Few bands are as quintessentially representative of heavy rock as AC/DC. The Australian group has rolled through a series of lineup changes over the years, some by choice and some forced. The only constant has been the band’s tenacious rock ‘n’ roll spirit and the founding brothers Malcolm and Angus Young, who formed the stable core.
While the brothers eventually took cues from heavier rock acts like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, their initial inspiration lay in the realm of classic 1950s rock and roll.
In an interview with Rolling Stone in 2001, Angus Stone was asked what music gets his “toes tapping”.
“I plug into a lot of old rock and roll,” he replied. “Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. I love all that stuff. In fact, if I get a chance and I’m on my way to a gig, I’ll put one of their tapes on. Because they’re good vibe meters, and I still get off on them.”
When early AC/DC vocalist Bon Scott tragically died from acute alcohol poisoning in 1980, the band decided to continue with English singer Brian Johnson as a replacement. The decision was easy because Scott had previously praised Johnson as having a voice like his hero Little Richard.
“I remember the first time I had ever heard Brian’s name was from Bon,” guitarist Angus recalled in an interview with BraveWords. “Bon had mentioned that he had been in England once touring with a band, and he had mentioned that Brian had been in a band called Geordie and Bon had said ‘Brian Johnson, he was a great rock and roll singer in the style of Little Richard.’ And that was Bon’s big idol, Little Richard”.
“I think when he saw Brian at that time, to Bon, it was, ‘Well, he’s a guy that knows what rock and roll is all about.’ He mentioned that to us in Australia. I suppose when we decided to continue, Brian was the first name that Malcolm and myself came up with, so we said we should see if we can find him.”
While Angus Young had a soft spot for Scott’s ’50s icon, when asked to name his ultimate “rock god” on the BBC’s The Rock Show With Johnnie Walker in 2021, he chose R&B king Chuck Berry. Perhaps this selection should have been obvious since he’s recognised onstage, besides his schoolboy attire, by his imitation of Chuck Berry’s famous “duckwalk”.
Watch Angus Young display his vivacious “duckwalk” during AC/DC’s 1981 performance of ‘Back In Black’ in Maryland below.