RaR5 – Johnny B. Goode
Listen to the recording of the tune by clicking the attached mp3 file. This will open the recording in a new window or tab. Listen and follow along with the listening guide in the book.
Read the liner notes below.
Read the information “What to Listen For”
Respond to the Rate-A-Record/Questions by clicking on the assignment link and then click on on the button “Write Submission” (to the right of Text Submission) to record your response. Do not use the comments field.
Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry
If Elvis Presley is the King of Rock and Roll, then Chuck Berry is its Lord High Emperor. He is responsible for the basic vocabulary of the rock and roll guitar, an instrument he made an indispensable part of the genre. He is also its first great songwriter. His enduring hit “Johnny B. Goode” represents the quintessence of rock and roll to the world at large. And many consider “Maybelline” to be the first rock and roll record, in that it cannot be classified as rhythm and blues, or country, or hillbilly, or boogie-woogie; its existence necessitates the creation of a new style of pop music.
Chuck Berry was born in St. Louis and developed a love for poetry and blues in his youth. In high school, he won a talent contest with his rendition of Jay McShann’s big band number, “Confessin’ the Blues,” and took up the guitar shortly afterward. He soon discovered that if he learned rhythm changes and blues chords, he could play most of the songs he heard on the radio, but he also took some lessons from a friend. Berry was soon working in the thriving East St. Louis R&B scene, sitting in everywhere he could. African American audiences in the early 1950s enjoyed a variety of musical styles, and Berry discovered that along with blues and smooth crooner numbers in the style of Nat King Cole, the hillbilly numbers he’d worked into his act were crowd favorites. He also noticed that whites began showing up at the clubs where he played. In 1954 he joined a trio led by pianist Johnny Johnson (who became his long-time musical partner), and soon they became a top local attraction.
Berry was in Chicago in 1955 and chanced to meet his idol, Muddy Waters. He asked Waters how one went about making a record and was directed to Leonard Chess, the owner of Chess Records. Leonard Chess liked his demo tape and thought the traditional fiddle tune “Ida Red,” which Berry had retrofitted with updated lyrics comparing Ida to a car, would make a good record. However, both Roy Acuff and Bob Wills had recorded “Ida Red,” so Chess requested that the song title be changed. Several theories exist about why “Maybelline” was chosen, but ultimately it has the same number of syllables as “Ida Red.”
WHAT TO LISTEN FOR:
The 12 blues chord progression sped up
Blues-influenced piano fills
Signature, iconic guitar solo – bending, rhythmic interest
Look at the form of the tune in the listening guide. Note that there are two instrumental verses. This gives us a lot of time during the 2:38 recording to really hear Chuck play the guitar, making his influence even greater.
RATE-A-RECORD/QUESTIONS TO ANSWER:
Why is Chuck Berry such an important figure in the development of rock and roll, especially in its early stages?
Why is this particular piece important to know about?
Give it a rating: 0 = Bad, 100 = Awesome. Defend your number.
Image preview for”listen to the recording of the tune by clicking the attached mp3 file.”