Jerry Lee Lewis: 'Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On' Recorded in only one take at the Sun Studio in Memphis, Jerry Lee Lewis' original recording of "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" propelled the rock legend to instant fame. In 2005, the Library of Congress selected the song for the National Recording Registry.

Jerry Lee Lewis: 'Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On'

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(Soundbite of audio clips)

Mr. NEIL ARMSTRONG (Astronaut): That's one small step for man...

Mr. LOU COSTELLO (Comedian): You know the fellow's name?

Mr. BUD ABBOTT (Comedian): Well, I should.

Mr. COSTELLO: Well, then who's on first?

Mr. ABBOTT: Yes.

Mr. COSTELLO: I mean the fellow's name.

Mr. ABBOTT: Who.

Mr. COSTELLO: The guy on first.

Mr. ABBOTT: Who.

Mr. COSTELLO: The first baseman.

Mr. ABBOTT: Who.

Mr. COSTELLO: The guy playing first.

Mr. ABBOTT: Who. Who is on first...

Mr. PETE SIEGER (Singer): (Singing) This land is your land. This land is my land.

President FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT: Ask not...

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Ms. ARETHA FRANKLIN (Singer): (Singing) R-E-S-P-E-C-T...

Mr. JOHNNY CASH (Singer): Hello. I'm Johnny Cash.

Unidentified Man #2: (Singing) soul...

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(Soundbite of banjo)


Sounds can tell us a lot about our nation's past - where we have been, what we like, who we are. In the year 2000, Congress agreed and authorized the Library of Congress to create the National Recording Registry. Each year the Registry chooses 50 recordings worthy of preservation for all time. For the next five weekends, ALL THINGS CONSIDERED will bring you the stories behind some of those pivotal recordings. For our first installment: A Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On. Today's cast, the engineer...

Mr. JACK CLEMENT (Producer/Musician): Hello. My name is Jack Clement. I wasn't really ever an engineer. I was an operator. I operated the equipment and I was, you know, a musician. I played on a lot of those records. And you know, I'm the guy that's in the control room telling the musicians what to do, so I guess I was a producer of a lot of that stuff, you know.

ELLIOTT: The critic...

Mr. ROBERT GORDON (Author): This is Robert Gordon and I'm the author of It Came From Memphis.

ELLIOTT: And the Killer...

Mr. JERRY LEE LEWIS (Singer): My name is Jerry Lee Lewis. My occupation is rock 'n roll.

(Soundbite of song "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On")

Mr. LEWIS: (Singing) Come on over baby whole lotta shakin' goin' on.

(Speaking) Yeah. I started rock 'n roll. Sure did.

(Soundbite of song "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On")

Mr. LEWIS: (Singing) Yes, I said come on over baby, baby you can't go wrong.

Mr. GORDON: When he sits at that piano and bangs it out, it is like a rocket ship taking off. It's a flame coming out. Whole Lotta Shakin', from its very beginning notes, sucks you in and makes you part of that propulsion.

(Soundbite of song "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On")

Mr. LEWIS: (Singing) Come on over baby, baby got the bull by the horn.

Mr. CLEMENT: My goal in life was to produce at least one record that would be so cool they'll still be playing it in a thousand years.

(Soundbite of song "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On")

Mr. LEWIS: (Singing) Shake it baby, shake. I said shake it baby shake.

Mr. CLEMENT: It was about September of 1956. I'd been working at Sun since June. And Jerry Lee came in one day and he had written a song called End of the Road which is kind of rocking. Okay, that's good. But then he played this version of You're the Only Star in My Blue Heaven, which had been a hit by Gene Autry, you know. It was a waltz.

(Singing) You're the only star in my blue heaven.

(Speaking) But he sit down, went rump rump pum, you're the only star in my blue - and I said, all right, kid. And anyway, I set it up for him to come in on Thursday and I'd have some musicians there and we would cut some tapes. That was back when it was fun. You could cut a record one Thursday and it's out in the stores the next Thursday. And that was Crazy Orange.

(Soundbite of song "Crazy Orange")

Mr. LEWIS: (Singing) Now blue ain't the word for...

Mr. CLEMENT: Well then, we're scrambling around trying to find another follow-up. You know, the record did pretty well. It sold about 150,000 in spite of the fact that the song had peaked, and we had been cutting this song that I had written called It'll Be Me. And I was in the control room and I was getting bored with it. And I walked up into the studio and said, well, why don't we get off this a while, Jerry? We can come back to it. Why don't we do something else.

And his bass player, J.W. Brown said, hey Jerry, why don't you do that song we've been doing on the road that everybody likes so much? He said okay. I said, well, let me cut it. I went in the control room. I already had the mike set up for - balance set up for It'll Be Me and the instrumentation, so all I did was turn the machine on and we cut Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On - one take, no dry run, nothing.

(Soundbite of song "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On")

Mr. LEWIS: (Singing) Easy now. Shake it...

Mr. CLEMENT: We never did anything to it. Never overdubbed or anything. Just put it out. And that's the way it still is 50 years later almost.

(Soundbite of song "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On")

Mr. LEWIS: (Singing) You can shake it one time for me.

(Speaking)I remember it very distinctly. I cut the song. It was cut the first time. I knew it was a hit when I cut it. Some fool said it was going to be too risqué. It couldn't make it.

(Soundbite of song "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On")

Mr. LEWIS: (Singing) All you gotta do honey is kind of stand in one spot and wiggle around just a little bit. That's what you got. Yeah...

(Speaking) If that's risqué, why, I'm sorry. They banned it on every radio station in the country but we busted it out on Steve Allen's TV show.

(Soundbite of "The Steve Allen Show")

Mr. STEVE ALLEN (TV host): Jumping and jolting Jerry Lee Lewis.

Mr. LEWIS: We did that and they lifted the ban on it. It sold something like 380, 400,000 records in a day.

(Soundbite of song "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On")

Mr. LEWIS: (Singing) Yeah come on baby. Baby you can't go wrong.

Mr. GORDON: 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, and you know - when he appears on Steve Allen singing this song, which is his first national appearance, he's seated at a piano, banging it out. Being seated at the piano it too containing so he stands at the piano, and that's too containing, so he kicks the piano bench out of the scene. You just look out on-camera, wait, it's gone. And then amazingly - this is on the Steve Allen Show - Steve Allen grabs the piano bench and throws it back. I mean it's like - it's a complete barroom brawl on national TV, and Jerry Lee's song goes from being a regional hit to, you know, it hit the top of the country charts, top of the R&B charts, and the top five of the pop charts after that Steve Allen performance.

(Soundbite of song "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On")

Mr. LEWIS: (Singing) Come on over baby we got chicken in the barn, whose barn, what barn, my barn.

(Speaking) Twenty years old. I never thought I'd be in on the Steve Allen Show, 20-years-old. To make a long story short, we did it and it was a hit and one of the biggest hits that's ever been, and it's still going 50 years later.

(Soundbite of song "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On")

Mr. LEWIS (Singing) Come on let's go one time. Shake it baby shake. Shake it baby shake. Shake it baby. Come on baby shake baby shake it. Come on over whole lotta shakin' goin' on.

ELLIOTT: Jerry Lee Lewis and Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On, the first in our series from the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress. The series is produced by Ben Manilla and Media Mechanics. You can hear the whole song and some brand new Jerry Lee at our Web site

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