Louis Jordan vs. Chuck Berry vs. The Beach Boys

chuck-berry

For the next installment Chuck Berry-related coverage, here we have an instance of Berry himself snatching the opening riff for “Johnny B. Goode” directly from 1940’s R&B icon Louis Jordan‘s guitarist Carl Hogan. Of course, the song is Chuck Berry’s best known work and a masterpiece in its own right, having been the representative rock n’ roll song shot up into space on the Voyager and just generally one hell of a tour de force. However, when Brian Wilson in turn came along and borrowed the same riff for the Beach Boys, which he was no stranger to doing, this time Chuck Berry was less the progenitor and more just the link.

Naturally, all this doesn’t stop Berry’s take from having exponentially more bite than the other two combined. Listen to how the same riff evolves to service pre-rock jump blues, then gritty rock n’ roll, and finally blithe little pop confection:

Louis Jordan - "Ain't That Just Like A Woman (They'll Do It Every Time)" (1946)
Chuck Berry - "Johnny B. Goode" (1958)
The Beach Boys - "Fun, Fun, Fun" (1964)

See also:

Sweet Little Sixteen vs. Surfin’ USA

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18 Replies to “Louis Jordan vs. Chuck Berry vs. The Beach Boys”

    1. Ben Post author

      Say, good point! Sounds a bit like the spirit of the classic intro riff’s latter turn made it into the opening bars of “Revolution”, followed by even more “Johnny B. Goode” similitude to be found in the cadence of the verse strum. We all know how much of a Chuck Berry convert John Lennon was, and fitting enough that the influence should pop up on one of the Beatles’ most raucous moments.

      Reply
      1. Mark Adams

        While I’m on the subject, the Shawn the Sheep theme song, All I Want for Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth) and Basketcase sound like different parts of Dedicated Follower of Fashion.

        Reply
  1. Bruce

    I’ve always referred to that riff as “The Chuck Berry riff”. It has influenced countless artists in the past 50 years, without a doubt. (Beatles, Bob Seger, Alejandro Escovedo, to name a few)
    I never knew Louis Jordan had recorded it 12 years before Chuck!

    Reply
  2. Mark Adams

    Didn’t Surfin’ USA have a similar intro riff? I wouldn’t be surprised if the Beach Boys had used the riff again. Also, Chuck Berry was no stranger to recycling material: there was a similar riff in Roll Over Beethoven before Johnny B. Goode and also in Carol, plus he also recycled a couple of his old tunes.

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    1. Ben Post author

      Absolutely. Here’s the piece on Surfin USA: http://www.thatsongsoundslike.com/2012/07/09/chuck-berry-vs-the-beach-boys/

      It’s true, for how great he is, some Chuck Berry numbers sound a bit same-y. Fats Domino, Chubby Checker, Little Richard — a lot of the early R&B greats seem to have worked with an occasionally limited palette, tossing off slight mutations of their groundbreaking, signature sound in a subtle development of what they had on their hands. With such a great riff as Johnny B. Goode, why not see to what different ends it could be applied. No one’s gonna get tired of hearing it.

      Reply
  3. DanW

    And Louis Jordan’s riff borrows a bit from Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood”. And Glenn Miller probably borrowed his riff from somewhere else, as well.

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    1. Mark Adams

      He could have, but innocent until proven guilty. Besides, someone had to have written it, unless you think it was first of all chirped by a bird or created by some natural phenomenon.

      Reply
  4. Mark Adams

    And Walk This Way by Aerosmith (1975), more famous for the version with Run-DMC sounds like Roll Over Beethoven by Chuck Berry (1955), there’s even a play on Chuck Berry’s reference to Hey Diddle Diddle. I’ve come across others as well that sound like Roll Over Beethoven, I think one was by the Steve Miller Band, but I can’t remember the names of the songs now. Anyway, considering the lyrics the others aren’t as similar as Walk This Way is to Roll Over Beethoven. Now I’m discussing Aerosmith, Dani California by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers sounds like Dream On (1973).

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    1. Mark Adams

      And Gypsy Train by Toto (1992) sounds like Rag Doll by Aerosmith (1985). While I’m on the subject of Toto, Don’t Chain My Heart (1992) sounds like Unchain My Heart.

      Reply

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