Made of Earth and Wood

Johnny B. Goode is a 1958 rock-and-roll song written and first recorded by Chuck Berry.  This song is based on Berry’s life.  It tells the tale of a boy with humble beginnings with an enormous talent for playing a guitar.  Some details were changed, as Berry was from St. Louis, not Louisiana, and he knew how to read and write very well.  He graduated from beauty school with a degree in hairdressing and cosmetology.  Berry got the name “Johnny” from Johnnie Clyde Johnson, a piano player who collaborated with Berry on many songs.  Johnson often wrote the songs on piano, and then Berry converted them to guitar and wrote lyrics.  Berry joined Johnson’s group, The Sir John Trio, in 1953, and quickly became the lead singer and centerpiece of the band.  Berry got the word “Goode” from the street in St. Louis where he grew up.

Chuck played this song on an electric Gibson ES-350T, which made it sound “just like a-ringin’ a bell.”  This may be the first song ever written about how much money a musician could make by playing the guitar and with this song Berry created the ultimate rock-and-roll folk hero.  It spent 15 weeks on the American charts, never rising higher than #8, but it did reach #2 on the Billboard Hot R&B Sides chart.  Johnny was able to toss his guitar into a “gunnysack” (which is an inexpensive bag) and this allowed him to practice anywhere, and he especially enjoyed being in the shade beneath the trees by the railroad.  When a train would pass by, all of the passengers were all impressed with Johnny’s soaring notes coming from his guitar.  Johnny’s mother had great faith in her son and she knew that he would make it to the top one day.

When Chuck Berry sang this song in 1958, he could have never imagined how far his rock and roll hit would really go.  In order to provide a more balanced view of the things that the American civilization is capable of ‘Johnny B. Goode’ was launched into space aboard the Voyager 1 space probe and it is now some 13 billion miles from Earth, traveling at 38,000 mph.  The guitar anthem shares space on a Golden Record alongside Mozart and Louis Armstrong, part of a cultural snapshot intended for any extraterrestrials who might someday find the spacecraft.  ‘Johnny B. Goode’ was included on the NASA golden record by a committee chaired by Carl Sagan.  Humanity’s farthest and longest-lived spacecraft is Voyager 1, and despite its vast distance, it continues to communicate with NASA daily, still probing the final frontier.

Johnnie Johnson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 and besides working with Chuck Berry, he was an apprentice to Muddy Waters and he played with Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, and John Lee Hooker.  Johnnie was in RatDog from 1996 – 1997, a group that began in 1995 as a side project for the Grateful Dead guitarist and singer Bob Weir, after Jerry Garcia died and the Dead disbanded.  Johnson died at the age of 80 from a kidney ailment and pneumonia in St. Louis on April 13, 2005.

Deep down in Louisiana, close to New Orleans
Way back up in the woods among the evergreens
There stood a log cabin made of earth and wood
Where lived a country boy named Johnny B. Goode
Who never learned to read or write so well
But he could play guitar just like a-ringin’ a bell

Go, go
Go Johnny, go, go
Go Johnny, go, go
Go Johnny, go, go
Go Johnny, go, go
Johnny B. Goode

He used to carry his guitar in a gunny sack
Go sit beneath the tree by the railroad track
Old engineers would see him sitting in the shade
Strumming with the rhythm that the drivers made
When people passed him by, they would stop and say
Oh my, but that little country boy could play


His mother told him someday you will be a man
And you will be the leader of a big ol’ band
Many people coming from miles around
Will hear you play your music when the sun goes down
Maybe one day your name will be in lights
Sayin’ Johnny B. Goode tonight

Written for Paula’s Thursday Inspiration 67 where this week’s theme is Earth from the 1987 Belinda Carlisle song ‘Heaven Is A Place on Earth’.

14 thoughts on “Made of Earth and Wood

      1. It is easy not Louie Louie easy but it’s like a prep song…you learn this…it gives you a lot of basics that is needed in other songs. Like Angus Young continues to use tricks of this song…well that is a longer comment than you wanted!

        Liked by 1 person

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