Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On

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"Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On"
Single by Big Maybelle
B-side "One Monkey Don't Stop No Show"
Released 1955
Genre R&B
Length 3:00
Label Okeh Records
Writer(s) Dave "Curlee" Williams
Big Maybelle singles chronology
"Don't Leave Poor Me"
"Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On"
"Such A Cutie"

"Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" (sometimes rendered "Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On") is a song written by Dave "Curlee" Williams and usually credited to him and James Faye "Roy" Hall. The song was first recorded by Big Maybelle, though the best known version is the 1957 hit rock and roll/rockabilly cover by Jerry Lee Lewis.

Origins of the song[edit]

The origins of the song are disputed, but the writing is usually co-credited to singer/songwriter Dave "Curlee" Williams, and pianist and club owner James Faye "Roy" Hall.[1] Hall said:

We was down in Pahokee, on Lake Okeechobee.. out on a damn pond, fishin' and milkin' snakes .. drinkin' wine, mostly.. This guy down there had a big bell that he's ring to get us all to come in to dinner, an' I'd call over [and] say, 'What's goin' on?' Colored guy said, 'We got twen'y-one drums, we got an old bass horn, an' they even keepin' time on a ding-dong.' See, that was the big bell they'd ring to git us t'come in.[2]

On 21 March 1955, Big Maybelle made the first recording for Okeh Records. The songwriting was credited to D. C. Williams, and the record was produced by Quincy Jones.[3] Roy Hall made a recording of the song in September 1955 for Decca Records and maintained that he had written it and had secured the legal copyright as co-writer under the pseudonym of "Sunny David." However, a Decca sample copy of Hall's recording lists Dave Williams as the sole writer. On the Pop Chronicles documentary, Jerry Lee Lewis incorrectly credited Big Mama Thornton.[4] All subsequent recordings of the song (including Lewis' recording for Sun Records) list the composers as Sunny David and Dave Williams . Hall was also a Nashville club owner, who later claimed to have employed the young piano player Lewis at some point around 1954.[1]

Jerry Lee Lewis version[edit]

"Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On"
Single by Jerry Lee Lewis
B-side "It'll Be Me"
Released April 1957
Genre Rock and roll, rockabilly
Length 2:52
Label Sun Records
Writer(s) Dave "Curlee" Williams, James Faye "Roy" Hall
Jerry Lee Lewis singles chronology
"Crazy Arms"
(December 1956)
"Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On"
(April 1957)
"Great Balls of Fire"
(November 1957)

Lewis had been performing the song in his stage act and recorded it at his second recording session for Sun Records in February 1957. The release is reviewed in Billboard magazine on 27 May 1957.[5] Supervised by producer Jack Clement, Lewis radically altered the original, adding a propulsive boogie piano that was complemented by J.M. Van Eaton's energetic drumming and also added suggestive spoken asides. Lewis later stated: "I knew it was a hit when I cut it. Sam Phillips thought it was gonna be too risqué, it couldn't make it. If that's risqué, well, I'm sorry."[6] The song was engineered by Jack "Cowboy" Clement,[7] who told Lewis when he entered the studio, "We don't do much country around here. We're in the rock & roll business. You ought to go home and work up some rock & roll numbers".[8]

In Lewis' biographical film, Great Balls of Fire!, Lewis is shown spying in on an African American speak-easy type club, listening to "Whole Lotta Shakin Goin' On" performed by a black woman, supposedly Big Maybelle. The part was played by the singer Valerie Wellington and her version was also on the film's soundtrack. The next scene depicted Lewis using the song without crediting the original artist, Big Maybelle.

Released as Sun 267, the record reached No. 3 on the Billboard pop chart and No. 1 on the Billboard R&B chart.[9] The single also hit No. 1 on the country charts an No. 38 in the UK. Lewis became an instant sensation and as writer Robert Gordon noted: "Jerry Lee began to show that in this new emerging genre called rock 'n' roll, not everybody was going to stand there with a guitar."[10]

American music critic Cub Koda said the song became a "rock & roll classic",[11] while scholar Charles L. Ponce de Leon said it was "perhaps the quintessential rockabilly anthem".[12] Lewis's version of the song is ranked as the 61st greatest song of all time by Rolling Stone magazine.[13] In 2005, it was selected for permanent preservation in the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress.[8]

Levi Kreis version[edit]

Levi Kreis, portraying Lewis, sang the song in the Broadway musical "Million Dollar Quartet," which opened in New York in April 2010;[14] and Kreis covered the song on the "Million Dollar Quartet" original Broadway cast recording (copyright 2010 by MDQ Merchandising, LLC).[15] Levi Kreis won a 2010 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his portrayal of Lewis in “Million Dollar Quartet.”[16]


  1. ^ a b "Roy Hall, Pumpin' and Drinkin'". Rockabilly.nl. Retrieved 2015-07-18. 
  2. ^ Tosches, Nick (1984). Unsung Heroes of Rock'n'Roll. Secker & Warburg. p. 109-113. ISBN 0-436-53203-4. 
  3. ^ "Big Maybelle - Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On / One Monkey Don't Stop No Show - OKeh - UK - 4-7060". 45cat. Retrieved 2015-07-18. 
  4. ^ "Show 8 - The All American Boy: Enter Elvis and the rock-a-billies. [Part 2] : UNT Digital Library". Digital.library.unt.edu. 2015-07-09. Retrieved 2015-07-18. 
  5. ^ [1][dead link]
  6. ^ Lee, Jerry. "Jerry Lee Lewis: 'Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On'". NPR. Retrieved 2015-07-18. 
  7. ^ "JACK "COWBOY" CLEMENT INTERVIEW (circa 1977)". Cowboyjackclement.com. 1961-07-05. Retrieved 2015-07-18. 
  8. ^ a b "Jerry Lee Lewis: 'Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On'". Sound on Sound. Retrieved September 23, 2015. 
  9. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942–2004. Record Research. p. 347. 
  10. ^ "Jerry Lee Lewis: 'Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On'". NPR. 2009. Retrieved September 23, 2015. 
  11. ^ Koda, Cub (2003). "Big Maybelle". In Bogdanov, Vladimir. All Music Guide to Soul: The Definitive Guide to R&B and Soul. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 52. ISBN 0879307447. 
  12. ^ Ponce de Leon, Charles L. (2007). Fortunate Son: The Life of Elvis Presley. Macmillan Publishers. p. 53. ISBN 0809016419. 
  13. ^ "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. Retrieved September 23, 2015. 
  14. ^ Zielinski, Peter James. "Photo Coverage: Million Dollar Quartet Opens on Broadway". Posted: 12:04 PM; Monday, 12 April 2010. [2]
  15. ^ MDQ Merchandising LLC (2010). "Song List" and "Performing Credits". In Million Dollar Quartet (p. 5) [CD booklet]. New York City: Avatar Studios; and Chicago: Chicago Recording Company.
  16. ^ Braodway.com Staff. "Rocker-Turned-Broadway Star Levi Kreis Wins Tony for Million Dollar Quartet". Broadway.com: Posted 9:23 PM, 13 June 2010. [3]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear" by Elvis Presley
Billboard R&B Best Sellers in Stores number-one single
9 September 1957 – 16 September 1957 (two weeks)
Succeeded by
"Diana" by Paul Anka
Preceded by
"Bye Bye Love" by The Everly Brothers
C&W Best Sellers in Stores
number one single by Jerry Lee Lewis

9 September 1957
(two weeks)
Succeeded by
"Fraulein" by Bobby Helms