On August 3, 1961, Chuck Berry was in the studio to make a recording that’s notable for two very different reasons. He was there with his band, including regular piano sideman Johnnie Johnson, taping his song “Come On.”
The song wasn’t a chart entry for Chuck, but would win notoriety when an up-and-coming group called the Rolling Stones chose to cover it as their first single in 1963. They had a modest success with it, even if none of the group much cared for their own version. But Chuck’s original is also notable as the final single he released before he lost his liberty for two years from 1962.
Featuring some particularly nimble guitar work by Berry himself, the short-but-sweet track, a mere 1’47” long, was released as a single by Chess in October 1961. He hadn’t made the US top 40 since the summer of 1959, when “Back In The USA” was a minor success. Chuck’s last top ten hit in his home country was “Johnny B. Goode,” from the spring of 1958.
“Go-Go-Go,” the b-side of “Come On,” did edge into the top 40 in the UK. Then, during Berry’s period of incarceration, “Come On” gave the Stones their first singles chart appearance in their home country, reaching No.21. With the 2017 release of the compilation of the band’s early radio sessions, The Rolling Stones On Air, we also got the opportunity to compare and contrast that debut single version with the one they recorded for the BBC show Saturday Club in 1963.
Chuck was able to rebuild his career and enjoy several more hit singles and albums — helped no end by the fact that, in the interim period, not only the Stones but other admirers such as The Beatles and the Beach Boys kept his songs and his memory alive.
Chuck Berry’s “Come On” is on Chuck Berry Twist, which can be bought here.
Follow uDiscover Music’s Chuck Berry Best Of playlist.