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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

"Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On"

Jerry Lee Lewis - Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On (1957)

Rock & Roll's first great wild man - The Killer

Written at least two years before Jerry Lee Lewis recorded it; the song was not a success for Big Maybelle (even with Qunicy Jones producing) or for the white rockabilly artist Roy Hall who claimed partial songwriting credit under the name Sunny David. Black songwriter Dave "Curlee" Williams is credited on Lewis' recording and in the Decca archives. Whoever wrote it, it wasn't really a hit until Jerry Lee Lewis performed it on TV.

The song is often referred to as "Whole Lotta Shakin' Going' On" or some variant. But the label on the 1957 Sun Records recording clearly says "Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On". Watching this clip of he and his band performing on The Steve Allen Show you can see the raw charisma and crazy pouring out of him. This young man from Louisiana was everything that was scary about Rock and Roll and that's why the kids loved him. He first moved to Memphis to audition for the Sun label, and began backing up other Sun artists like Billy Lee Riley and Carl Perkins. His own record starting selling after the TV performance and suddenly every rockabilly song had to have a piano, and everybody was trying to outdo the wild performance of Lewis. Elvis Presley is said to have quipped "...if I could play piano like that I wouldn't have to dance".

The song rises slowly. Just his piano, then we get a drum under it. Lewis' voice is under control. By the second verse he begins to whoop, and we get a little guitar going on under the piano and voice. After the chorus we suddenly hear what all the fuss is about. The drummer almost overplays his intro, cutting into the piano solo that Lewis bangs out. He calls out to the guitar player who finish out the instrumental break. When he gets to the point of the song where he's just vamping and talking into the microphone, telling a girl how to shake it for him you can tell right then and there he is going to be trouble.

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