A federal judge in St. Louis has thrown out a royalties lawsuit against Chuck Berry by former collaborator Johnnie Johnson, ruling that too many years had passed since the more than 30 songs in dispute were written. Johnson, a piano player, sued Berry in November 2000 in U.S. District Court over royalties generated by songs written from 1955-66. They include some of rock’n’roll’s most famous songs, including “No Particular Place To Go,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” and “Sweet Little Sixteen.”
The lawsuit argued that Johnson and Berry were co-writers on many of the songs Berry made famous, but because Berry copyrighted them in his name alone, Johnson got none of the royalties.
After the lawsuit’s dismissal Monday, Berry attorney Martin Green said his 76-year-old client, now living in the St. Louis suburb of Ladue, has no hard feelings for Johnson, 77.
“He likes him very much, considers him a friend and expects to play with him in the future,” Green said. “He doesn’t blame Johnnie for the lawsuit. He blames some of Johnnie’s advisers,” specifically the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards and bluesman Bo Diddley for recommending that Johnson pursue the case, Green said.
Johnson attorney Mitch Margo said his client had not yet decided whether to appeal.
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