Rock & roll pioneer Johnnie Johnson died yesterday of natural causes at eighty years old. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee collaborated with Chuck Berry for nearly thirty years, and was the inspiration for Berry’s seminal 1958 hit “Johnny B. Goode.”
In 1953, the rock and blues pianist invited the young Berry to join his band, the Sir John Trio. Berry quickly took over, and the band soon produced such Fifties classics as “Maybellene,” “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Sweet Little Sixteen.” The two parted ways in 1973 and then reunited in 1986 for Berry’s sixtieth birthday performance in St. Louis, documented in Taylor Hackford’s Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll.
In the early Nineties, Johnson recorded two solo records for Elektra’s American Explorer series. And in 2001, Richards inducted Johnson into the Hall of Fame.
“It was so much fun to play with Johnnie,” said Bo Diddley, with whom Johnson played his final show. “The world has lost a great man and a great musician.”
West Virginia native Johnson is survived by his wife Frances and ten children.