Johnson: Father of Rock 'N Roll
6: Johnnie is Honored in His Home Town of Fairmont,
Johnson Blues & Jazz Society, Founded in 2001
Annual Johnnie Johnson Blues & Jazz Festival, Founded
Bridge in Fairmont Named in Honor of Johnnie Johnson
Fairmont State Univeristy Awards Doctor of Music Degree
Legend to Lead WV Festival
Johnnie Johnson to Receive Doctor of Music Degree
· Johnnie Johnson
at Fairmont State College
Legend to Lead WV Festival
Ed Masley, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,
Thursday, July 08, 2004
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
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
"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
Read the Full
of Rock and Roll, Johnnie Johnson,
To Receive Degree From Fairmont
Press Release from the
Blues & Jazz Society, Inc., May
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. Johnsons
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.
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 Millers bands.
In 1952 Johnson
formed the Sir Johns 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 worlds greatest blues
pianist. Johnson served as FSCs
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
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.
Johnson to Perform at Fairmont State
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
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
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