KSDK’s Art Holliday directs a new documentary

By Stephanie Kratschmer
In Culture, Feature

In a uniquely St. Louis story, Art Holliday demystifies the controversy surrounding Hall of Fame pianist Johnnie Johnson.

 

Names like Chuck Berry, Eric Clapton and Keith Richards are instantly recognized as the names of musical legends, but the name Johnnie Johnson remains insignificant to most. Johnnie Johnson—the name of the man who influenced rock ‘n’ roll legends like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, who co-wrote hit songs like “Maybellene,” “Rock and Roll Music” and “No Particular Place to Go” and whose music inspired superstars to successfully petition his induction into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame—isn’t widely recognized.

How did this happen? The documentary film, “Johnnie Be Good-The Movie,” still in production, will examine how this talented pianist escaped the public eye by studying the musical relationship between two rock ‘n’ roll architects: Chuck Berry and the lesser-known Johnnie Johnson.

Directed by Art Holliday, KSDK news anchor and director of “Before they Fall off the Cliff: The Ripple Effect of Schizophrenia,” the documentary chronicles the life and accomplishments of the humble man believed to be a seminal figure in the birth of rock ‘n’ roll. Often seen as more of a side-man to Chuck Berry, Johnson actually discovered the unknown guitarist and made him a member of Sir John’s Trio. He then later collaborated with Berry, co-writing some of the most famous songs in rock ‘n’ roll history.

Berry’s name, however, only appeared on the writing credits, and while Johnson eventually took the case to court, his delay in taking action resulted in the case’s dismissal. Johnson’s contributions have been debated ever since. In attempt to settle the controversy, Holliday has traveled the country to speak with rock ‘n’ roll legends such as Eric Clapton, Chuck Leavell of the Rolling Stones, Bob Weir, Buddy Guy and many more industry greats who are eager to share their viewpoints on Johnson.

Thus far, Holliday has funded the film out-of-pocket, with grants and numerous fundraisers. With an expected release date two years from now, St. Louisans can still contribute to the making of the film. “Johnnie’s Jam: A Tribute to Johnnie Johnson” will take place on September 19 at the Sheldon. The night will feature artists from the Conan O’Brien Band including Jimmy Vivino, Mike Merritt and James Wormworth. Johnson died in 2005, but with “Johnnie Be Good-The Movie,”  the true legacy left behind by this musical prodigy will rock on.

Tickets can be purchased by calling 314.534.1111 or at metrotix.com.

 

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