CNN.com - Chuck Berry pianist Johnnie Johnson dead - Apr 13, 2005
: "Chuck Berry pianist Johnnie Johnson dead"
Johnson died at his St. Louis home. The cause of death was not immediately known, said publicist Margo Lewis. He had been hospitalized a month ago with pneumonia and was on dialysis for a kidney ailment, said John May, a friend and fellow musician.
Though he was never a household name, Johnson and Berry's long collaboration helped define early rock 'n' roll. Johnson often composed the music on piano, then Berry converted it to guitar and wrote the lyrics. In fact, Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" was a tribute to Johnson.
After he and Berry parted ways, Johnson performed with Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, John Lee Hooker and Bo Diddley, among others. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001 in the "sidemen" category.
While serving in the Marine Corps in the Pacific, he played in a group composed of musicians from the Count Basie and Lionel Hampton bands. He said that meeting many of his idols focused him on a career in music.
Born in Fairmont, W.Va., in 1924, Johnson began playing piano as a child; he was influenced by such jazzmen as Art Tatum, Earl "Fatha" Hines and Count Basie. He served in the Marines during World War II and was a member of the Special Services Band. After the war, he played the Chicago clubs in the blues bands of Muddy Waters and Albert King.
He is survived by his wife, Frances, and 10 children.