First released in January 1958, Johnny B. Goode has become a staple of a rock ‘n’ roller’s catalogue of songs. Hundreds upon hundreds of covers have surfaced over the years, all inspired by that original recording. Before Back to the Future’s Marty McFly ripped up the stage with a ‘new’ sound, many acts tried their hand shortly after the original was made.
Here, I bring you five contemporaneous covers of Chuck Berry’s composition, recorded between 1958 and 1962.
5. The Penny Rockets
The Penny Rockets was an Australian band that formed in 1957, sometimes termed as Adelaide’s first rock ‘n’ roll band. Their version of Johnny B. Goode appeared on their debut EP in 1959.
This version features an overdriven sound featuring a jazzy guitar line, loud slap-back vocals, and a loud bass line. Appearing on record not long after the original, it appears it was early enough in the song’s fame to put a unique spin on it.
4. Jo Ann Campbell
Originally a dancer, Jo Ann became a singer in 1956, pursuing a recording career for many years. Along with Chuck, she appeared on the 1959 movie Go Johnny Go, performing ‘Mama Can I Go Out’.
Her version of B. Goode, the most recent in our list, was released in 1962. The track incorporates a mid-tempo drum beat that changes the feel of this song, with her voice driving the song along nicely.
3. The Keil Isles
A band made up of brothers and a cousin, The Keil Isles were from Samoans but eventually moved to New Zealand; During the late 1950s and early 60s, they were successful with versions of popular rock ‘n’ roll songs; We can highly recommend their interpretation of Chubby Checker‘s The Twist.
Released in 1959, this cover is closer to the original in style; The lead guitar accompanied by a rocking piano and driving drums. The lead singer’s accent is also distinct but clear through light touches of echo.
2. Colin Hicks & His Cabin Boys.
The younger brother of British artist Tommy Steele, we recently reviewed a Colin Hicks compilation from Bear Family Records.
Recorded in 1959, this version dispenses with the familiar lead riff and focuses more on the rocking piano and guitar flourishes. It all sounds like an anarchic mixture of ideas tied together with Colin’s showmanship vocals.
1. Gootch Jackson
It was difficult to find information on this artist, who appears to have only recorded a handful of songs.
This recording was first released in 1958, seemingly on the Big 4 Hits label, as part of an EP of cover versions; connected to Queen City Records of Cincinnati, OH.
This version puts a swing take on the composition, mixing an interpretation of the lead guitar riff with a driving saxophone. Gootch’s soulful vocal puts another spin on the lyrics, filling the speakers nicely.