Buddy Holly and The Crickets were reportedly offered guest spots in this picture, but their producer/manager Norman Petty turned the offer down, over the objections of the group, because they would not be paid. See more »
This is one of several Hollywood movies made in the 1950's attempting to be cool by featuring the new "fad"(to them) called rock 'n' roll. The only time Hollywood ever featured real rock 'n' roll from the early days of the new teen music was when rock artists with hit records were allowed to perform on the big screen. The Hollywood concocted rock 'n' roll was unbearable then and even more so today. The best of the rock 'n' roll films by far was "The Girl Can't Help It," which was clever and humorous, plus featuring many of the big rock artists of the day including an outstanding scene showing Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps. Of all the others this one "Go, Johnny, Go" succeeds the best and as has been noted by others is the only place you can see the multi-talented seventeen year old superstar Richie Valens strutting his stuff on the big screen just before his tragic death.
Since there was no such animal as a music video, most teens heard their favorite rock stars on vinyl or on the radio. From time to time rock phenomena would appear on television on such shows as Ed Sullivan and Steve Allen. Dick Clark's "American Bandstand" seldom let the rock performers do their own thing. Most of the time the artists were asked to lip-synch their recordings. A major exception to this rule was Jerry Lee Lewis who insisted that he be allowed to do his hits live with his band. Therefore, it was truly a treat to get to see rockers on the big screen.
This movie has one of the best lists of great rock performers of the decade. There were many so-called asphalt Elvises around by 1959, especially the notorious Fabian, but lumping Jimmy Clanton with them is a mistake. Like Ricky Nelson, Clanton had a feel for the music he made. His looks left much to be desired but his songs were not half bad, particularly his one big hit "Just a Dream," one of my favorite teen ballads from the period.
Fans of early rock 'n' roll will get a kick out of watching the antics of such wonderful do wop groups as the Flamingos and the The Cadillacs. What an entertaining stage show these groups must have delivered. The only other do wop group to surpass these two were the outrageous Coasters. The legendary Jackie Wilson, who even impressed the King himself, Elvis, when he saw him in Las Vagas, shows why he was one of the seminal entertainers of the decade. Chuck Berry not only performs some of his best songs--possibly Johnny B. Goode is his best--but does a decent job acting as well. Too bad he was set up by the government and had to spend time in prison not long after this movie was produced. Then the viewer gets to see the talented Eddie Cochran, one of the best songwriters/musicians of the era. Harvey Fuqua helped make the Moonglows a hit but the rest of the do wop group added that little extra oomp needed to have it all jell. Still Harvey is fine as a solo act.
Allen Freed, who not long after this picture was produced was crucified by the press and made the fall guy for the payola scandal, adds a touch of authenticity to the movie, though he leaves a little to be desired in the acting department. Many in the US government--somewhat of a holdover from the McCarthy period-viewed rock 'n' roll as subversive, never mind that the Communists felt the same way but for a different ideological reason. By promoting the asphalt Elvises such as Fabian, Frankie Avalon, and Paul Anka the politicians hoped to stifle the real rock stars. The government put Chuck Berry in jail, drafted Elvis, wrecked Allen Freed's career prodding him to succumb to alcoholism, and encouraged Little Richard to pursue a calling to be a preacher. Indirectly the government aided the free press in publicizing Jerry Lee Lewis' third marriage to his thirteen year old cousin. All this and more...but the beat goes on.
The story told in "Go, Johnny, Go" is a juvenile one about Freed, a rock promoter, making Jimmy Clanton a star through a talent search. This time it's innocuous enough and doesn't get in the way of some of the best music this side of heaven. Rock on, cool cats, rock on!
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