Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Since I rate “Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On,” by Jerry Lee Lewis, as one of the greatest Rock hits ever, I started digging into its history.

Until Jerry Lee's version, I never heard the song by anyone, and assumed it was brand new. I even figured he wrote it, as he did many of his recordings.

I was wrong on all counts.

Apparently it came out originally by a fellow named Roy Hall. I heard a brief sample of his record and it doesn't sound much like the song we know by Lewis, but does have the same title.

Are there any other recordings of this classic that precede Jerry Lee's?
—Lucy Hollins, Louisville, Ky.

DEAR LUCY: I know of four, one of which is the Roy Hall rendition, though his is not the first issue.

Each of the four came out in consecutive months during the final third of 1955. All are the same basic song, and titled “Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On.”

The Jerry Lee Lewis release (Sun 267) shows the title as “Whole Lot Of Shakin' Going On.” That change is only slight, but Jerry Lee's arrangement and lyrics are drastically different than the earlier records.

Chronologically, they are:

1. September: Big Maybelle (Okeh 7060). Actually recorded March 21, 1955, this is the first waxing of “Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On.” It is pure blues and should have been an R&B hit. Arranged by a newcomer, 23-year-old Quincy Jones.

2. October: Roy Hall (Decca 29697). Hall's version is a country bopper.

3. November: Dolores Fredericks (Decca 29716). Dolores is similar to Georgia “Dance with Me Henry” Gibbs, but the accompaniment by Jack Pleis and His Orchestra, gives this an unexpected big band flavor.

4. December: Commodores (Dot 15439). Think of this as the Mills Brothers dabbling in doo-wop.

Not only did none of these four become a hit in any field of music, none even received a new-release review in the trades.

I did unearth a miniscule mention in the September 24, 1955 Billboard R&B Beat: “[Promotion man] Bob Demain is back from a trip up the Coast plugging Big Maybelle's Okeh record of “Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On.” Quincy Jones, who did the arranging and backing on this one, will be out on the Okeh label soon as a single artist.”

Contrary to Demain's announcement, we know of no Quincy Jones solo recordings for Okeh.

Despite 1956 being an explosive year for Rock and Roll, it appears the entire recording industry gave up on “Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On.”

The evolution of the song remained on hold for nearly 18 months, when in the summer of '57, Jerry Lee resurrected it. By July, “Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On” was the ultimate crossover hit, at or near the top of every one of the major charts: Pop; Rock; R&B; and C&W.

Since then, dozens of top stars have recorded “Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On,” much to the joy of co-writers Dave Williams and Sonny David (though some labels credit only Williams).

DEAR JERRY: I am trying to locate a song from the mid-to-late 1960s, I think called “Highway Man.”

I believe the name of singer to be something like Curtis Leeach.
—John W. Parsons, Evansville, Ind.

DEAR JOHN: Other than one vowel too many, you have all the details. The singer is Curtis Leach.

Though clearly a truck driving song, the highway man in “Highway Man” is not the truck driver. He is a highway patrolman, who first saves the driver's life … then cites him for speeding.

Issued in 1964, “Highway Man” is an enjoyable adventure story, written by Leach, with instrumentation influenced by “Six Days on the Road” (Dave Dudley).

Portions of the melody turned up in 1969 on Charlie Walker's hit, “Moffett, Oklahoma.”

IZ ZAT SO? On December 14, 1965, in Mesquite Texas, Curtis Leach was stabbed during a confrontation with his girl friend.

Curtis was stabbed in his left leg, and the blade unfortunately cut the femoral (primary) artery and he bled to death en route to the hospital.

One month later, Bill Anderson's “Golden Guitar,” one of Leach's many compositions, hit the Country charts, eventually peaking at No. 11.

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