Roy Hall: Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On (1955)

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Roy Hall: Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On (1955)

The origins of some songs are lost, but often a definitive version will stand out. So it is with Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On which exists in the minds of most as the Jerry Lee Lewis hit in '57.

Most would even think that Lewis wrote it. He didn't, although his whipped-up version is almost a different song than the one which existed previously.

Roy Hall always insisted that he co-wrote it with Dave Williams, although he didn't get around to recording it until late in '55 -- some six months after the singer Big Maybelle cut a version in New York.

In Nick Tosche's biography of Lewis, Hellfire, Hall -- described as "a hard-drinking piano player from Big Stone Gap, Virginia" -- claims he employed Jerry Lee in a club he owned in Nashville called the Musicians Hiideaway. The employment was brief but in that tiime Lewis may well have heard Whole Lotta Shakin. It certainly became a feature of his live act as he toured the South and in May '57 he cut it for Sam Phillips in Sun Studio.

His version was released on April 15 and Jerry Lee took off on a package tour with Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Wanda Jackson.

As Tosches wrote, "Fame lifted her skirt for the final wild son. As the summer passed, hot Southern day upon hot Southern night, the sound of Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On grew louder and more ominous . . . By the end of July, Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On had sold about 1000,000 copies."

What happened to Jerry Lee Lewis' career after that is the stuff of tabloid headlines -- and Roy Hall's career is but a footnote.

Hall's version isn't without interest however. He said he and Williams wrote it when they were drunk down in Florida, that he used a pseudonym when it came to copyright (which accounted for the confusion, the name on it was Sunny David) because he was trying to avoid the taxman, and he signed the papers when he was drunk too.

He sort of sounds it on the song as well.

And although Roy was a piano player this is Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On . . . without piano.

For more one-offs, oddities or songs with an interesting backstory see From the Vaults

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