Friday, April 15, 2005

Johnnie Johnson R.I.P.

Master of Boogie Woogie
Chuck Berry's musical muse, subject of "Johnnie B. Goode," and the father of rock and roll boogie woogie piano, is dead at 80. That masterful piano tinkling over such classics as "Maybelline," "No Particular Place to Go," and "Roll Over Beethoven" were all from Johnnie Johnson's hand. And the case can be made that the songs themselves originated from his fingers:
Johnson played an important collaborative role in the process of composition,
often hammering out the music on the piano while Berry converted it to guitar
and wrote the lyrics, but Berry claimed sole credit as performer and songwriter.
Thus, while the royalties rolled in for Berry, Johnson had little to show for
his musical career.
Johnson was the shy, retiring type who was more comfortable as a sideman; Keith Richards, himself a Berry aficionado, rescued Johnson's career and gave him the notoriety that he deserved with his "Hail, Hail, Rock and Roll" project. Johnson was ultimately inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
There's nothing like good honky-tonk, barrell-roll piano over three chord, uptempo blues in 4/4 time. This guy was the master. Chuck Berry's comments here.