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.
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.
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.
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".
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."
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.