Rock 'n' Roll America

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Whole Lotta Shakin'

Series 1 - Episode 2 Whole Lotta Shakin'



While the first episode focused largely on the artists, this one's more about American society's reaction to rock 'n' roll – the irony being that its moral panic looks, through today's eyes, far more vulgar than the music ever was. It also had a counterproductive effect: what will a teenager do when somebody reacts to their behaviour with disgust? Act more disgustingly, of course, just to annoy them.

Soon the reactionaries really had something to complain about, in the form of bad boy Jerry Lee Lewis. He had talent to burn, but having his records banned was the best thing that could have happened to Jerry. "Next thing we knew, we were rolling in money," he sniggers.


The mid-1950s saw Elvis Presley make his TV debut with Heartbreak Hotel, following it with a gyrating version of Hound Dog that outraged the conservative media. A `cleaned-up' artist was required, and Christian family man Pat Boone sated that need. While Jerry Lee Lewis caused upset with Whole Lotta Shakin and the Everlys shocked with Wake Up Little Susie, bespectacled geek Buddy Holly calmed things down with his school friends the Crickets. Contributors include Jerry Lee Lewis, Don Everly and Tom Jones.

Cast & Crew

Contributor Tom Jones
Contributor Jerry Lee Lewis
Contributor Don Everly
Director Matt O'Casey
Producer Matt O'Casey
Series Producer Mark Cooper
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Documentary Music