Jason Isbell plays Johnny B. Goode at Michael J. Fox Foundation gig – and makes sure to choose the right guitar for the job

It wouldn’t be a performance of Johnny B. Goode without that classic ES-345, would it?

Jason Isbell performing

Credit: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for The Michael J. Fox Foundation

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Jason Isbell took to the stage last Saturday (11 November) to perform at a gala in support of The Michael J. Fox Foundation. The event, held in New York City, celebrated an enormous year of progress for Parkinson’s disease science.

Isbell performed alongside Bob Weir of Grateful Dead for the evening’s finale, where they played Chuck Berry classic, Johnny B. Goode, in honour of Fox’s performance of the track in Back To The Future.

Isbell made sure he was using the ‘right’ guitar for the performance – a Gibson ES-345 – the same guitar Fox’s character, Marty McFly, used in the classic film.

The guitar used in the iconic scene was of course historically inaccurate, and has been the point of much discussion across the guitar community for years. McFly’s ES-345 used for the scene wasn’t actually launched until 1958, and the scene is supposed to be set in 1955. But in honour of Fox, Isbell was sure to use the same despite the timeline error in the film.

Behind the scenes of Back To The Future, the iconic track was actually performed by Tim May – a session and jazz guitarist – and he actually played the track using a Valley Arts S-style guitar, fitted with a Floyd Rose.

In an interview with Vertex Effects, May said he chose to use the guitar as he felt it was the best choice to use to be able to perform a tapping technique used towards the end. “I needed the Floyd for that, the Floyd Rose. It worked out good. It covered all the bases for me,” he said.

The Michael J. Fox Foundation has funded $2 billion in high-impact research programmes since its start in 2000. The gala has helped raise more than $116 million of that sum, with $4 million of that total coming just from the 2023 event alone.

Find out more about The Michael J. Fox Foundation.

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