Flashback: John Lennon and Chuck Berry Jam on ‘Johnny B. Goode’
In February of 1972, John Lennon and Yoko Ono took over The Mike Douglas Show for a week. The talk show was never particularly socially conscious, but with Lennon at the helm guests included Ralph Nader, Jerry Rubin and Surgeon General Dr. Jesse Steinfeld. The musical highlight was an appearance by Chuck Berry, who played “Johnny B. Goode” and “Memphis, Tennessee” with Lennon and Ono. “He was writing good lyrics and intelligent lyrics in the 1950s when people were singing ‘Oh baby I love you so,’” Lennon said during an interview on the show. “It was people like him that influenced our generation to try and make sense out of the songs rather than just sing ‘do wah diddy.’”
The interview came at a good time for Chuck Berry. Nostalgia for the Fifties was becoming big business on the road, and that summer he’d release “My Ding-a-Ling.” It’s an incredibly stupid novelty song; ironically, it became the single biggest hit of Berry’s long career.
In a 1971 interview with Rolling Stone, Lennon spoke very highly of Chuck Berry. “He is one of the all-time great poets, a rock poet you could call him,” he said. “He was well advanced of his time lyric-wise. We all owe a lot to him, including Dylan. I’ve loved everything he’s done, ever. He was in a different class from the other performers.”