The Johnnie Johnson Blues & Jazz Society, Inc. Celebrating Hometown Legend, Johnnie Johnson!
Home Page You Are Here! Festival Details! News Photo Gallery Sites To Visit
Sponsors Donate Contact Information
Johnnie Johnson:  Father of Rock 'N Roll
Page 1:  A Brief Biography. The Life of Johnnie Johnson  ·  Page 2:  Johnnie’s Official Biography, by Travis Fitzpatrick
Page 3:  Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame Induction, March 2001  ·   Page 4:  Johnnie’s Many Awards, Honors, & Certificates
Page 5:  Interviews with the Legendary Johnnie Johnson  ·   Page 6:  Johnnie is Honored in his Hometown of Fairmont
Intro to Johnnie  ·  Blues Legend to Lead WV Festival  ·  50th Anniversary of Rock 'N Roll  ·   Unsung Hero
Johnnie Johnson to Receive Doctor of Music Degree
 ·   Johnnie Johnson at Fairmont State College
Inducted Into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!
 ·   Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame Honors Legends
Johnnie "B. Goode" Stakes His Claim in Music History
 ·   Johnnie Johnson With Keith Richards
Johnnie's Biography  ·  The Johnnie Johnson / Travis Fitzpatrick Interview   ·  Amazon Book Review
Fox Valley Blues Society Book Review
 ·  Native Detroiter Seeks Recognition for Johnnie Johnson
An Interview with Johnnie Johnson

Intro to Johnnie:  Johnnie Johnson was born on July 8, 1924.

Johnnie Johnson is a self-taught pianist, who settled in St. Louis in 1952 and formed the Sir John Trio. He asked Chuck Berry to sit in that New Year's Eve, and a magical half-century collaboration was born.

Johnnie was rediscovered in 1986, when Rolling Stones' guitarist Keith Richards sought out Johnnie for the documentary, "Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll." Johnnie's piano playing in the 1987 movie won him a host of new fans, including Keith Richards and Eric Clapton.

Johnnie Johnson is considered by many to be the world's greatest living Blues Pianist & the Founding Father of Rock & Roll Music. Johnnie received a Congressional Citation in 1999, for his lifetime contributions to Blues & Jazz Music. Johnnie Johnson was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.

Back To Top

Blues Legend to Lead WV Festival
By Ed Masley, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Thursday, July 08, 2004

Johnnie Johnson played piano on some of the most inspired, most enduring records of rock 'n' roll's first decade.

And it's all because his saxophonist called in sick on New Year's Eve in 1952.

Johnson brought in a fledgling St. Louis guitarist, Chuck Berry, who'd been playing professionally for only maybe six months, "I asked him to sit in for me that night. And that night lasted many years."

He could tell from start, he says, that Berry was a different breed.

"We were doing standards back in that time, and what Chuck came in there doing, this rock 'n' roll, it was a novelty thing," he says. "There wasn't no black American doing hillbilly music."

No one sounded like Chuck Berry by the time the Johnnie Johnson Trio came to Chess Records in 1955, the same year Berry "motorvated" all the way to No. 5 on the U.S. pop charts with a hillbilly-flavored car-chase song called "Maybellene." It also spent 11 weeks at No. 1 on the R&B charts.

And the hits kept coming, positioning Berry as both the archetypal rock 'n' roll guitarist and the poet laureate of pre-Bob Dylan rock 'n' roll: "Roll Over Beethoven." "School Day." "Rock & Roll Music." "Sweet Little Sixteen." "Johnny B. Goode." "Carol." "Almost Grown." "Back in the U.S.A."

And those were just the hits. The album cuts were often better.

Read the Full Article:

Back To Top

Elvis may have been the king, but was he first?
By Ed Masley, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sunday, July 04, 2004

*Johnnie Johnson is quoted for this article, which describes the roots of Rock 'N Roll.

It was 50 years ago tomorrow, the Fifth of July, that a young Elvis Presley, a truck-driving R&B scholar from Tupelo, Miss., took his first step down the road to being crowned the king of rock 'n' roll in his first night of sessions at Sam Phillips' Memphis Recording Service.


Johnnie Johnson, who played piano on Chuck Berry's greatest hits, was on a Freed bill at the Paramount the first time he heard anybody mention rock 'n' roll. It was the night his bandmate introduced his legendary duck walk to the stage show.

"The kids were just having a ball," he says. "And Alan Freed said, 'Well, look at 'em rockin' and rollin'." And right in the middle of his statement, he said, 'Hey, why don't we call this music rock 'n' roll music?' And that to me, was the birth of rock 'n' roll music."

Or if not the birth, the naming.


Dec. 31, 1952 -- When Johnnie Johnson's saxophonist calls in sick on New Year's Eve, he hires a fill-in guitarist, Chuck Berry, a reform-school graduate who could play the guitar just like a-ringin' a bell. With Johnson on piano, Berry would emerge with "Too Much Monkey Business," "Maybellene" and other three-chord treasures as the poet laureate of pre-Bob

Read the full article:

Back To Top

Johnnie Johnson, Unsung Hero of Rock 'N Roll
Born July 8, 1924 in Fairmont, West Virginia

Johnnie Johnson is one of the unsung heroes of rock and roll. He is recognized by many as “the worlds greatest blues pianist” and “the founding father of rock and roll.” Johnnie was born July 8, 1924 on Diamond Street in Fairmont, West Virginia. Johnnie began playing piano in 1928 when he was four years old. His mother had purchased the second-hand upright piano as a decoration.

Taking to the instrument immediately Johnnie seemed to possess an innate mastery of the instrument even then. Unable to afford lessons Johnnie practiced and absorbed the sounds of big band jazz and swing, barrelhouse boogie, and country western that he heard on local radio. His heroes were piano players: Count Basie, Art Tatum, Earl Hines, Pete Johnson, and Meade Lux Lewis. Johnnie studied each man's repertoire, mixing and matching until he found his own unique style. Johnnie even made his radio debut on local radio station WMMN at the age of eight years old.

In 1943, with the war in full tilt, Johnnie enlisted in the Marines becoming one of the first 1,500 black soldiers in this branch of the service. He fought in the Marshall Islands and later had the opportunity to join the company band- The Barracudas- an elite group made up of some of the finest jazz musicians in the world. The band was made up of members of Count Basie’s, Lionel Hampton’s, and Glen Miller’s bands. It was a dream come true to play alongside his radio idols at U.S.O. shows, and by the time he had returned home, Johnnie had decided to make music his life.

After hearing T-Bone Walker playing in a Detroit club, he decided to move to Chicago, where the post-war blues scene was at it’s height. Befriending and sitting in with legends like Muddy Waters, Memphis Slim, and Little Walter sharpened Johnnie's skills. He finally settled down in St. Louis in March of 1952. Johnnie formed a band “The Johnnie Johnson Trio” and soon landed a regular gig at one of the biggest nightspots in town, “The Cosmopolitan Club.”

On New Year’s Eve of 1952 fate stepped in, as Johnnie's saxophonist became ill and was unable to make the show. Desperate for a replacement Johnnie hired a fledgling guitarist named Chuck Berry to fill in for the night. Although he had only been playing professionally for six months, Berry had a gift for performance and a way with words that caught the audience’s attention. Johnnie decided to keep him on as a singer/guitarist, and for the next two years the Johnnie Johnson Trio rocked the Cosmopolitan every weekend.

In 1955 while still performing as the Johnnie Johnson Trio, Johnnie, Chuck Berry, and Ebby Hardy traveled to Chicago and recorded “Maybellene” along with the legendary Willie Dixon on bass for Chess Records. The record was a hit and soon reached number five on the charts. It was then that Berry approached his partner about taking over the band. Confident of Berry’s business acumen, and yearning to simply play, Johnnie entrusted Berry with his band. And so it was that Johnnie became the silent partner in the first writing and performing team in the history of rock and roll. With Johnnie’s musical prowess and Berry’s gift for words, they collaborated on some of the most influential songs in musical history including, “Wee Wee Hours,” “Sweet Little Sixteen (with which the Beach Boys later had a hit Surfin USA),” “Roll Over Beethoven,” “School Days,” “Back in the USA,” “Rock and Roll Music,” among many others. In fact the song that many people believe to be the national anthem of rock and roll “Johnnie Be Goode” was written by Berry as a tribute to his musical partner and collaborator Johnnie Johnson. Johnnie would often keep playing long after the show ended, sitting in with jazz bands and anyone that would have him. “I would play anytime, anywhere, with anybody,” he has said. Referring to his disappearing acts, Berry would look at him and say, “Why can’t you just be good, Johnnie?”

Johnnie and Berry performed and record together through the seventies. However, as Berry’s popularity grew, and he began to travel internationally, Johnnie elected to stay home in St. Louis. During this time Johnnie also recorded and performed with the legendary Albert King for whom he contributed a great number of musical arrangements even performing in what many have said was the greatest Albert King Band ever. But through it all Johnnie toiled largely unrecognized by the public.

That is, until 1986 when Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards sought Johnnie out for documentary Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll. Richards observed that many of Berry’s songs were written in piano keys Johnnie’s keys. And without Johnnie’s melodies the most influential songs in rock and roll history would be “just a lot of words on paper.” Johnnie’s performance in the film left no doubt that he has no equals on the piano.

Since the release of the film, Johnnie has begun to receive the credit and the public acclaim he so rightly deserves. Johnnie has released six solo albums and contributed his considerable talents to recordings by Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Bo Diddley, and the late greats John Lee Hooker, and Jimmy Rogers. Johnnie has also been inducted into the Boogie Woogie Hall of Fame, won the prestigious Pioneer Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, received a Congressional Citation for Lifetime Achievement, and in March of 2001 was inducted into “The Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame.”

In the words of Johnnie’s guitarist Tom Maloney, “Fairmont, West Virginia is definitely an important part of Johnnie. Johnnie could have been born in New York, Chicago, Houston, St. Louis, or any other place in the world, but we wouldn’t have Johnnie or rock and roll music as we know it today.” “Fairmont should be very, very, proud of Johnnie.”

Johnnie Johnson has definitely suffered for his art. Yet, through it all he has never lost the gentle self-effacing demeanor that causes everyone he meets to love him. He has no bitterness, no regrets. Whether he is playing in front of thousands or in a small club, Johnnie plays for the sake of playing. Volumes have been written about Johnnie’s influence and many more will be. Every time that a musician picks up an instrument, Johnnie’s influence is there, whether on stage in front of thousands, in a small club, or under the Christmas tree on Christmas morning. Whenever the shuffle and boogie woogie rhythms start, that’s Johnnie’s left hand saying come on let’s rock the house.

Back To Top

Father of Rock and Roll, Johnnie Johnson,
To Receive Degree From Fairmont State College

Press Release from the Johnnie Johnson
Blues & Jazz Society, Inc., May 3, 2002

Johnnie Johnson, who has been recognized by the United States Congress as the Father of Rock and Roll and a National Treasure, will receive the degree Doctor of Music from Fairmont State College. Johnson will be awarded the degree at the annual commencement ceremony scheduled for Saturday May 11, 2002 at 10 a.m.

Johnson who was born in Fairmont in 1924 began playing piano at the age of 5 on a second hand piano his mother had brought into the home as a decoration. Johnson’s mother claimed that his talent was a gift from God, as he had received no formal lessons on the piano. Johnnie developed his unique style by listening to the radio and the popular recordings of the day.

Johnson enlisted in the Marines at the height of World War II and became one of the first 1,500 African-Americans in that branch of the service. Johnson played with an elite group, the Barracudas, that featured members of Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, and Glenn Miller’s bands.

In 1952 Johnson formed the Sir John’s Trio and hired a fledgling guitarist, Chuck Berry. Over the next 20 to 30 years in collaboration the duo created songs that help to forge a new musical style that changed the face of music. Johnson and Berry collaborated on “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Rock and Roll Music,” “Wee Wee Hours,” among many others. Berry wrote the song “Johnny Be Goode” as a tribute to Johnson.

Johnson has released six solo albums and has recorded with John Lee Hooker, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, among many others and is recognized as the world’s greatest blues pianist. Johnson served as FSC’s Artist in Residence for 2002.

State Senator Lloyd G. Jackson II D-Boone, Lincoln, Logan, Wayne, will also receive a degree from Fairmont State College on Saturday May 11. Sen. Jackson will receive the degree Doctor of Laws because he has provided a vision for improvement of education in West Virginia, both in the public schools and in higher education.

“Fairmont State is pleased to honor these two gentlemen who have contributed so much to our society,” says FSC President Daniel J. Bradley. “They have each shown a commitment to excellence and innovation, and are deserving of this special recognition.”

Back To Top

Johnnie Johnson to Perform at Fairmont State College
January 23, 2002

Fairmont native Johnnie Johnson, who has been called the "world's greatest living blues pianist" and "the founding father of rock and roll," will perform Wednesday, Feb. 6 at 7 p.m. at Colebank Hall on the Fairmont State campus.

The concert, sponsored by Student Government, the School of Fine Arts and the Johnnie Johnson Blues and Jazz Society, is free and open to the public.

Johnson began playing the piano in 1928; he was 4 years old when his parents brought a new piano into their Fairmont home. Taking to it immediately, Johnson seemed to possess an innate mastery of the instrument. By age 9, he was playing jazz tunes by Count Basie, Oscar Peterson and Earl "Fatha" Hines on the local radio station. By the 1950s, he was living in St. Louis where he worked in a factory by day and fronted the Johnnie Johnson Trio, an R & B band, as time allowed.

Right before a big date on New Year's Eve in 1952, Johnson suddenly had to replace his ailing saxophonist, so he called a guitar-playing friend to sit in. His name was Chuck Barry.

Berry's rocking hillbilly style melded with Johnson's jazz-tinged blues and boogie, and rock and roll was the result. Many of Berry's rock and roll classics - including "Sweet Little Sixteen," "School Days" and "Roll over Beethoven," - came about during impromptu rehearsals, when Berry would show up with lyrics and ask Johnson to put some music behind them. "Just me, Chuck and the piano," is how Johnson put it.

Johnson's musical contributions to Berry's songs were essential to their success. The overlooked pianist finally received some long-overdue recognition in the 1985 Chuck Berry film documentary, "Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll," where Keith Richards and others talked about the importance of Johnson's piano stylings.

In 2000, Johnson was honored by the Fairmont community. In July, he performed a local concert that attracted the largest audience for any gathering of this kind in recent years. He graciously received the key to the city and July 8, his birthday, was declared Johnnie Johnson Day.

Back To Top

March 19, 2001:  Johnnie Johnson is Inducted
Into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!

Johnnie Johnson's Page on the Rock 'N Roll
Hall of Fame Web Site

Visit Johnnie Johnson's Page on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Web Site Visit Johnnie Johnson's Page on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Web Site
It took place at the sixteenth annual induction dinner.
Keith Richard was his presenter. Johnnie Johnson was born July 8, 1924.

Article From The Chicago-Tribune: February 9, 2001
Johnnie Johnson enters Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame.pdf

You need the Adobe Acrobat Reader in order to read the above PDF file.
Visit the Adobe Web Site & Get The Acrobat Reader For Free!
Back To Top

Johnnie Gets Inducted
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Honors Legends

NewYorkRock.Com  ~

December 13, 2000. (Yahoo/Hoopla Media) – 11 new inductees to the Cleveland-based hall of fame were announced in a live presentation Tuesday morning. The induction ceremony, featuring the traditional all-star jam session, will take place March 19 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York.

Pianist/composer Johnnie Johnson is among the 2001 inductees in the "Side-Man" category. As Chuck Berry's bandleader and writing partner for almost 40 years, Johnson has been championed as the true father of rock 'n' roll by Hall of Famers Keith Richards, Eric Clapton and Bob Weir. Criteria considered for induction into this 1999 established category includes the influence and significance of the musician's contribution to the development and perpetuation of rock and roll.

"This is the best Christmas present I could have gotten," enthused Johnson, 76, who is widely recognized as the best blues pianist in the world today. "I'm so happy I could burst. They (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation) didn't know where to put me for a while. Even though I made up the music to a lot of Chuck's songs, my name wasn't on the records, so I guess because of their rules they couldn't put me in with Chuck. But thanks to all the people who supported me, they came up with this "Side-Man" category last year, and now all of us who weren't famous have a place to go. I'm very thankful for that."

For Johnson and his many supporters, this day has been a long time coming. Since 1995, Johnson has been the subject of an intense and unprecedented campaign by Houston businessman George Turek, who publicly urged the voting members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Nominating Committee to induct Johnson. It is believed that Turek's efforts in part led to the Foundation creating its "Side-Man" category last year. "Johnnie changed the course of music history. I'm ecstatic for him and his family," remarked Turek.

Read the Full Article:

Back To Top

Johnnie "B. Goode" Stakes His Claim
in Music History from Partner Chuck Berry

NewYorkRock.Com  ~

December 1, 2000 – A multi-count lawsuit against guitarist/lyricist Chuck Berry was filed Wednesday (11/29/00) by attorneys for legendary pianist/composer Johnnie Johnson (aka "Johnnie B. Goode") in St. Louis Federal District Court. The suit seeks Johnson's rightful share of monies realized from numerous Johnson/Berry composed songs for which Johnson never received proper credit or royalties.

Amongst the allegations is that Johnson collaborated with Berry to compose songs which defined a musical genre; "Roll Over Beethoven," "No Particular Place To Go," "Rock and Roll Music," "Sweet Little Sixteen" among numerous others. Johnson maintains that he and Berry, together, created the music for these hits, but that Berry claimed sole copyright ownership as well as the profits generated from them. The suit further indicates that Johnson and Berry were partners, and that Berry took advantage of him when Berry registered the copyrights in his name alone.

Read the Full Article:

Back To Top

Johnnie Johnson With Keith Richards
at New York City's Chicago Blues


October 7, 2000. By Spyder Darling. Though not on tour or in the studio this month, Rolling Stones' guitarist Keith Richards isn't about to let any grass gather on his boot heels. As a surprise guest, he recently appeared at New York City's Chicago Blues during a show by seminal rock 'n' blues pianist Johnnie Johnson. Introduced by Johnson's guitarist as someone "who's never heard of you, but you've heard of him," Richards reeled and rocked through obscure barrel-house boogies like "Tanqueray" and old-time rockers like Chuck Berry's "Oh, Carol," which, incidentally, the Stones covered on their first album.

Read the Full Article:

Back To Top

Father of Rock & Roll
The Story of Johnnie "B. Goode" Johnson, By Travis Fitzpatrick. Published in 1999. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize!
Johnnie Johnson's Biography:  The Father Of Rock 'N Roll, The Story of "Johnnie B. Goode" Johnson. Order your copy today from
This was a limited edition book, and is currently out of print,
but Amazon sometimes has a few used copies for sale.
Includes bonus CD featuring 14 tracks of music and interviews!

*Webmaster's Note:  I've been trying to convince Travis Fitzpatrick to write the sequel to his Pulitzer Prize nominated biography. We all know that the rest of Johnnie Johnson's story needs to be told, and Travis is just the right person to do it! If you see Travis on the streets of Houston, tell him we're all hungry for the next book! And we'd like to see the re-issue of the first one! I'm the webmaster, and I can't even get my hands on a copy! Can anyone out there help me out? :-)

Purchase Johnnie's Biography at!
Back To Top

Father Of Rock & Roll:  The Johnnie Johnson / Travis Fitzpatrick Interview by Ken Burke, Posted Sept. 30, 1999.
Johnnie Johnson is one of the great unsung architects of rock 'n roll music. His flawless melding of fluid jazz with barrelhouse boogie-woogie and blues set a compelling countergroove to Chuck Berry's hopped-up country shuffles. The resultant string of hits not only sound fresh and jivey today, they also comprise the one body of work we can all point to with authority and say "THIS is rock'n'roll music."

History has cast the affable pianist as a mere sideman, but Johnson's role with Chuck Berry was actually more similar to Dave Bartholomew's with Fats Domino or Scotty Moore's with Elvis Presley. Johnson helped shape and refine Berry's sound, supplying music and head arrangements for the duckwalking guitarist's classic tongue-in-cheek teen anthems. Though he never received proper credit or royalty checks for his contributions, Johnson's impact on the first generation of rockers was every bit as profound as Berry's because he was truly the man behind the man.

When Berry was sent to jail at the peak of his early success, Johnson went to work for another guitar legend, Albert King, serving in the same uncredited role for the bad-ass bluesman as he had for the rocker. By working with two such important figures in American music, you'd figure the pianist would be far better known than he is, but a great many factors have keep him in the shadows.

Perhaps the reason we know so little about Johnson's contributions is due to the fact that he has never engaged in the unseemly boasting of many of his contemporaries. Though his playing provides plenty of excitement and release for his listeners, the man himself is stoic and carries himself with great dignity. There's also the matter of location. Refusing to leave the St. Louis area (not exactly the hub of the entertainment industry), Johnson juggled full time jobs, weekend gigs, occasional tours, and studio dates all while nearly drinking himself to death during a 40 year battle with alcoholism.

Chuck Berry's resurrection in the 1986 film, Hail! Hail! Rock 'N' Roll!, was the beginning of Johnson's rebirth as well. Such admirers as Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, and George Throrogood clamored for his services, wanting Johnson to bring the same Chess Records magic to their recordings as he had Berry's.
Back To Top

Father of Rock & Roll, The Story of Johnnie "B Goode" Johnson
By Travis Fitzpatrick  ~  
Editorial Review From

"On December 30, 1953, a piano player named Johnnie Johnson phoned me, asking me to join his Sir Johns Trio for a gig on the eve of the year of 1953.", remembers rock and roll pioneer Chuck Berry. And the rest was history. Or was it?

Now for the first time, author Travis Fitzpatrick opens the door on the life of the legendary piano man, Johnnie B. Goode Johnson, the modest musical savant who created rock and roll--and never received credit for it.

They called him the music man. For over twenty years, Johnnie Johnson manned the keys as Chuck Berry's pianist and bandleader, collaborating with him on more than one hundred songs and providing Berry with the distinct sound and boogie rhythm that made him a star. The inspiration behind the first rock and roll hero, Johnny B. Goode, Johnson's music would influence the entire rock pantheon, from Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

Yet through it all, Johnnie Johnson remained a mystery. Driven by a partner's greed and his own personal demons into a life of impoverished anonymity, the world seemed destined to never know the truth about Johnnie Johnson. Until now.

This is the story behind the best kept secret in rock and roll. It is a story of a man who was lost and found, the partner who forsook him, the woman who saved him, and a young friend who dedicated his life to secure an unsung hero his rightful place in history. This is the story of the music that shaped the world. This is the story of the Father of Rock & Roll.

About the Author:  Travis Fitzpatrick was born in Parkersburg, West Virginia not far from Johnnie Johnson's hometown of Fairmont. He lived in California, Michigan, and Tennessee before settling in Houston, Texas. Fitzpatrick first met Johnson in 1993 and commenced writing Father of Rock & Roll: The Story of Johnnie B. Goode Johnson in 1995 - at the age of nineteen. As of the first printing of this book, he was attending the University of Texas at Austin.

Back To Top

Book Review:  The Father Of Rock 'N Roll
The Story of Johnnie "B Goode" Johnson By Travis Fitzpatrick

Fox Valley Blues Society, 1999 by Dave Glynn

Johnnie Johnson's biography tells a heartening story of a man who battled a lot in life, but was guided by the angels along the way. He would have to have the help of the angels because there is no way another individual could have survived so many brushes with death. Despite Johnnie's fight for life, his music and his nonchalant behavior are a steady theme through his struggles.

Author Travis Fitzpatrick does a beautiful job of threading musical history through this tale of Johnnie Johnson, Chuck Berry's original piano player and collaborator for most of his hits. Meet the Chess brothers, who are presented as astute business men and knew how to exploit the music and its authors. Meet Chuck Berry, can you stand to ever look at him again? Meet Albert King who scares the daylights out of you. Enter Keith Richards, Eric Clapton and a host of other musicians in awe of Johnnie's 'God-given' talent.

*Read the Full Article

Back To Top

Native Detroiter Seeks Recognition for Rock Pioneer Johnnie Johnson
Detroit Free Press, August 16, 1999

George Turek, has been trying for years to get the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland to recognize the efforts of Johnnie Johnson, left, who composed for Chuck Berry. "Johnny B. Goode" was Berry's tribute to Johnson.

AS Detroit-born businessman George Turek left a meeting at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland earlier this month, he sensed he was about to realize his life's dream. In the last five years, he'd spent countless hours and a small fortune trying to get the rock 'n' roll industry to recognize the contributions of his best friend, pianist Johnnie Johnson.


George Turek and his fiancee, Linda Nutter, were listening to a blues band in Memphis, Tenn., in 1992 when George wondered:  Why not fly the band up to Detroit for their wedding? By then, his medical management company was a national corporation. Money was no object.

Weeks before the 1993 wedding, the band canceled. Desperate, George remembered that his brother had bought another band's CD in Memphis. "I listened to that CD and knew immediately, I had to have that band," George remembers during a phone interview. The CD was "Johnnie B. Bad," and the performer was pianist Johnnie Johnson.


Turek has lobbied tirelessly for Johnson to be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He self-published a hardcover biography of Johnson's life, "Father of Rock & Roll: The Story of Johnnie 'B. Goode' Johnson," written by his stepson, Travis Fitzpatrick. He has organized a petition drive signed by the likes of Keith Richards, Bo Diddley and Little Richard.

*Read the Full Article

Back To Top

Meet Johnnie, A Big Part of Rock's Beginnings
An Interview with Johnnie Johnson by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame

When I was around four years old, my parents bought a piano. I imagine it was just for decoration in the house, because no one in the family was musical, not a one. But I sat down and started playing right off the bat, something simple like 'Chopsticks.' My mother cried, and said it was a gift from God." Johnnie Johnson's legions of admirers might well agree that his talent is heaven-sent - a swinging, soulful synthesis of jump-blues, mainstream jazz, and sensual balladry, with a touch of country. After considerable acclaim for his brilliant work with Chuck Berry - he played piano on all of Berry's classic hits - recent years have seen Johnnie Johnson emerge as a bandleader and headliner in his own right.

"I am getting quite a bit of recognition now," Johnson says with pleasure. "People will tell me 'I saw you in that movie, Hail Hail Rock and Roll,' or I saw you playing with Paul Shaffer, on David Letterman's show. That really takes me off my feet. I am very pleased with all of it. I wish that maybe I had gotten this break sooner, because I'm 66 and not getting any younger, but I am very pleased."

Perhaps the main impediment to Johnson's earlier success was his reluctance to tackle vocals. "I never tried to sing," he explains. "They twisted my arm, man, to get me to do it. I had microphone fright. I am very shy." Having conquered his fear, however, Johnson went on to master a laid-back, laconic delivery. For the most part his approach is dry, declamatory and charming, as heard here on "Stepped In What?" and "Tanqueray." Even so, the self-effacing Johnson assesses his voice as "passable, anyway. But the more I sing, the more encouragement I get." *Read the Full Article

Back To Top

Intro to Johnnie  ·  Blues Legend to Lead WV Festival  ·  50th Anniversary of Rock 'N Roll  ·   Unsung Hero
Doctor of Music Degree
 ·  Johnnie at Fairmont State  ·  Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!  ·   Hall of Fame Honors Legends
Johnnie "B. Goode" Stakes His Claim in Music History  ·   Johnnie Johnson With Keith Richards
Johnnie's Biography  ·  The Johnnie Johnson / Travis Fitzpatrick Interview   ·   Amazon Book Review
Fox Valley Blues Society Book Review   ·   Native Detroiter Seeks Recognition for Johnnie Johnson
An Interview with Johnnie Johnson

Page 1:  A Brief Biography. The Life of Johnnie Johnson  ·  Page 2:  Johnnie’s Official Biography, by Travis Fitzpatrick
Page 3:  Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame Induction, March 2001  ·   Page 4:  Johnnie’s Many Awards, Honors, & Certificates
Page 5:  Interviews with the Legendary Johnnie Johnson  ·   Page 6:  Johnnie is Honored in his Hometown of Fairmont



The Johnnie Johnson Blues & Jazz Society, Inc. Copyright 2003- 2015. © All Rights Reserved.

Any unauthorized reproduction or use will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Back To Top