Chuck Berry wrote a cache of songs that have become standards in contemporary music. Indeed, with the possible exception of The Beatles, probably no other rock artist has had as many of his songs covered by his peers. Below, from a very long list of candidates, we’ve chosen ten of the best of those cover versions.
“No Money Down” — Duane Allman (1969)
Allman’s stinging lead guitar highlights this terrific version of one of the Berry’s bluesiest songs. Duane delivers a rare but surprisingly strong vocal as well. Allman recorded the track just before the Allman Brothers Band was formed. The song appears on An Anthology Volume II, released in 1974.
“Rock and Roll Music” — The Beatles (1964)
John Lennon once famously said, “If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it 'Chuck Berry'.” This nod to Berry, featured on the 1964 album Beatles For Sale, lives up to its name by rocking with a vengeance. Nearly as good is the Fab Four’s version of Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven,” one of the first Beatles recordings to feature George Harrison on lead vocals.
“Roll Over Beethoven” — Mountain (1971)
Leave it to Leslie West to summon up the heaviest version of “Roll Over Beethoven” ever captured on tape. This seminal interpretation was featured on the “live” portion of Mountain’s 1971 album, Flowers of Evil, for which Side Two consisted of performances culled from a show delivered at New York City’s Fillmore East. West’s famous 1969 Flying V was in full flight.
“Around and Around” — David Bowie (1971)
This tarted-up version of Berry’s “Around and Around” was originally intended for Bowie’s classic 1971 album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Instead, it surfaced in 1973 — redubbed “Round and Round” -- as the B-side to the single, “Drive-In Saturday.” As usual, Mick Ronson’s tasty riffs, played on his ever-present Les Paul, carry the day.
“Johnny B. Goode” — Jimi Hendrix (1970)
Hendrix’s revved-up live performance of “Johnny B. Goode” was as close as the guitar great ever came to coming off as a punk rocker. His version was captured most famously during a performance at the Berkeley Community Theatre in Berkeley, California, in 1970. The recording actually became a posthumous hit in England in 1972, peaking at #35 on the UK Singles chart.
“Beautiful Delilah” — The Kinks (1965)
The Kinks’ gritty take on this Berry classic was the very first song on their very first album. Guitarist Dave Davies handles the lead vocal, and he gives the song a raspy, rough-honed edge that contrasts sharply with the more polished style of his brother Ray.
“Maybellene” — Foghat (1972)
British blues rockers Foghat recorded a rousing version of “Maybellene” for their debut album, three years before they scored a massive hit with “Slow Ride.” The other notable cover on the album was a tasty version of Willie Dixon's "I Just Want to Make Love to You." Guitarist Rod Price, one of rock’s great unsung slide players, contributed blazing work on a Gibson SG.
“School Days” — AC/DC (1975)
Leave it to a riff master like Angus Young to give this Berry classic one of its best treatments. Young and his brother Malcolm — as well as singer Bon Scott — sound like their having the time of their lives on this scorching version, recorded for T.N.T, the band’s second Australian album. The band was also fond of covering Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” back in their Bon Scott-led early years.
“You Can Never Tell” — Emmylou Harris (1977)
Emmylou Harris’s Nashville-style cover of this Berry tune — subtitled “C'est La Vie” -- reached Number Six on the Billboard country singles charts in 1977. Berry composed the song while serving time in prison on charges that were controversial and unwarranted in the opinions of many. The tune enjoyed a surge in popularity in 1994 after it was used in a famous scene in the Quentin Tarantino film, Pulp Fiction.
“Carol” — The Rolling Stones (1964)
It’s especially fitting that one of the all-time great Berry covers was featured on the Rolling Stones’ 1964 debut album. After all, Berry has no greater devotee than Keith Richards. The song also famously appeared on the 1970 concert set, Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! In the 1987 film documentary, Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll, there’s a hilarious scene in which Berry shows Richards how to properly play the song’s guitar slurs.