Tag Archives: Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain

Song: “Johnny B. Goode”

I think we should all be thankful that Chuck Berry's cousin Marvin Berry heard Marty McFly play this song at that high school dance, or else we'd have missed an important part of American musical history. Uploaded by last.fm.

Not every song is great because it has memorable lyrics. Or a memorable performance. Some achieve greatness by striking the culture in the sweet spot at the perfect moment in history. That’s what happened when Chuck Berry, former auto assembly worker and ex-con, released “Johnny B. Goode” in 1958.

Uploaded to Photobucket by drjohncarpenter.

This wasn’t Berry’s first million-seller. That was “Maybelline” in 1955. Nor was it his biggest hit, an honor held by “Sweet Little Sixteen.” (“My Ding-a-Ling” went to number one in 1972, but as a novelty song.) But from its opening guitar licks through the end, it represented the energy of this new force called rock and roll. It is, after all, mostly autobiographical. Berry was born on Goode Ave. in St. Louis, and the “B.” probably stands for Berry. In fact, the original lyric said “Oh my, that little colored boy can play” but Berry changed it to “country boy” so the song would be played on the radio.

The longevity of “Johnny B. Goode” is evident by the number of artists who’ve covered it, ranging from country (Buck Owens) to metal (Twisted Sister) to the sublime (Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain). The song was listed by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the 500 songs that shaped rock and roll, and is in the Grammy Hall of Fame. And Rolling Stone put it at number one in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time.

Song: “Orange Blossom Special”

Charlie Daniels follows in the footsteps of every great bluegrass fiddler, each of whom has to prove his worthiness by playing Orange Blossom Special. Uploaded by celebucrap.typepad.com.

Those who follow this blog regularly know that I try to make the selections based not just on my own personal opinions, but to honor those things that are special about America. And so it is that one of the signature tunes of bluegrass music gets its due: “Orange Blossom Special.”

Though even a cursory look at YouTube shows performances of the song on guitar (Chet Atkins), harmonica (Johnny Cash), even ukulele (The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain), bluegrass fans know that “Orange Blossom Special” is the quintessential fiddler’s song.

Ervin T. Rouse. Uploaded by 2bp.blogspot.com.

It was written by a fiddling prodigy, Ervin T. Rouse, in 1938. A friend and fellow fiddler, “Chubby” Wise, claimed co-authorship for 50 years, but Rouse was too meek and too troubled to dispute the claim. What’s beyond question, however, is that Bill Monroe recorded it in 1941 and made it a hit.

The Orange Blossom Special was a train, of course, and the first thing a fiddler has to do is replicate the sound of the train’s whistle. After that, it’s stand back and get ready, because each musician does his best to burn up the strings with his own sizzling rendition. Who better to feature than one of the leading fiddlers of our time, Charlie Daniels…