Hours before his March 6 St. Louis performance at The Pageant,” rocker George Thorogood sat down to talk about Johnnie Johnson for the music documentary “Johnnie Be Good.”
“If there’s one key piano player in all of rock and roll, the creation of rock and roll, it’s Johnnie Johnson,” said Thorogood, wearing his trademark aviator sunglasses.
Thorogood recalled a 1995 performance at St. Louis concert venue Mississippi Nights when he shared the stage with Johnson while recording a live album.
“I was a little afraid to approach him because he’s such a legend.”
Whatever apprehension Thorogood felt didn’t last long. Johnnie and his wife Frances took Thorogood to dinner before the concert.
“He and his wife were more than accommodating. They almost adopted me for a night.”
Thorogood said his concert highlight was performing “Johnny B. Goode” with Johnnie Johnson at the keyboard.
“I remember saying ‘I know Johnny B. Goode has been done a hundred times but I got Johnnie Johnson on-stage.'”
Most conversations about Johnnie Johnson inevitably lead to Chuck Berry, who Johnson hired for his band in the early 1950’s.
“Chuck Berry basically invented rock and roll and I’ll tell you how that happened,” said Thorogood. “He took the blues, revved it up, played it faster, played it tighter, wrote some very clever lyrics and he made them to appeal to the buying public, teenagers. “There’s nobody that can be more important or influential in creating rock and roll than Chuck Berry and Johnnie Johnson was right there with him.”