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Johnnie Johnson

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Johnnie Johnson (July 8, 1924 – April 13, 2005) was a piano player and blues musician whose work with Chuck Berry led to his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

He was born in Fairmont, West Virginia and began playing piano in 1928. He joined the United States Marine Corps during World War II where he was a member of Bobby Troup’s all serviceman jazz orchestra, The Barracudas. After his return, he moved to Detroit and thenChicago, Illinois, where he sat in with many notable artists, including Muddy Waters and Little Walter. He moved to St. Louis in 1952 and immediately put together a jazz and blues group, The Sir John Trio with drummer Ebby Hardy and saxophonist, Alvin Bennett. The three scored a regular gig at the Cosmopolitan Club in East St. Louis. On New Years Eve 1952, Alvin Bennett had a stroke and could not perform. Johnson, searching for a last minute replacement, called a young man named Chuck Berry, an ex-convict and the only musician Johnson knew who because of his inexperience, would likely not be playing on New Years Eve. Johnson was right. Although a limited guitarist, Berry added vocals and showmanship to the group. Since Bennett would not be able to play again because of his stroke, Johnson hired Berry as a permanent member of the Trio. They would remain the Sir John’s Trio until Berry took one of their tunes, a reworking of the Bob Wills’ classic, Ida Red to Chess records in Chicago. The Chess brothers liked the tune and soon the Trio were in Chicago recording Maybellene named after the mascara and Wee Wee Hours a song Johnson had been playing as an instrumental for years for which Berry penned quick lyrics.

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