The Film

Portrait of JohnnieOn April 13, 2005, when Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Johnnie Johnson died in his sleep, his obituary appeared in Time Magazine, The New York Times, USA Today, and Rolling Stone; Reuters sent the story around the world. Eric Clapton, Robert Cray and Steven Tyler sent flowers to his funeral, while former Grateful Dead member Bob Weir attended in person. Johnson’s death was an international headline because he is widely considered to be one of the handful of musicians who helped create the musical stew which became rock and roll, and because he once hired an unknown guitar player named Chuck Berry.

Berry, the brilliant lyricist, and Johnson, a master of jazz, boogie woogie and the blues who never learned to read music, became one of the most important song-writing teams in music, heavily influencing the Rolling Stones and the Beatles; combined those bands covered eighteen Chuck Berry songs. Berry and Johnson collaborated on hits such as “Maybellene,” “Rock and Roll Music,” “No Particular Place to Go” and “Roll Over Beethoven,” but only Berry’s name appeared on the writing credits.
johhnnie-on-pianoIt will always be contested how many of Berry’s songs should have been co-credited to Johnson. In fact, a lawsuit brought by Johnson attracted worldwide attention because it might have settled the matter, but the suit was thrown out of court because too much time had passed. In the documentary, Johnson’s lawyer insists that during mediation, Chuck Berry admitted that Johnson co-wrote many of the songs.

hands at pianoIn the mid-80’s a documentary directed by Taylor Hackford, “Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll,” jump-started Johnson’s career. He was driving a senior citizen’s bus when Keith Richards hand-picked Johnson for the all-star band that paid tribute to Chuck Berry on his 60th birthday. Johnson showed the world his keyboard wizardry and in the years follwing that film, he began recording his own music and played with superstars Eric Clapton, John Lee Hooker and Richards. In 2001, Johnnie Johnson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the sideman category. Music experts in Johnnie Be Good insist he was much more than a sideman and never got the credit he deserved as one half of rock and roll’s first great song-writing team.

Portrait with CigarIn Addition, Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Eric Clapton, Bo Diddley, Bonnie Raitt, Bob Weir, Joe Perry and John Sebastian share their opinions. Also interviewed are five key participants in Hail! Hail! Rock ‘N’ Roll, the movie which caused the music world to rediscover Johnnie: Clapton, movie director Taylor Hackford, movie producer Stephanie Benett of Delilah Films, Rolling Stones keyboardist Chuck Leavell, and drummer/producer Steve Jordan. Paul Shaffer, music director for The Late Show with David Letterman shares his opinions about Johnnie Johnson, as do guitarist Jimmy Vivino from the Conan O’Brien band, rock legend Al Kooper, Bruce Hornsby, Michael McDonald, and long-time New York d.j. Pat St. John of Sirius Satellite Radio. Music historians Rob Bowman , who wrote Johnnie’s bio for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame program, and Bruce Pegg, who wrote the Chuck Berry biography Brown Eyed Handsome Man share provocative viewpoints.

Film Credits

Johnnie Johnson
Frances Johnson
Keith Richards
Eric Clapton
Bonnie Raitt
Bob Weir
Bo Diddley
Joe Perry
Dann Glenn
Ernie Isley
Ian McLagan
Taylor Hackford
Michael McDonald
David Sanborn
Paul Shaffer
Mike Merritt
James Wormworth
Chuck Leavell
Jimmy Vivino
Steve Jordan
Pat St. John
John Sebastian
Buddy Guy
Al Kooper
Bruce Hornsby
Lou Gossett Jr,
Malcolm McDowell                                                                                                                                         Daryl Davis                                                                                                                                                  Dona Oxford
Eddie Money
James Young
Jay Lane
Jeff Chimenti
Richard Young

Art Holliday

Executive Producer
Richard Chapman

Tony Chambers

Associate Producer
Harold Walker                                                                                                                                                   Diane Asyre
Amy Chase

Art Holliday
Jon King
Tony Chambers
Denzil McHenry
Greg Murphy

Bob Gleason

Still Photography
Art Holliday
Bill Greensmith
Suzy Gorman
Through A Lens Photography
Susana Millman
Mark Gilliland
Madeline Dames
Peter Newcomb
Diana Trombino Mestman

Kristin Schneider

Graphics Animation
Frank Unger

Social Media & Publicist
Marla Stoker

Special Thanks
Joe Edwards
Pat Hagin                                                                                                                                                               Twist Marketing                                                                                                                                  Volunteer Lawyers and  Accountants (VLAA)                                                                                     Integrity Web Consulting                                                                                                                   Steinway Piano provided by Steinway Gallery
Film grants provided by:
The Commission for Access & Loca Original Programming (CALOP) University City, MO


The Regional Arts Commission
of St. Louis