HEY LOCO FANS – Lets wish happy birthday to a very underated blues pianist Johnnie Johnson.
For 28 years legendary piano player Johnnie Johnson worked as a sideman to one of rock & roll’s most prominent performers, Chuck Berry . Berry joined Johnson’s band, the Sir John Trio, on New Year’s Eve 1953, and afterward Berry took over as the group’s songwriter and frontman/guitar player. On the strength of a recommendation from Muddy Waters and an audition, Berry got a deal with Chess Records.
Johnson’s rhythmic piano playing was a key element in all of Berry ’s hit singles, a good number of which Johnson arranged. Although Berry has been reluctant to admit as much, Johnson is widely regarded to be the inspiration for one of Berry ’s biggest hits, “Johnny B. Goode.” The pair’s successful partnership lasted a lot longer than most rock & roll partnerships last these days.
Johnson was born July 8, 1924, in Fairmont, WV, and in his teens, he listened to the radio broadcasts of big bands, and taught himself based on what he heard from the likes of Art Tatum , Earl “Fatha” Hines , and Meade “Lux” Lewis. Johnson’s goal in all of this listening and playing in his teenage years was to come up with his own distinctive style.
His own somewhat ailing career got a shot in the arm with the Chuck Berry concert film Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll, and by his involvement in Keith Richards ’ solo release with Richards ’ band, the X-Pensive Winos . He would go on to play and record with, among others, Eric Clapton , Bo Diddley , George Thorogood , and Aerosmith .
Despite his fear of flying, the revitalized Johnson also managed to tour the world. In 2001 Johnson was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Despite health complications, the ailing pianist continued to perform. In November 2004, recording began on what was to become his final project. On April 13th of 2005, at the age of 80, Johnnie Johnson passed away, just hours before his copies of Johnnie Be Eighty. And Still Bad! were delivered to his home.