Johnny B. Goode, Chuck Berry’s hit from 1958 isn’t only one of the most recognizable songs in history, it is also considered the fist Rock & Roll hit about being a music star. According to Berry as told to Rolling Stone in 1972, Johnny B. Goode” is based in fact. The title character is Chuck Berry — “more or less,” “The original words [were], of course, ‘That little colored boy could play.’ I changed it to ‘country boy’ — or else it wouldn’t get on the radio.”
Berry wrote the song in 1955. It is a story 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”. Berry admits that the partially autobiographical song as he was born at 2520 Goode Avenue in St. Louis.
The name Johnny came from Johnnie Johnson, the piano player and Berry’s long time friend and collaborator of songs including “Roll Over Beethoven” “Maybelline” and “Sweet Little 16”
Johnny B. Goode and the Aliens
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. As objectors to the song’s inclusion in the package, claiming that “rock music was adolescent”, Carl Sagan responded, “There are a lot of adolescents on the planet.”
Johnny B. Good is one of the most covered song in American rock history, with versions by the likes of Bobby Darin, The Beatles, The Grateful Dead and countless others.
Chuck Berry – Johnny B. Goode (Live 1958)