Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On
(Williams / David)
Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On was written by Dave (Curly) Williams and Roy Hall (using the pseudonym, Sonny David) while both were in Pahokee, Florida, in 1954. Hal had been Webb Pierce's piano player. The song has been variously copyrighted through the years as Whole Lot-ta Shakin' Goin' On, A Whole Lot of Ruckus, and Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On.
Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On was first recorded on March 21, 1955, by Big Maybelle (real name: Mabel Smith) in New York City (Okeh 7060). Her band was directed by Quincy Jones. The next documented recording was by co-composer Roy Hall (Decca 29697) on September 15, 1955, in Nashville. Although he was a piano player, no piano was used on the record. Instead, an electric guitar played by Hank (Sugarfoot) Garland was featured. A month later, Dolores Fredericks recorded her version (Decca 29716) in New York City. The Commodores has a release of Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On (Dot 15431) in December 1955. Finally, after four recordings, we get to Jerry Lee Lewis.
Natchez, Mississippi, disc-jockey Johnny Littlefield received Roy Hall's latest Decca Records release, Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On, in the mail in the fall of 1955. He immediately began playing the record on the air. He also began singing the song in his nightclub, the Wagon Wheel (also called the Music Box in some sources). One of the members of this house band was piano player Jerry Lee Lewis. Reportedly, Lewis begged Littlefield to allow him to sing the song the club. Lewis has said that he first remembers hearing Big Mama Thorton's recording of Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On sometime in 1955. Obviously, Lewis meant Big Maybelle, not Willie Mae Thorton.
In any case, Jerry Lee Lewis incorporated Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On into his act. In late February or early March 1957, he finally got around to recording the song at Sun Records. Backing Lewis were guitarrist Roland Janes and drummer James Van Eaton. The record (Sun 267) was relased on April 15, 1957, but it wasn't until Lewis appeared on The Steve Allen Show on July 28, 1957, that Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On got the exposure it needed to finally reach the charts. It peaked at #3 on Billboard's Top 100 chart. Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On is one of the only two records by any artist other than Elvis to reach number one on both the country and rhythm & blues charts. (The other record is All I Have to Do Is Dream by the Everly Brothers). Through the years, Lewis's recording has sold over three million copies.
Although Elvis had sung Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On in concert in many occasions, it wasn't until September 22, 1970, at RCA's Nashville studios that he first recorded it. In the 1973 TV special Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii, he sang Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On in a rock medley. An alternate mix of the song appeared on the RCA Record Club release, Country Memories.
Come on over baby, we got the bull by the horns
2. 1. 2. 2. (repeat)
Where it was released:
First released on Elvis Country »
- Country Memories (1978) »
- The Legendary Recordings of Elvis (1979) »
Elvis Country (1981) »
48 Hours to Memphis (2011) - FTD »
Elvis From Hawaii to Las Vegas (2012) - FTD »
Murfreesboro '74 (2018) - FTD »