Skip to content

Johnnie Johnson





Keith Richards


Musical Excellence

The inspiration for “Johnny B. Goode” and the greatest blues pianist of his time.

Johnnie Johnson is nowhere near renowned as he should be. He was a prodigy since age 4, an apprentice to Muddy Waters and the piano giant on whose shoulders Chuck Berry rose to prominence.

Johnnie Johnson

Johnnie Johnson


By Rob Bowman

On a fateful day in early 1956, Johnnie Johnson and Chuck Berry headed to Chicago for their fourth recording session at Chess Records.

Their first three efforts had produced the blues-inflected stylings of “Wee Wee Hours,” “No Money Down” and “Downbound Train” and the cut-time country raveups “Maybellene,” “You Can’t Catch Me” and “Thirty Days.” The results had been impressive, jump-starting Berry’s career with four Top Ten R&B hits, one of which, “Maybellene,” enjoyed similar success on the pop chart.

Johnnie Johnson’s piano is all over these songs, contributing rollicking high-end boogie-woogie licks that served as the perfect counterpoint to Berry’s souped-up guitar on the uptempo tunes, while on the slow blues, such as “Wee Wee Hours,” Johnson laid down triplet-ridden , soulful responsorial fils and a solo that proved him the equal of any blues pianist then current on the Chicago scene.

Read More
Class of 2001
whoever invented the piano, eat your heart out
Keith Richards
More from the class of 2001

Ritchie Valens