Daily Post Archive

Custom Search



To the working week:

Very cool Home Page artwork from “Boris,” as always. He single-handedly brought back the Polaroid! Great work as always, Daddio! If you’ve got a website and want to have some custom-made artowrk for it, “Boris” is available for freelance assignments. He also does custom logos, CD and book covers, retouching and much more. Just send me an email and I’ll pass it along to “Boris.”

Okay, I’m at work today working the dreaded dayshift, so updates will be posted during my breaks and lunch time. Check back and enjoy your Monday if that is possible.


Sunday Video

I haven’t watched the Tonight Show much since Conan took over (in fact I stopped watching it when Jay Leno took it over) so I don’t know if Triumph the Comic Insult dog has made an appearance in La La land or not. Anyway here he is with his video, “I Keed.” Enjoy and cheers and beers.


Sunday Comic


Sunday Time-Wasters


Sunday Service


Lazy-Ass Sunday

Let’s give a hand for Lazy-Ass Sunday. Even if it’s a little baby soap hand. Okay, I’m going back to laziness now. More shit to come! Have a funday Sunday!


Happy Thanksgiving!


And Now A Word From Our (Fake) Sponsor


One Hell of a Spread—The Day I Met Johnnie Johnson

Johnnie Johnson

Way back in the summer of 1994 I was at a roof top party in Brooklyn and was chatting with Chris Erikson, who was one of my editors of a weekly paper I was freelancing for at the time. We were talking about music and he told me that he thought Chuck Berry was probably one of the best lyricists in rock ‘n’ roll. I had always been a Chuck Berry fan, but never really listened to the lyrics that closely. The next day I put on Chuck Berry’s greatest hits and realized that Chris was right on the money. Check out some of the lyrics to one of my favorite Chuck Berry songs, “Nadine:”

As I got on a city bus and found a vacant seat,
I thought I saw my future bride walkin' up the street,
I shouted to the driver, "Hey conductor, you must slow down.
I think I see her, please let me off the bus."

Nadine, honey, is that you?
Oh, Nadine, honey, is that you?
Seem like every time I see you,
Darlin' you got somethin' else to do.

I saw her from the corner when she turned and doubled back,
And started walkin toward a coffee-colored cadillac.
I was pushin' through the crowd tryin' to get to where she was at,
And I was campaign-shoutin' like a southern diplomat.


His word selection and phrase composing is absolute genius. For example, when he refers to the bus driver as “conductor.” And his description of the cadillac as a “coffee-colored cadillac.” It’s so descriptive within three words. And the line, “I was campaign-shoutin' like a southern diplomat,” is just pure poetry and it plays out like a film in your mind.

Chuck Berry’s lyrics influenced everyone from Bob Dylan, to The Beatles, to the Sex Pistols, to the Kings of Leon and beyond. But his music, well that’s a whole different tale. For while most of the credits to his songs claim that Chuck Berry not only wrote those genius lyrics, but also the inventive and fluid rock ‘n’ roll, jazzy, snazzy music that accompanies them. That, however has been the subject of debate for years.

In the late ‘80s, the documentary/concert film, “Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll” came out, first as feature film and later as a VHS tape. It was a film celebrating Chuck Berry’s 60th birthday and his contribution to rock ‘n’ roll. It was directed by Taylor Hackford and included an all star band featuring, Chuck Leavell, Joey Spaminato, Bobby Keys, Steve Jordan, Robert Cray and Keith Richards as the musical director of the whole shebang.

There were guest appearances from artists ranging from Eric Clapton. to Etta James, to Julian Lennon. to Linda Rondstadt and many more. It also reunited Chuck Berry with Johnnie Johnson, his original piano player who played on most of the early hits. This is the man that many people feel is responsible not only for the signature “badadadadadada” riff that starts out so many of Chuck Berry’s songs, but also for the music for most of those early songs as well.

In the film, many musicians discuss how all of Chuck’s songs aren’t written in chords that most people play on the guitar, they’re written in piano chords. “Johnnie’s chords” as Keith Richards says within the film.

Johnnie Johnson is even asked in the film about Chuck’s music and he says, “We just supplied him with music that fit his lyrics.”

I remember watching that scene in the film and thinking about all the money he threw down the drain. I mean can you imagine the royalties from a song like “Rock and Roll Music?”  There’s royalties from Chuck Berry’s version, but throw in royalties from The Beatles and The Beach Boys covers and that’s a pretty nice little payday. Now multiply that by dozens of Chuck Berry’s songs who have been covered by countless bands and you’re talking a small fortune. And Johnnie Johnson just kind of threw it away without knowing.

When they made that film, Johnnie was driving a bus to supplement his income. Chuck Berry was using part of his fortune to install hidden cameras in the women’s bathrooms of a restaurant he owned to secretly film them as they did their business. The world spins in strange ways sometimes.

In 1990 I was publishing and editing my magazine POP, a quirky local People magazine in my hometown of Peoria, IL. I had been doing it for a year and found out it was easy to get backstage at concerts and events by saying I was the editor. Even if I didn’t get a picture or a story, nine times out of ten there’d be free beer and what’s better than free beer? Maybe free pussy, but free beer will never leave you obsessive messages asking why you’ve never called them back.

Every year in the  summer, Peoria hosts a Blues Festival on the river front and this year was no exception. I saw an ad in the paper and surveyed those who were on the bill and one named jumped out at me: Johnnie Johnson.

I’m not putting down Peoria’s Blues Festival’s, but it’s hardly a high profile gig that most professional musicians would be thrilled to play. But Johnnie Johnson was going to be there. I decided I’d go and see if I could interview him.

It was held on a sunny, warm Saturday and using my POP editor’s status I was allowed into the “backstage area.” It wasn’t really a backstage, because it was outside, more of a roped off picnic area, complete with picnic tables. They had grills going and kegs of beer for the musicians and the lucky ones who got to enter the roped in V.I.P. area. I went and got a beer and looked around and there seated at a faded yellow wooden picnic table eating fried chicken off a red paper plate was Johnnie Johnson.

He had a round, brown moon face with sleepy, half opened eyes. He was wearing a short sleeve black sports shirt that looked like it would rip apart at the seams any minute from the sheer force of his mammoth gut. His pants were also black and his head was adorned a black and white yachting cap with a gold seal on the brim.

 I walked over and said, “Excuse me, you’re Johnnie Johnson, right?”

He didn’t look up from the chicken breast he was eating and just grunted. And not really in my direction. In fact to this day, I don’t know if he was trying to communicate with me or just burping.

“My name’s Marty Wombacher and I’m the editor of a local magazine called POP magazine,” I said to him in energetic tones. This didn’t impress him and it was obvious he was more intrigued by the chicken than by yours truly. I tried again.

“Listen, I’m a big fan and would love to interview you. I won’t take up a lot of your time,” I explained.

He just kept eating his chicken and didn’t really acknowledge my presence. It was really starting to feel uncomfortable.

“You’re just about done with that chicken, can I get you some more?” I asked grabbing at straws to get his attention.

And it worked, he slowly looked up from what was left of his chicken breast and said, “You goin’ for food?”

“Yeah,” I shot back, “can I get you anything?”

“I’ll take some more chicken,” he lethargically said and then threw the bones from the chicken breast on the red paper plate in front of him.

I grabbed the plate and said, “I’ll get you a fresh plate.”

“Thanks, can you get me a beer too?” He added.

“Why not, it’s free,” I threw out.

“It’s one hell of a spread,” he replied in a slow, lazy drawl.

“Yeah, right,” I said as I made my way to the food tables.

As I walked towards the food tables I looked at the musicians and backstage people lounging around on picnic tables and on the grass, eating food that was bussed in from Brown’s Chicken restaurant and being kept warm on grills.

I thought to myself, “This really isn’t one hell of a spread,” and wondered what Chuck Berry was doing that day. He sure as shit wasn’t eating warmed over fried chicken at a well-worn picnic table in downtown Peoria.

I got the beer and the food—fried chicken, corn, mashed potatoes and a biscuit—and returned to the table. Johnnie was sitting at the yellow wooden table just staring out into space.

“Here you go,” I shouted out as I put the plate in front of the piano man.

Johnnie looked down at the plate and said, “You got me two pieces.”

“You looked hungry so I got you an extra piece,” I told him as I slid a beer in his direction.

“This is one hell of a spread,” he once again proclaimed as he started in on a chicken breast.

“Listen, as I said, I’m an editor of a local magazine and I would love to interview you and take your picture,” I told him.

He barely looked up from his chicken and mumbled, “Nah, I don’t do that shit.”

At least he didn’t mince words.

“Alright,” I said in surrendering tones, “okay if I sit here?”

I took the grunt he let out as a yes and I sat down and took a swig of beer from the standard blue, 16 ounce, plastic keg cup I had gotten for myself.

“I watched, ‘Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll’ a while ago,” I told Johnnie who was back to chewing on the chicken breast. I noticed some of his teeth were missing. “What was that like, being part of that film?” I asked.

He put the chicken breast on the plate, looked up at me with his half-opened eyes and slowly and deliberately said, “Oh man, did they have one hell of a spread there! Chicken, fish, roast beef, mashed potatoes, gravy, chocolate cake...every single day! I’ve never seen spreads like the one’s that catering service put out for us.”

“Yeah, it sounds great,” I replied, slightly amused with his obsession with ‘spreads,’ “but what was it like working with Chuck Berry again? And Keith Richards? He seemed like a big fan of yours in the film,” I added.

Johnnie picked up the chicken breast again and said, “Shit, those two. One minute you’d think they were going to kill each other and the next you’d think they were going to start fucking like two horny kids. Crazy fuckers.”

And then he went back to work on his chicken breast.

“You know, it came out in the movie that it was you that wrote the music for a lot of his songs and that it was you that came up with that signature Chuck Berry riff. Keith Richards said you drift naturally into that riff on the piano. I remember he said, ‘Without Johnnie, all you got is a bunch of words on paper, no song.’ Is that true?” I asked him.

He slowly looked at me and said, “I don’t think about that stuff.”

“Yeah, but you should get royalties, that’s a shitload of money,” I spat out.

He put the chicken breast on the plate and said, “Oh man, I don’t like to think about that.” And then he slowly got up and walked away.

I watched the big piano player get smaller as he walked away from me and felt depressed. I went to  a bar in downtown Peoria and started drinking beer. After a few beers I ordered a cheeseburger and onion rings. When the bartender placed them in front of me, I said, “This is one hell of a spread,” and burst out laughing. She looked at me like I was nuts.

Eventually Johnnie must’ve thought about it, or maybe a lawyer did and in November of 2000 he sued Chuck Berry. The lawsuit said he deserved co-writer status and royalties for dozen’s of songs that Chuck Berry claimed to have written alone. Some soulless judge dismissed it saying that too many years had passed since the songs were written. Hell, hell, rock ‘n’ roll.

In 2001, he was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, with Keith Richards leading the campaign to get him in there.

In April of 2005, Johnnie Johnson died in his hometown of St. Louis. I truly hope that after the funeral someone put on one hell of a spread for the man who brought so many rock ‘n’ roll songs to life with his fingers and his piano. Johnnie be good and rest in peace.


Blast From The Past

Magazine: GQ, November, 1971
Cover Headline: “Carson Without Commercials”
They had Tivo back then? Who knew? Oh...nice font by the way (sarcasm fully intended.)

Page 1 ... 3 4 5 6 7 ... 86 Next 10 Entries »