Johnny Be Goode video from banjo man Todd Taylor

Ever since he was a young teen, Todd Taylor has been making waves with his banjo, appearing on many different television outlets and on the Grand Ole Opry. The five string first captured his attention when he was only six years old, and soon he family relented to his pleading and got him one of his very own. Before long he was turning heads everywhere he played, and creating a sensation on TV and in live appearances.

All the signs pointed to stardom for this talented, telegenic performer, until Todd became increasingly ill and it was discovered that he had a mitochondrial muscle disease similar to muscular dystrophy. Several doctors suggested that he would become severely handicapped, or even lose his life, but with therapy and determination, Todd has prevailed over his ailment and continues to play his banjo. Understandably, he is a frequent contributor to events hosted by the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and performed several times on the Jerry Lewis Telethon while it was being aired.

Taylor found a unique niche for his musical expression by focusing on bringing the banjo into rock music. Of course he loves bluegrass and grew up playing it, but rock ‘n’ roll banjo brought him attention in an entirely separate market. During the 1980s his arrangement of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free Bird got noticed by pop and rock radio. He played it using a 3 finger roll technique, and ample use of harmonics, which impressed banjo lovers and rock fans at the same time.

His illness makes it difficult for Todd to tour these days, but he continues to record and reach new heights in the entertainment world. Back in 2007 he set the Guinness World Record for Fastest Banjo by playing Dueling Banjos at 210 beats per minute. He has also played shows with the Oak Ridge Boys, including the Opry.

But we haven’t seen many new releases until this week and Todd Taylor’s rock ‘n’ roll banjo version of the Chuck Berry classic, Johnny Be Goode. Anyone who came of age in the 1950s or ’60s knows just how ubiquitous this song was at the time, when it was first released in 1958, and ever since as one of the most covered rock ‘n’ roll songs ever.

In Todd’s new video for his cut, he not only plays the fire out of the five in his rockin’ style, he sings it with some slightly altered lyrics as well.

Check it out.

Johnny Be Goode from Todd Taylor is available now from popular download and streaming services online.

Rock and roll!!

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.