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Whole Lotta Shakin'

Episode 2 of 3

Rock 'n' roll took off in 1955, and the likes of Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis scandalised America with their gyrations, leading to Pat Boone's cleaned-up version.

As rock 'n' roll took off with teens in 1955 it quickly increased record sales by 300 per cent in America. Big business and the burgeoning world of TV moved in. Elvis made a big-money move to major label RCA instigated by Colonel Tom Parker, an illegal immigrant from Holland who had made his name at country fairs with a set of dancing chickens. Elvis made his national TV debut with Heartbreak Hotel and followed it with a gyrating version of Hound Dog that shocked America. PTAs, church groups and local councils were outraged. Rock 'n' roll was banned by the mayor of Jersey City and removed from jukeboxes in Alabama. Now Ed Sullivan would only shoot Elvis from the waist up.

The conservative media needed a cleaned-up version and the young, married-with-kids Christian singer Pat Boone shot up the chart, rivalling Elvis for sales. Not that this stopped rock 'n' roll. Jerry Lee Lewis again scandalised the nation with his gyrating finger in Whole Lotta Shakin' and the Everlys shocked with Wake Up Little Susie, both 45s being banned in parts of America.

It took bespectacled geek Buddy Holly to calm things down as a suburban down-home boy who, with his school friends The Crickets, turned plain looks into chart success. But by the end of 1958 the music was in real trouble. Elvis was conscripted into the army, Jerry Lee was thrown out of Britain and into obscurity for marrying his 13-year-old cousin and Little Richard went into the church.

Featuring Jerry Lee Lewis, Don Everly, Tom Jones, Wanda Jackson, Pat Boone, DJ Fontana, Eric Burdon, James Burton, Jerry Allison (The Crickets' drummer), Mike Stoller, PF Sloan, Joe Boyd, Jerry Phillips, Marshall Chess and JM Van Eaton (Jerry Lee Lewis's drummer).

1 hour

Last on

Sat 13 Oct 2018 02:30

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Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes

Credits

Role Contributor
Producer Matt O'Casey
Director Matt O'Casey
Executive Producer Mark Cooper

Broadcasts

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Chart the history of pop music across the decades

Visit the BBC Music My Generation site.

Rock 'n' Roll America season

BBC Music celebrates the birth of rock ā€˜nā€™ roll on Radio 2, 6 Music and BBC Four.