Chuck Berry plays tribute to Johnnie Johnson
Upon hearing of the death of musician Johnnie Johnson, rock 'n' roll icon Chuck Berry headed to the nightclub where they'd last played to honour his longtime friend.
Johnson, the self-taught pianist to whom Berry paid tribute in the song Johnny B. Goode, died Wednesday at his St. Louis home. He was 80.
Berry, 78, called Johnson "the man with a dynamite right hand" and "my piano player who no one else has come near" in an interview with the Associated Press at Missouri's Blueberry Hill nightclub.
Berry said he would like to plan a tribute concert in Johnson's honour, ideally in St. Louis.
The two men performed together on-and-off over five decades, most recently last year at Blueberry Hill, and their relationship even withstood a potentially friendship-ending lawsuit.
In 2000, Johnson sued Berry over royalties and credit for songs they composed together. The lawsuit was eventually dismissed because too much time had passed since the songs were written. The following year, Johnson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the museum's "sidemen" category.
Berry was a struggling musician on New Year's Eve in 1952, when Johnson called him in to help fill for an ailing band member. That gig helped introduce Berry's rollicking new style to audiences and he eventually took over the band, but Johnson never held it against him.
Instead, the two men collaborated on songs, with Johnson often composing on the piano and Berry converting it to guitar and writing lyrics. Later, Johnson would go on to perform with artists like Keith Richards, Eric Clapton and John Lee Hooker.