“McFly vibes from that 345!” Jason Isbell and Bob Weir perform Johnny B. Goode for Michael J. Fox, as Isbell tips his cap to the famously inaccurate Back to the Future guitar – the Gibson ES-345

Bob Weir and Jason Isbell perform Johnny B. Goode for Michael J. Fox
(Image credit: Bryan Bedder / Stringer / Getty Images)

Jason Isbell was one of an array of stars in attendance at the Michael J. Fox Foundation’s recent New York fundraiser on Saturday (November 11) and got the chance to fulfill several childhood dreams at once, performing Johnny B. Goode onstage with one of his musical heroes – Bob Weir.

Isbell appeared in front of an audience of numerous actors and musicians, including the charity’s founder Michael J. Fox, wielding a Gibson ES-345 – an accurate nod to the historically inaccurate guitar used in Back To The Future’s iconic Johnny B. Goode scene.

Interest has grown in the instrument among collectors and guitar geeks since the film’s debut in 1985, as the ES-345 was famously not released until three years after the film’s 1955 setting.

As a respected guitar collector and child of the ’80s, when it comes to Back to the Future, Isbell is clearly across the details. As guitar influencer Mike Adams, (aka Puisheen) later commented, “McFly vibes from that 345 Jason!”

Sadly, there’s no full video of the performance out there yet (so we don’t know if Isbell attempted the movie version’s closing shred sequence), but Traci Thorn has posted a short clip on Instagram.

We do know Isbell was accompanied by Grateful Dead/ Dead and Co. guitarist Bob Weir, though, and following his performance, Isbell paid tribute to the influence of the ’Dead on his youthful misadventures. 

“This one’s for the teacher who sent me home from school in the 8th grade because my shirt had Jerry [Garcia]’s handprint on it,” wrote Isbell on Instagram. 

“And since he was missing his middle finger, she thought I was somehow flipping everybody off.”

As such, it seems the night was something of a double whammy for Isbell, who can now check both performing Johnny B. Goode on a Gibson ES-345 in front of Michael J. Fox and jamming with Bob Weir off his bucket list. 

More important than all of our guitar geekery, though is that the annual event had much to celebrate this year.

Back in April, the non-profit announced it had made a major breakthrough in identifying a key biomarker for the debilitating disease, making it easier to identify the so-called “Parkinson’s protein”.

The result? “The promise of a future where every person living with Parkinson’s can expect improved care and treatments – and newly diagnosed individuals may never advance to full-blown symptoms.”

Fox wrote after the fundraiser, “What a night rockin in the breakthrough. Special thanks to our talented and generous friends. We love you.”

Back in guitar land, it was recently reported by a consultant on the film – Norm’s Rare Guitars founder Norm Harris – that Back to the Future’s Johnny B. Goode scene almost featured a Fender Strat, instead of the ES-345.

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Matt Parker

Matt is a staff writer for GuitarWorld.com. Before that he spent 10 years as a freelance music journalist, interviewing artists for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar, NME.com, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched CreativeMoney.co.uk, which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.