“Go, Johnny Go!”
The Next Big Rock ‘n Roll Star”
Rock & Roll changed 1950s America at 45 revolutions per minute, and we see just how in “Go, Johnny Go!” The film is based on DJ great Alan Freed’s search for the next big star and as the search continues, we get to hear some great music from Chuck Berry, Ritchie Valens, Jimmy Clanton, Jackie Wilson, Eddie Cochran, Harvey Fuqua, Jo-Ann Campbell, The Cadillacs, The Flamingos and Jimmy Cavallo.
Released in 1959, the film is a musical time capsule. While the acting and plot are mediocre, the film is filled with great musical performances by some of rock n’ rolls biggest hitmakers at the time.
We meet a young singer (Jimmy Clanton) who goes by the stage name of Johnny Melody. After a few opening performances, Chuck Berry and Alan Freed (playing themselves) talk about discovering Johnny.
Freed shares that Johnny was once a choirboy from an orphanage but managed to run away.Johnny bumps into his old friend from the orphanage, Julie Arnold (Sandy Stewart) who wants him to call her to re-connect, but he tells her he has no money for dates and is saving to record a demo record. Freed then tells Johnny that the talent search was only a publicity stunt by his agent.
At a recording studio, Julie records a demo of “Playmates”. On her way out, she meets Johnny again, and sings back up on his recording of “My Love Is Strong”. The record is one of many sent to Freed and Chuck Berry, hearing something special in it, urges that it be given strong consideration. But Johnny has failed to include contact information, and his subsequent call to Freed’s office fails to get through.
Freed has begun playing Johnny’s record on his radio show to overwhelming response, and has started a public search for Johnny. Ultimately we get to a happy ending and while this is, by no means a great film, it is fun to watch and remember when rock ‘n roll ruled.