Berry released the song in January 1958, and it reached number two on the US singles chart. It also topped the R&B Best Sellers chart. In the UK it peaked at number 11, and quickly became a staple of many aspiring rock ‘n’ roll musicians’ repertoires.
The Quarrymen, and later The Beatles, often performed ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’ live between 1957 and 1962. A live version recorded in December 1962 was included on the unofficial 1977 release Live! at the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany; 1962.
The Beatles recorded it for the sixth episode of the BBC radio show Pop Go The Beatles on 10 July 1963. First broadcast on 23 July that year, it was eventually released on 1994 collection Live At The BBC. They also recorded a version for the fifth episode on 2 July 1963, but it was never used.
John Lennon’s solo version was produced by Phil Spector, and was recorded between 17 October and 14 December 1973. Spector cut the tempo of the song and gave it the full Wall of Sound treatment, and Lennon turned in one of his most passionate vocal performances.