About the song

Ah, Jailhouse Rock. A song that needs no introduction, yet one that continues to enthrall audiences over six decades later. Released in 1957, it wasn’t just a song; it was a cultural phenomenon. But to truly appreciate Jailhouse Rock, we need to rewind the time machine and set the scene.

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The year is 1954. A young truck driver named Elvis Presley walks into Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee, with the hopes of recording a demo. What followed was a seismic shift in popular music. Elvis’s electrifying blend of rhythm and blues, gospel, and country, later known as rock and roll, sent shockwaves through the conservative music industry. His undeniable charisma, coupled with his suggestive dance moves, further fueled the fire.

By 1957, Elvis was already a superstar. His debut album had topped the charts, and his electrifying performances on television had ignited a moral panic amongst the older generation. It was in this climate that Jailhouse Rock was born. The song was written by songwriting duo Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, renowned for crafting catchy tunes with a playful edge.

Jailhouse Rock wasn’t Elvis’s first foray into film. However, it marked his first collaboration with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), a major Hollywood studio. The film itself, originally titled “The Hard Way” before settling on Jailhouse Rock, tells the story of Vince Everett, a young man wrongly convicted of manslaughter who discovers his musical talent behind bars. The film, though lighthearted, provided a platform for Elvis to showcase his musical prowess and undeniable charm.

The title track, Jailhouse Rock, is a prime example of this. The song opens with a driving beat, courtesy of legendary drummer D.J. Fontana, instantly setting the mood for a rocking good time. Elvis’s iconic vocals, laced with his signature sneer, deliver the playful lyrics that paint a picture of a prison transformed into a makeshift dance floor. Lines like “The warden threw a party in the county jail/The guards all took their girlfriends and set ’em free to wail” inject a sense of humor and rebellion into the situation.

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Jailhouse Rock is more than just a catchy tune. It’s a testament to the power of music to transcend boundaries. Even within the confines of prison walls, the song celebrates the urge to move, to express oneself, and to find joy in unexpected places. The song’s infectious energy and Elvis’s captivating performance made it an instant hit, topping the Billboard charts for seven weeks. It further solidified his status as the “King of Rock and Roll” and cemented Jailhouse Rock as a timeless classic.

So, the next time you hear the opening chords of Jailhouse Rock, remember the cultural landscape it emerged from, the anxieties it challenged, and the sheer joy it continues to bring. It’s a song that reminds us of the transformative power of music, its ability to unite and uplift, even within the most unlikely settings.

Video

Lyrics

“Jailhouse Rock”

The warden threw a party in the county jail.
The prison band was there and they began to wail.
The band was jumpin’ and the joint began to swing.
You should’ve heard those knocked out jailbirds sing.

Let’s rock, everybody, let’s rock.
Everybody in the whole cell block
Was dancin’ to the Jailhouse Rock.

Spider Murphy played the tenor saxophone,
Little Joe was blowin’ on the slide trombone.
The drummer boy from Illinois went crash, boom, bang,
The whole rhythm section was the Purple Gang.

Let’s rock, everybody, let’s rock.
Everybody in the whole cell block
Was dancin’ to the Jailhouse Rock.

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Number forty-seven said to number three:
“You’re the cutest jailbird I ever did see.
I sure would be delighted with your company,
Come on and do the Jailhouse Rock with me.”

Let’s rock, everybody, let’s rock.
Everybody in the whole cell block
Was dancin’ to the Jailhouse Rock.

Sad Sack was a sittin’ on a block of stone
Way over in the corner weepin’ all alone.
The warden said, “Hey, buddy, don’t you be no square.
If you can’t find a partner use a wooden chair.”

Let’s rock, everybody, let’s rock.
Everybody in the whole cell block
Was dancin’ to the Jailhouse Rock.

Shifty Henry said to Bugs, “For Heaven’s sake,
No one’s lookin’, now’s our chance to make a break.”
Bugsy turned to Shifty and he said, “Nix nix,
I wanna stick around a while and get my kicks.”

Let’s rock, everybody, let’s rock.
Everybody in the whole cell block
Was dancin’ to the Jailhouse Rock.
Dancin’ to the Jailhouse Rock
Dancin’ to the Jailhouse Rock
Dancin’ to the Jailhouse Rock
Dancin’ to the Jailhouse Rock
Dancin’ to the Jailhouse Rock…