Whole Lotta Shakin Going On, 1957

The “ticket” to the world of rock and roll for Lewis was the song Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On, recorded in February 1957. It bore little resemblance to his previous hit Crazy Arms – now it was a rock and roll sound in its purest form.

It is difficult to call Lewis a pioneer of the genre: by that time, Bill Haley’s Rock Around the Clock, Little Richard’s Tutti Frutti and Carl Perkins’ Blue Suede Shoes had been playing from the radio for several years. But even in such a company, Lewis managed to create his own, recognizable style – and Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On is his characteristic example. Full of drive, energy and dance rhythms, the sound of the song was complemented by the shocking behavior on stage of Lewis himself. Being a pianist, he could not afford to move far away from the instrument (and do what Chuck Berry was doing on stage, for example), but even without moving away from the keys, he managed to energize the whole hall.

The song was very popular during concerts: during the first performance, the audience asked to repeat it 22 times (though, according to Lewis himself). But the song was taken into rotation reluctantly: the radio station management was confused by the indecent, in their opinion, nature of the song. Some of them also expressed concerns that the public would mistake the performer for an African-American, and in the 1950s, not many radio stations aired songs by black performers.

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