Sunday, June 17, 2007

50 years ago: Jerry Lee Lewis charted with “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On”

Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On

Jerry Lee Lewis

Writer(s): Dave Williams, Roy Hall (see lyrics here)

Released: April 15, 1957

First Charted: June 17, 1957

Peak: 3 US, 5 CB, 5 HR, 12 CW, 12 RB, 8 UK, 4 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 6.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 23.3 video, 49.25 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

This is “the song that proved rock ‘n’ roll wasn’t all a bunch of noisy guitars. It could be noisy pianos as well.” DT Jerry Lee Lewis was “the last great artist to be discovered by Sun Records.” AH Label chief Sam Phillips said the Louisiana native “was the most naturally talented musician he ever worked with.” AH He had a “go-for-broke, maniacal approach;” TC he was “more like a force of nature than a piano player.” TC He had “that Baptist Holy Roller in him but he also had the Devil there as well.” TC When he came to Sun to audition in November 1956, SS producer “Cowboy” Jack Clement saw him as “a wild country & western singer.” TC

At Lewis’ first session, Clement had him record “Crazy Arms,” a country hit for Ray Price and pop hit for the Andrews Sisters. It became a regional hit. For the follow up, Clement eyed one of his own songs, “It’ll Be Me,” until Lewis suggested “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” a song he’d been playing for awhile. Clement wisely opted to capture the manic energy of Lewis’ stage presence. As Clement said, “I just simply turned on the machine, mixed it on the fly.” RS500

The song that had been recorded four times but had yet to meet with success. RS500 In March 1955, blues singer Big Maybelle recorded an arrangement produced by Quincy Jones. SS Black singer Dave “Curlee” Williams and white pianist Roy Hall each claimed to write the song and Hall recorded a version a few months after Big Maybelle. AH Lewis, however, was most inspired by a version by bass player Johnny Littlejohn. The song was played faster than earlier versions and included a spoken section instructing the audience how to wiggle. AH

The song became associated with Lewis in April 1956 when he was booked for a gig at the Rebel Room in Osceola, Arkansas. When the band ran out of material, Lewis turned to “Whole Lotta Shakin’.” RS500 Obviously Lewis – and the crowd – was taken with the song. He performed it 21 times in a row! SJ

Author Jimmy Guterman called ith the #1 rock and roll record ever SS and author Paul Williams said it is “as perfect a rock and roll record as one could hope to find.” PW The lyrics left some listeners aghast; the words “were rather lascivious and quite shocking coming from a singer from the Bible Belt” SF making the case “that prudes really did have something to fear from rock and roll.” DM Song-licensing organization BMI thought so, initially banning the song. PW On the piano, Lewis’ blend of “honky-tonk and blues shuffle” DM in “a relentless, pounding boogie rhythm” AMG left listeners’ mouths agape and their toes a-tapping. “Like Lewis himself, [they] had a hard time remaining seated during the performance.” NRR

Meanwhile, “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” became a hit after Lewis’ TV debut on July 28, 1957 on The Steve Allen Show. SF Lewis introduced some of his trademarks to the world – sitting at the piano and looking sideways at the camera and kicking his piano stool. Neither he nor Allen ever heard louder applause. SS


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Last updated 8/23/2023.

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