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grit ones teeth

Shake, Rattle and Roll

"Shake, Rattle and Roll" is a prototypical 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.

Origins of the song

In early 1954, Herb Abramson 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" . 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. The phrase is also heard in "Roll The Bones" by the Excelsior Quartette in 1922. While the phrase was undoubtedly passed along, neither of these songs are direct ancestors of the 1954 hit.

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.

Original recording by Big Joe Turner

Turner's version was recorded in New York on February 15, 1954. The shouting chorus on his version consisted of Jesse Stone, and record-company executives Jerry Wexler and Ahmet Ertegün. The saxophone solo is by Sam "The Man" Taylor. Turner's recording was released in April 1954, and reached # 1 on the Billboard R&B chart on June 12, but its success did not cross over to the pop chart.

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" was first used by numerous rhythm and blues singers of the 1940s and 50s.

Bill Haley's version

Bill Haley & His Comets' cover version of the song, recorded on June 7, 1954 (the same week that Turner's version 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 (sax). 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 had partly sanitised lyrics in an attempt to be more palatable to white audiences as well as a less bluesy, more "pop" arrangement. Whereas Turner's song had started with the lines "Get out of that bed and wash your face and hands, / Get out in the kitchen; make some noise with the pots and pans". In Haley's version, the song began with "Get out in that kitchen and rattle those pots and pans / Roll my breakfast 'cause I'm a hungry man". This cleanup of lyrics meant removal of references considered sexual in nature, such as lines about "the devil in nylon hose", "you make me roll my eyes, baby make me grit my teeth" and "you wear those dresses, the sun comes shining through". The most provocative sexual simile in Turner's version of the song, "I'm like a one-eyed cat, peeping in the sea food store", was left untouched in the Haley version, but the following line, "I can look at you 'n' tell you ain't no child no more" was changed. Haley was blind in one eye, which may account for retaining the line.

Elvis Presley's 1956 version, which had only limited success, combined Haley's arrangement with Turner's lyrics, though Elvis used Haley's lyrics when performing the song on his first national television appearance. Other cover versions from this era include a rockabilly recording by Buddy Holly, unreleased at the time, primarily using the original lyrics.

Comparison of the Joe Turner and Bill Haley versions

Both recordings are considered classics. 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. Turner's version is raunchier and sexier. The differences between them are the differences between rhythm and blues intended for adults (many of them black) and rock and roll intended for teenagers (many of them white).

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 hear 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". 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're going to the devil and now I know".

Both Turner's and Haley's versions contain the double entendre "I'm like a one-eyed cat peepin' in a seafood store."

Elvis Presley versions

Elvis Presley recorded the song 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 used Turner's original lyrics combined with a faster-paced version of Haley's arrangement.

Presley, Scotty, Bill, and DJ performed the song on the January 28, 1956 broadcast of the Dorsey Brothers Stage Show. 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. 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."

Elvis Presley singles chronology

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. Other songs inspired by "Shake, Rattle and Roll" include "Bark, Battle and Ball" by The Platters. "Jump and Jive and Wail" by Louis Prima is another family member. 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".

Other notable recordings of "Shake, Rattle and Roll" include a version by Arthur Conley which was a hit in 1968, as well as cover versions of Turner's and Haley's arrangements by The Beatles, Sam Cooke, Johnny Horton, Swinging Blue Jeans, Fats Domino, Huey Lewis and the News. The song was also used as the closing theme music for the 1980s comedy-mystery 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.

Homage

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

See also

References

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