“Johnny B. Goode” is a 1958 rock-and-roll song written and first recorded by Chuck Berry. The song was a major hit among both black and white audiences, peaking at number two on Billboard magazine’s Hot & B Sides chart and number eight on its Hot 100 chart.
Johnny B. Goode” is considered one of the most recognizable songs in the history of popular music. Credited as “the first rock & roll hit about rock & roll stardom”, it has been recorded by many other artists and has received several honors and accolades. The song is also ranked seventh on Rolling Stone’s list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.
Written by Berry in 1955, the song is 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 acknowledged that the song is partly autobiographical and that the original lyrics referred to Johnny as a “colored boy”, but he changed it to “country boy” to ensure radio play. As well as suggesting that the guitar player is good, the title hints at autobiographic elements, because Berry was born at 2520 Goode Avenue, in St. Louis. The song was initially inspired by Johnnie Johnson, the regular piano player in Berry’s band, but developed into a song mainly about Berry himself. Johnson played on many other recordings by Berry, but Lafayette Leake played the piano on this song.
The opening guitar riff of “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 guitarist Carl Hogan. Neither the guitar intro nor the solo are played at once. Berry played the introductory parts together with the rhythm guitar and later overdubbed the solo runs.
Berry wrote four more songs involving the character Johnny B. Goode, “Bye Bye Johnny”, “Go Go Go”, “Johnny B. Blues” and “Lady B. Goode”; and titled an album, and the nearly 19-minute instrumental title track from it, as “Concerto in B. Goode”.