Written by Berry in 1955, the song is about an illiterate "country boy" from the New Orleans area, who plays a guitar "just like ringing a bell", and who might one day have his "name in lights". Berry acknowledged that the song is partly autobiographical and that the original lyrics referred to Johnny as a "colored boy", but he changed it to "country boy" to ensure radio play. As well as suggesting that the guitar player is good, the title hints at autobiographic elements, because Berry was born at 2520 Goode Avenue, in St. Louis. The song was initially inspired by Johnnie Johnson, the regular piano player in Berry's band, but developed into a song mainly about Berry himself. Johnson played on many other recordings by Berry, but Lafayette Leake played the piano on this song.