Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Shake, Rattle and Roll

Originally recorded by “Big” Joe Turner & His Blues Kings (US #22/R&B #1 1954).
Other hit version by Bill Haley & His Comets (US #7/UK #4/AUS #18 1954).

From the wiki: “In early 1954, Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records suggested to Jesse Stone (writing under his assumed name ‘Charles E. Calhoun’) 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’. The shouting chorus on Turner’s version consisted of Stone, Ertegun and Atlantic’s other label executive, Jerry Wexler.

“The song, in its original incarnation, is highly sexual. [Among other salacious lyrics,] 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 as an on-the-sly sexual reference. Turner’s recording was released in April 1954, reached #1 on the US Billboard R&B chart on June 12 and did not move for three weeks. It peaked at #22, nearly at the same time, on the Billboard Hot 100.

“Bill Haley’s cover version was released in August and reached #7 on the Billboard pop chart, spending a total of twenty-seven weeks in the Top 40. Producer Milt Gabler, of Decca Records, explained that he had to ‘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 [WNBC Radio, New York City], a lot of race records wouldn’t get played because of the lyrics. So I had to watch that closely.’

“Comparing the two versions illustrates the differences between rhythm & 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 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.”

Bill Haley & His Comets, “Shake, Rattle and Roll” (1954):

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