Although we can argue which song really started Rock and Roll, the first mega-hit was Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B Goode.” To me, Rock and Roll is about guitars (some piano) and having fun. A friend of mine was trying to tell me what the most famous guitar lick was. He was arguing for the Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up.” I think that he has a point, but the opening lick in “Johnny B Goode” has to be in the conversation.
“Johnny B. Goode” was the first rock & roll hit about rock & roll stardom. It is still the greatest rock & roll song about the democracy of fame in pop music. And “Johnny B. Goode” is based in fact. The title character is Chuck Berry — “more or less,” as he told Rolling Stone in 1972. “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 took other narrative liberties. Johnny came from “deep down in Louisiana, close to New Orleans,” rather than Berry’s St. Louis. And Johnny “never ever learned to read or write so well,” while Berry graduated from beauty school with a degree in hairdressing and cosmetology. (more…)