list of the 500 songs that shaped Rock and Roll.[8] It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999, for its influence as a rock & roll single.[9]

In the 1985 film Back to the Future, Marty McFly with Marvin Berry and the Starlighters played the song during the "Enchantment Under the Sea" high school dance. This scene was "replayed" in Back to the Future Part II. During Marty's Berry-esque rendition of the song, Marvin telephones his cousin Chuck, to have him hear what might be the new sound he was looking for (creating a paradoxical "who influenced whom" situation, AKA a Closed timelike loop).

Episode 14, Season 2 of the former CBS military action series The Unit is titled "Johnny B. Good" in reference to the song.

Accolades[edit source | editbeta]Edit

List Publisher Rank Year of Publication
500 Greatest Songs of All Time Rolling Stone 7 2010
100 Greatest Guitar Tracks Q 42 2005
100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time Rolling Stone 1 2008
Top 3000 Songs Acclaimed Music 6 N/A
500 Songs That Shaped Rock Rock & Roll Hall of Fame N/A 1995
50 Greatest Guitar Solos Guitar World 12 2009

Cover Versions[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Cover Versions that Charted[edit source | editbeta]Edit

"Johnny Be Good"
Single by Judas Priest
from the album Ram It Down
B-side "Rock You All Around the World (live)"
Released 1988
Format 7" 45 RPM, 12" Maxi
Recorded 1987
Genre Heavy metal
Length 4:36
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Chuck Berry
Producer Tom AllomGlenn TiptonK.K. DowningRob Halford
Judas Priest singles chronology
"Ram It Down/Heavy Metal"


"Johnny Be Good"




Country musician Buck Owens version of "Johnny B. Goode" topped Billboard magazine's Hot Country Sides chart in 1969.[10] Jimi Hendrix had a posthumous hit with "Johnny B. Goode" peaking at #35 on the UK Singles Chart in 1972[11] and #13 on the New Zealand Top 50 in 1986.[12] Peter Tosh's version of the song peaked at #84 on the Billboard Hot 100,[13] #48 on the UK Singles Chart,[14] #10 in the Netherlands, and #29 in New Zealand.[15] Judas Priest's version reached #64 on the UK Singles Chart in 1988.[16]

Additional Cover Versions[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The list of performers includes:

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