When you think of some of the most notable guitarists in the history of music, you’d be hard-pressed to come up with a list that didn’t include these three guitar legends. We’re taking you back to 1987 as Chuck Berry leads Eric Clapton and Keith Richards through a jam of ‘Johnny B. Goode’.
The King of Rock and Roll, (yes, that’s right Elvis, we all know that Chuck Berry is the genuine King — if only for his scathing critiques alone) takes The Rolling Stones’ own riff machine Keith Richards and bonafide guitar God Eric Clapton through a wonderful performance of his iconic rock and roll hit.
Filmed for Taylor Hackford’s 1987 film Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll, the music documentary records two concerts which were held at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis to celebrate the iconic Chuck Berry’s 60th birthday, giving audiences the chance to see Berry backed by some of the world’ most exclusive rock stars. It was a tantalising prospect.
Sourced and arranged by Keith Richards—a massive Berry fan despite being punched in the face by the rocker—the backing band saw artists such as the great Bobby Keys, Chuck Leavell, Robert Cray, Etta James, Linda Ronstadt, and of course Richards and Clapton, take to the stage to perform some of Berry’s most notorious hits, with the great man front and centre.
With other notable appearances from people like Bo Diddley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Little Richard, and Bruce Springsteen, it’s safe to say Berry had his admirers. Including, most notably, Richards. The Rolling Stones man was a huge fan and seemingly just happy to be in his presence. “He would do things like throw me offstage, too,” revealed Keef in Berry’s obituary. “I always took that as a reverse compliment, sort of as a sign of respect – because otherwise, he wouldn’t bother with me.”
Richards continued: “Chuck is the granddaddy of us all. Even if you’re a rock guitarist who wouldn’t name him as your main influence, your main influence is probably still influenced by Chuck Berry. He is rock and roll in its pure essence. The way he moved, especially in those early film clips; the exuberant ease when he laid down that rhythm was mystifying and something to behold.”
Yet, some of the best footage from Hackford’s film in 1987 sees Berry berating those very artists, so skilled and ready to help, and sometimes even giving them a lesson in rock and roll. Below you can see Berry giving Richards that very lesson.
One of the other wonderful moments in the film sees Richards and Clapton join Berry on stage to jam out. The once-crowned ‘Guitar God’, Eric Clapton is, of course, a devout follower of Berry and clearly holds a vast amount of admiration for the pathfinding guitarist—but nothing can compare for Keith Richards’ adoration.
The Rolling Stones guitarist has always been indebted to the powerful, soul-refreshing riffs of Berry can be felt throughout Richards’ work and it must’ve been his dream come true to take to the stage with both Clapton and Berry.
As a triumvirate of guitarists there aren’t many better, and as for rock and roll songs. ‘Johnny B. Goode’ is the beginning of it all. Watch Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and Chuck Berry combine to jam out ‘Johnny B. Goode’ below.