Despite the name of the film coming from the hit song "Johnny B. Goode" by Chuck Berry and Berry appearing in the film As Himself, the film is actually centered on a young singer who goes by the stage name of Johnny Melody (Jimmy Clanton). Berry and disc jockey Alan Freed (also playing himself) discuss Freed's discovery of Johnny, telling his story: Johnny was once a choir boy from an orphanage with a love for rock 'n' roll that at first few others share. As years pass, he re-connects with an old friend from the orphanage, Julie Arnold (Sandy Stewart), just as Freed announces a talent search for the next big singer.
This film features examples of:
- The 50s: The movie is a window to the early days of rock 'n' roll in the '50s, in the vein of Rock Around the Clock and Shake, Rattle & Rock!.
- As Himself: Besides Berry and Freed, several rock 'n' roll musicians and acts appear, such as Jackie Wilson, Eddie Cochran, Ritchie Valens, Jo Ann Campbell, Harvey Fuqua, and the Cadillacs, among others. This film was in fact the last film appearance of both Cochran and Valens (and in Valens's case, actually the only one).
- Excited Show Title!: 'Go, Johnny, Go!', indeed.
- How We Got Here: The film begins with Johnny already being an established singer, before Alan Freed tells the audience the story of how he became a singer.
- Jukebox Musical: This musical film features acts performing their pre-existing popular songs.
- Literal Metaphor: When Freed is telling Chuck Berry about the discovery of Johnny, he says that Johnny's fate once hinged on the toss of a coin. It is later shown that when Johnny's record received an overwhelming response which started a public search for him, Julie and Freed at one point did actually flip a coin to decide in which direction to look.
- Only One Name: As an orphan, Johnny was only known as "Johnny" because he had no last name. Julie in fact calls him "Johnny With No Last Name" when they meet again.
- Taking the Heat: When Julie and Freed go looking for Johnny, they find him just as he throws a brick into a jewelry store to get a pin for Julie for Christmas that he couldn't buy, so Freed sends Johnny away with Julie and diverts the police by pretending to be a drunk who tossed the brick.