On this day April 13, Kansas City Blues shouter Big Joe Turner released the classic R&B single, “Shake, Rattle and Roll.”
Born Joseph Vernon Turner Jr., May 18, 1911 he was an American blues shouter from Kansas City, Missouri. “Shake, Rattle and Roll” his most popular hit was written in 1954 by Jesse Stone (under his assumed songwriting name Charles E. Calhoun.) Originally recorded by Big Joe Turner (and later more successfully by Bill Haley & His Comets) the song as sung by the big man ranks #126 on the Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Recorded in New York on February 15, 1954, Turner’s version contains a shouting chorus consisting of Jesse Stone, and record label executives Jerry Wexler and Ahmet Ertegün. The saxophone solo was by Sam “The Man” Taylor. 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.
Turner’s recording was released on April 13. 1954. It reached #1 on the US Billboard R&B chart on June 12, did not move for three weeks, and peaked at #22, nearly at the same time, on the Billboard pop chart (subsequently billed as the Billboard Hot 100).
The song, in its original incarnation, is highly sexual. Perhaps its most salacious lyric, which was absent from the later Bill Haley rendition, is “I’ve been holdin’ it in, way down underneath / You make me roll my eyes, baby, make me grit my teeth”. [It may actually be "Over the hill, way down underneath.] On the recording, Turner slurred the lyric “holdin’ it in”, since this line may have been considered too risqué for publication. The chorus uses “shake, rattle and roll” to refer to boisterous intercourse, in the same way that the words “rock and roll” was first used by numerous rhythm and blues singers, starting with Trixie Smith’s “My Man Rocks Me (With One Steady Roll)” in 1922, and continuing on prominently through the 1940s and 1950s. 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.
According to the songwriter Doc Pomus, “Rock and roll would have never happened without him.” Although he came to his greatest fame in the 1950s with his pioneering rock and roll recordings, particularly “Shake, Rattle and Roll”, Turner’s career as a performer stretched from the 1920s into the 1980s.
He died in Inglewood, California in November 1985, at the age of 74 of a heart attack, having suffered the earlier effects of arthritis, a stroke and diabetes. Big Joe Turner was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987
FYI Did he appear in films. You bet. That’s the connection here. According to history, in 1941, he headed to Los Angeles where he performed in Duke Ellington’s revue Jump for Joy in Hollywood. He appeared as a singing policeman in a comedy sketch called “He’s on the Beat.” Los Angeles became his home base for a time, and in 1944 he worked in Meade Lux Lewis’s Soundies musical films. Although he sang on the soundtrack recordings, he was not present for the filming, and his vocals were mouthed by comedian Dudley Dickerson for the camera.
1919 – Howard Keel (Harry Clifford Leek) (actor: Dallas; singer, actor: Oklahoma, Annie Get Your Gun, Show Boat, Lovely to Look At, Kiss Me Kate, Calamity Jane, Rose-Marie, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Deep in My Heart, Saratoga, No Strings; died Nov 7, 2004)
1923 – Don Adams (Donald James Yarmy) (Emmy Award-winning actor: Get Smart [1966-1967, 1967-1968]; Back to the Beach, The Nude Bomb; died Sep 25, 2005)
1925 – Jules Irving (actor: It Came from Beneath the Sea [aka Monster from Beneath the Sea]; died July 28, 1979)
1935 – Lyle Waggoner (actor: The Carol Burnett Show, The Jimmie Rodgers Show, Wonder Woman, Dead Women in Lingerie)
1937 – Edward Fox (actor: Gulliver’s Travels, The Dresser, Gandhi, The Mirror Crack’d, Force 10 from Navarone, The Big Sleep, A Bridge Too Far, The Day of the Jackal, Portrait of a Lady)
1939 – Paul Sorvino (actor: Law and Order, Reds, Oh! God, The Day of the Dolphin, Dick Tracy, Goodfellas, A Touch of Class)
1945 – Tony Dow (actor: Leave It to Beaver, Back to the Beach, High School U.S.A., Death Scream)
1950 – Ron Perlman (actor: Fluke, Double Exposure, Beauty and the Beast series, The Name of the Rose)
1957 – Saundra Santiago (actress: Miami Vice, Beat Street)
1970 – Rick Schroder (actor: NYPD Blue, Crimson Tide, Texas, Lonesome Dove, Hansel and Gretel, Earthling, The Champ, Silver Spoons)