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Shake, Rattle, and Roll

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Title: Shake, Rattle, and Roll  
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Subject: Blues, 1955 in music, List of songs recorded by the Beatles, Sunrise (Elvis Presley album), Dancing with the Stars (U.S. season 5)
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Shake, Rattle, and Roll

This article is about the song. For other uses (or variations of) this title, see Shake, Rattle and Roll (disambiguation).

"Shake, Rattle and Roll"
B-side "You Know I Love You"
Released April 1954 (1954-04)
Format 10" 78 rpm record
Recorded New York
February 15, 1954
Genre Rock & Roll, R&B
Length 2:59
Label Atlantic (Cat. no. 1026)
Writer(s) Charles E. Calhoun aka Jesse Stone
Big Joe Turner singles chronology

"TV Mama"
"Shake, Rattle and Roll"
"Well All Right"

"Shake, Rattle and Roll" is a twelve bar blues-form rock and roll song, written in 1954 by Jesse Stone under his assumed songwriting name Charles E. Calhoun. It was originally recorded by Big Joe Turner, and most successfully by Bill Haley & His Comets. The song as sung by Big Joe Turner is ranked #126 on the Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Origins of the song

In early 1954, Ahmet Ertegun[1] of Atlantic Records suggested to Stone that he write an up-tempo blues for Big Joe Turner, a blues shouter whose career had begun in Kansas City before World War II. Stone played around with various phrases before coming up with "shake, rattle and roll".[2]

However, the phrase had been used in earlier songs. In 1919, Al Bernard recorded a song about gambling with dice with the same title, clearly evoking the action of shooting dice from a cup.[3] The phrase is also heard in "Roll The Bones" by the Excelsior Quartette in 1922.

Original recording by Big Joe Turner

Turner's version[4] was recorded in New York on February 15, 1954. The shouting chorus on his version consisted of Jesse Stone, and record label executives Jerry Wexler and Ahmet Ertegün. The saxophone solo was by Sam "The Man" Taylor. Turner's recording was released in April 1954, reached #1 on the US Billboard R&B chart on June 12, did not move for three weeks, and peaked at #22, nearly at the same time, on the Billboard pop chart[5] (subsequently billed as the Billboard Hot 100).

The song, in its original incarnation, is highly sexual. Perhaps its most salacious lyric, which was absent from the later Bill Haley rendition, is "I've been holdin' it in, way down underneath / You make me roll my eyes, baby, make me grit my teeth". [It may actually be "Over the hill, way down underneath.] On the recording, Turner slurred the lyric "holdin' it in", since this line may have been considered too risqué for publication. The chorus uses "shake, rattle and roll" to refer to boisterous intercourse, in the same way that the words "rock and roll" were first used by numerous rhythm and blues singers, starting with Trixie Smith's "My Man Rocks Me (With One Steady Roll)" in 1922, and continuing on prominently through the 1940s and 1950s. Stone stated that the line about "a one-eyed cat peepin' in a seafood store" was suggested to him by Atlantic session drummer Sam "Baby" Lovett; also a sly sexual reference.

Bill Haley's version

Bill Haley & His Comets' cover version of the song,[4] recorded on July 7, 1954[6] (three weeks after Turner's version first topped the R&B charts), featured the following members of the Comets: Johnny Grande (piano), Billy Williamson (steel guitar), Marshall Lytle (bass), and Joey Ambrose (saxophone). It is known that Danny Cedrone, a session musician who frequently worked for Haley, played lead guitar, but there is controversy over who played drums. Music reference books indicate that it was Panama Francis, a noted jazz drummer who worked with Haley's producer, Milt Gabler, however in a letter written in the early 1980s, Gabler denied this and said the drummer was Billy Gussak. Bill Haley's own stage drummer, Dick Richards, did not play on this record but may have provided backing vocals since he participated in the recording of the song's B-side, "A.B.C. Boogie". This was Cedrone's final recording session as he died only ten days later.

Haley's version was released in August and reached #7 on the Billboard pop chart, spending a total of twenty-seven weeks in the Top 40[7] It was used as the theme song for the Springfield Indians of the American Hockey League for many years, and is now used as the victory song for the current franchise in Springfield, MA, the Springfield Falcons.

Gabler has explained that he would "clean up" lyrics because, "I didn't want any censor with the radio station to bar the record from being played on the air. With NBC a lot of race records wouldn't get played because of the lyrics. So I had to watch that closely"[8]

Comparison of the Joe Turner and Bill Haley versions

Both recordings are considered classics.[4] Haley's version is peppier and brighter. It fits the definition of rock and roll as a merger of country music and rhythm and blues. Haley had started his career in country music while Turner was a blues shouter.

Comparing the two versions illustrates the differences between blues and rock 'n' roll. A simple, stark instrumental backing is heard on the Turner version. Where Turner's version uses a walking bass line, the Comets version, produced by Milt Gabler of Decca Records, features an energetic slap bass. A subdued horn arrangement in the Turner recording can be contrasted with a honking sax riff that answers each line of verse in Haley's version, and the entire band shouts "Go!" as part of the vocal backing.[9]

Although musical revisionists and American media tried to paint Turner as a victim of the music industry due to Haley's covering of the song, in fact Haley's success helped Turner immensely although Turner was a well-established performer long before "Shake Rattle and Roll". Listeners who heard Haley's version sought out Turner's. The two men became close friends, and performed on tour together in Australia in 1957. In 1966, at a time when Turner's career was at a low ebb, Haley arranged for his Comets to back the elder musician for a series of recordings in Mexico, although apparently Haley and Turner did not record a duet version of "Shake Rattle and Roll".[10]

Haley acknowledged Turner's version in later years by incorporating more of the original lyrics into his live performances, including adding the verse with the lines "I've been over the hill and I've been way down underneath" which was omitted from Haley's original recording, when he recorded the song for Stuart Colman's BBC Radio program in October 1979. When he performed the song at the Bitter End club in New York City in 1969 for his Buddah Records album release Bill Haley's Scrapbook, Haley changed Turner's "I believe to my soul you're the devil in nylon hose" to "I believe you are doing me wrong and now I know".[11] Both Turner's and Haley's versions contain the double entendre "I'm like a one-eyed cat peepin' in a seafood store." John Swenson's biography of Bill Haley, Father of Rock and Roll suggests Haley kept the line in because he was himself blind in one eye. In Turner's version, the girl is ordered to "get out of that bed"; Haley changes it "get out in that kitchen", nonetheless, in his version she is directed to "roll my breakfast cause I'm a hungry man". In other words, she has spent the night with the singer in both versions. When Joe Turner performed the song in the 1955 film Rock 'n' Roll Revue, he chose to sing the Bill Haley version of the opening verse.

Both versions sold over one million copies, marking "Shake Rattle and Roll" the first giant rock'n'roll hit.[12]

Elvis Presley versions

Elvis Presley recorded the song[4] twice in a studio setting: a 1955 demo recorded during his Sun Records tenure (which was not released until the 1990s), and as a 1956 single for RCA Victor, although it was not a major hit. Both versions by Elvis mixed Haley's and Turner's lyrics with a faster-paced version of Haley's arrangement. Although the commercially released 1956 version used Turner's "bed" version of the opening verse, alternate takes released by RCA in the 1990s indicate Presley originally intended to begin the song with Haley's "kitchen" verse.

Introduced by Cleveland disc jockey, Bill Randle, Presley, Scotty Moore, Bill Black, and D.J. Fontana performed the song in medley with the similar "Flip, Flop and Fly" on the January 28, 1956 broadcast of the Dorsey Brothers Stage Show (Haley's "kitchen" opening verse was sung).[13] Elvis recorded the song with these same musicians. Bill and Scotty had played with Elvis from his first professional sessions at Sun Studios. DJ joined the group late in 1954. These personnel performed and recorded with Elvis throughout 1955 and 1956. The song was released on September 8, 1956.[14] Elvis sang lead vocal, and played rhythm guitar. Scotty Moore played lead guitar. Bill Black played stand-up bass. And D.J. Fontana provided percussion. Scotty, Bill and DJ also provide vocals for the chorus, as can be seen clearly in the recordings of the broadcast, rather than the Jordanaires, who began working with Elvis after he left Sun for RCA, but months after the Dorsey Brothers performance. DJ is on record saying "That's the first and last time he let us sing. I can't blame him for that."[15]

Elvis Presley singles chronology

  • Last single = "Money Honey" (1956)
  • This single = "Shake, Rattle and Roll" (1956)
  • Next single = "Love Me Tender" (1956)

Other versions

Stone (as Calhoun) later co-wrote "Flip, Flop and Fly" which was musically very similar to "Shake, Rattle and Roll" and followed the same simple verse-chorus form. Presley performed "Shake Rattle and Roll" on television as part of a medley with "Flip, Flop and Fly". Both Joe Turner (who co-wrote the song) and Bill Haley recorded this song in several versions, though Haley failed to score a hit with any of his recordings of it. Other songs inspired by "Shake, Rattle and Roll" include "Bark, Battle and Ball" by The Platters (a direct answer song from the woman's point of view), and "Bumpety Bump (Hop, Skip, and Jump)" by Smiley Lewis. Others in the same family include "Jump and Jive and Wail" by Louis Prima and "Rock This Town" by the Stray Cats, a US and UK top 10 hit single in the 1980s. Stone/Calhoun is also credited as the writer of "Rattle My Bones", a 1956 recording by The Jodimars (made up of former members of the Comets), that used a similar verse structure and a chorus that went, "We're gonna rattle, gonna shake, gonna rattle, gonna shake". Count Basie and Joe Williams recorded versions, the latter's was released in 1959.[16]

Other notable recordings of "Shake, Rattle and Roll" include a version by Arthur Conley which was a hit in 1967, as well as cover versions of Turner's and Haley's arrangements by The Beatles, Sam Cooke, Willy DeVille, Johnny Horton, The Swinging Blue Jeans, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, NRBQ, Huey Lewis and the News, Doc Watson. An imitation recording of Bill Haley's version (not recorded by Bill Haley) was also used as the closing theme music for the 1985 comedy film Clue. The song was also performed by the Ray Ellington Quartet in the episode "1985" (a parody of George Orwell's 1984) of the popular BBC radio comedy series, The Goon Show. Sam Cooke recorded a fine, clear version of the song. Jools Holland recorded a big band version for his 2008 album The Collection.


The 1962 Academy Award nominated animated short Disney musical film, A Symposium on Popular Songs, paid homage, with the song "Rock, Rumble and Roar" written by Robert & Richard Sherman.

See also


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