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Jailhouse Rock - The Lyrics.

Sat Sep 13, 2014 12:49 pm

I always used to think that the lyrics to "Jailhouse Rock" was just clever wordplay from songwriting giants Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller, that is, until i read, Trevor Simpson's great new book (which i got yesterday) "The Best Of British - The RCA Years 1957-1958".

Some of the lyrics to the song are actually based on real life characters. What i'm gonna do here is give you a quick rundown of what is what, if you want the full picture with photo illustrations etc, may i suggest you get this book, it's fabulous.

PURPLE GANG - is an actual gang of Jewish bootleggers who operated in Detroit in the 20's. Though they were mainly into bootleg alcohol, other crimes were Murder, prostitution etc. They allegedly formed an alliance with Al Capone.

SAD SACK - is an American ficitional comic book character created by Sgt. George Baker during WW11.

LITTLE JOE & SHIFTY HENRY - Little Joe is a noted Jazz musician from Chicago, real name Joe Burton. He later joined BB Kings band in 1960. John Willie "Shifty" Henry was a bass player out of Texas and was also a noted Blues Songwriter.

BUGSY - is Bugs Moran eho spent most of his time battling with Al Capone.

This is all fascinating info that i've learnt today. Whether some of this info is already known, i can't say, it certainly is new to me. Another great piece of the puzzle to the Presley story.

Thanks Trevor Simpson for the book.

All praise to Jerry Leiber (RIP) & Mike Stoller fir such a memorable and fantastic song, without we will be lost.

Q - Whats the hardest song you've ever sang?
A - "Jailhouse Rock" it practically leaves my tongue hanging out.
From a 1957 interview.
Last edited by mysterytrainrideson on Sat Sep 13, 2014 8:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Re: Jailhouse Rock - The Lyrics.

Sat Sep 13, 2014 5:08 pm

That's really nice info, thanks. So many wonderful books out there.

Re: Jailhouse Rock - The Lyrics.

Sat Sep 13, 2014 7:49 pm

Very nice and interesting topic. Thanks a lot, mysterytrainrideson.

Re: Jailhouse Rock - The Lyrics.

Sat Sep 13, 2014 8:13 pm

jurasic1968 wrote:Very nice and interesting topic. Thanks a lot, mysterytrainrideson.

No problem, glad you liked it. It's another great piece to the Presley story.

Additional info from Simpsons book: "in Britain, this release (RCA 1028) created a new statistic of being the first record to enter the British popular music charts (all of them!) at No.1 due to advance orders for the single totalling over 250,000 copies".

Re: Jailhouse Rock - The Lyrics.

Sat Sep 13, 2014 8:18 pm

mysterytrainrideson wrote:I always used to think that the lyrics to "Jailhouse Rock" was just clever wordplay from songwriting giants Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller, that is, until i read, Trevor Simpson's great new book (which i got yesterday) "The Best Of British - The RCA Years 1957-1958".

Some of the lyrics to the song are actually based on real life characters. What i'm gonna do here is give you a quick rundown of what is what, if you want the full picture with photo illustrations etc, may i suggest you get this book, it's fabulous.

PURPLE GANG - is an actual gang of Jewish bootleggers who operated in Chicago in the 20's. Though they were mainly into bootleg alcohol, other crimes were Murder, prostitution etc. They allegedly formed an alliance with Al Capone.

SAD SACK - is an American ficitional comic book character created by Sgt. George Baker during WW11.

LITTLE JOE & SHIFTY HENRY - Little Joe is a noted Jazz musician from Chicago, real name Joe Burton. He later joined BB Kings band in 1960. John Willie "Shifty" Henry was a bass player out of Texas and was also a noted Blues Songwriter.

BUGSY - is Bugs Moran eho spent most of his time battling with Al Capone.

This is all fascinating info that i've learnt today. Whether some of this info is already known, i can't say, it certainly is new to me. Another great piece of the puzzle to the Presley story.

Thanks Trevor Simpson for the book.

All praise to Jerry Leiber (RIP) & Mike Stoller fir such a memorable and fantastic song, without we will be lost.

Q - Whats the hardest song you've ever sang?
A - "Jailhouse Rock" it practically leaves my tongue hanging out.
From a 1957 interview.


Great post. Leiber and Stoller remain among the most clever, intelligent and damn funny songwriting teams of the 20th century. That they produced many of the great records they wrote is another feather in the cap.

Re: Jailhouse Rock - The Lyrics.

Sat Sep 13, 2014 8:46 pm

mysterytrainrideson wrote:I always used to think that the lyrics to "Jailhouse Rock" was just clever wordplay from songwriting giants Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller, that is, until i read, Trevor Simpson's great new book (which i got yesterday) "The Best Of British - The RCA Years 1957-1958".

Some of the lyrics to the song are actually based on real life characters. What i'm gonna do here is give you a quick rundown of what is what, if you want the full picture with photo illustrations etc, may i suggest you get this book, it's fabulous.

PURPLE GANG - is an actual gang of Jewish bootleggers who operated in Chicago in the 20's. Though they were mainly into bootleg alcohol, other crimes were Murder, prostitution etc. They allegedly formed an alliance with Al Capone.

SAD SACK - is an American ficitional comic book character created by Sgt. George Baker during WW11.

LITTLE JOE & SHIFTY HENRY - Little Joe is a noted Jazz musician from Chicago, real name Joe Burton. He later joined BB Kings band in 1960. John Willie "Shifty" Henry was a bass player out of Texas and was also a noted Blues Songwriter.

BUGSY - is Bugs Moran eho spent most of his time battling with Al Capone.

This is all fascinating info that i've learnt today. Whether some of this info is already known, i can't say, it certainly is new to me. Another great piece of the puzzle to the Presley story.

Thanks Trevor Simpson for the book.

All praise to Jerry Leiber (RIP) & Mike Stoller fir such a memorable and fantastic song, without we will be lost.

Q - Whats the hardest song you've ever sang?
A - "Jailhouse Rock" it practically leaves my tongue hanging out.
From a 1957 interview.


Yup - Leiber & Stoller were very clever dudes. Besides writing some great rock and roll melodies, their lyrics should be studied more closely. They can be funny as hell. The Coasters are a prime example of their humor.

Re: Jailhouse Rock - The Lyrics.

Sat Sep 13, 2014 8:49 pm

I believe the Purple Gang ran out of Detroit, though I could be wrong, not that it matters. Great stuff guys!!

Re: Jailhouse Rock - The Lyrics.

Sat Sep 13, 2014 8:57 pm

Joe Car wrote:I believe the Purple Gang ran out of Detroit, though I could be wrong, not that it matters. Great stuff guys!!

Yes, you are correct, Joe. I've just checked in the book. I must've typed that in by mistake.

I've edited my post to correct it.

Thanks.

Re: Jailhouse Rock - The Lyrics.

Sat Sep 13, 2014 10:13 pm

mysterytrainrideson wrote:I always used to think that the lyrics to "Jailhouse Rock" was just clever wordplay from songwriting giants Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller, that is, until i read, Trevor Simpson's great new book (which i got yesterday) "The Best Of British - The RCA Years 1957-1958".

Some of the lyrics to the song are actually based on real life characters. What i'm gonna do here is give you a quick rundown of what is what, if you want the full picture with photo illustrations etc, may i suggest you get this book, it's fabulous.

PURPLE GANG - is an actual gang of Jewish bootleggers who operated in Detroit in the 20's. Though they were mainly into bootleg alcohol, other crimes were Murder, prostitution etc. They allegedly formed an alliance with Al Capone.

SAD SACK - is an American ficitional comic book character created by Sgt. George Baker during WW11.

LITTLE JOE & SHIFTY HENRY - Little Joe is a noted Jazz musician from Chicago, real name Joe Burton. He later joined BB Kings band in 1960. John Willie "Shifty" Henry was a bass player out of Texas and was also a noted Blues Songwriter.

BUGSY - is Bugs Moran eho spent most of his time battling with Al Capone.

This is all fascinating info that i've learnt today. Whether some of this info is already known, i can't say, it certainly is new to me. Another great piece of the puzzle to the Presley story.

Thanks Trevor Simpson for the book.

All praise to Jerry Leiber (RIP) & Mike Stoller fir such a memorable and fantastic song, without we will be lost.

Q - Whats the hardest song you've ever sang?
A - "Jailhouse Rock" it practically leaves my tongue hanging out.
From a 1957 interview.


This is a very cool post, mysterytrainrideson. Thank you very much. I hope you don't mind if I expand it a little bit.

There are several Leiber & Stoller songs featuring mentions of famous characters. This verse from "Searchin'" comes to mind, which namechecks six fictional private investigators :

Well, Sherlock Holmes,
Sam Spade got nothin', child, on me,
Sergeant Friday, Charlie Chan,
And Boston Blackie.
No matter where she's hidin',
She's gonna hear me a comin',
Gonna walk right down that street
Like Bulldog Drummond.



***********************


Regarding the characters in "Jailhouse Rock", I had never heard of the "Sad Sack" comic magazines. Here's a cover from... November 1957 :


Sad Sack 1957.JPG


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sad_Sack


***********************


I recently learned about The Purple Gang, and was very amused to find out that they were real life characters. It sounds like the name of a psychedelic band from the late sixties but, as you mentioned, they were gangsters operating in Detroit during the 20s :


The Purple Gang.jpg



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Purple_Gang


****************


And speaking of gangsters, "Bugs" Moran, was one of the best ! I was familiar with this character through the unforgettable Roger Corman film "The St. Valentine's Day Massacre" (1967), where we can see Moran's rivalry with Capone. A very entertaining movie. But I had never made the connection between this character and the lyrics of "Jailhouse Rock". Now I'm a happier man !


Moran.JPG



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bugs_Moran


******************


I had never heard of "Little" Joe Burton, either. Very nice information. Here's a sleeve from a 1957 album, and a little bit more about him. Yes, he was a pianist, but in "Jailhouse Rock" L&S made him blow "on the slide trombone". Very funny ! :


Joe Burton 1957.jpg


http://www.allmusic.com/artist/joe-burton-mn0000723956/biography


**************


Finally, John Willie "Shifty" Henry is a bit more familiar, because he wrote the classic "Let Me Go Home, Whiskey", a big hit for Amos Milburn in early 1953 :

phpBB [video]


Amos Milburn and his Aladdin Chickenshackers - "Let Me Go Home, Whiskey" - Aladdin single 3164 - Released January 1953.


Henry appeared briefly playing bass in a night club scene included in the great 1950 b-movie "D.O.A.". This film starred Edmond O'Brien, who also appeared six years later as one of the leading characters in the rock and roll movie "The Girl Can't Help It". He's the guy laughing out loud during Eddie Cochran's performance.

Here's the complete "D.O.A." film, and a screen grab from the relevant scene where Henry appears :


phpBB [video]




Shifty Henry DOA.jpg


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shifty_Henry
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

Re: Jailhouse Rock - The Lyrics.

Sun Sep 14, 2014 12:44 am

When I had quick scan through the book yesterday the pages on Jailhouse Rock jumped out.So much background information.Can't wait to get my teeth into the book properly.The first volume is one of my favourite Elvis books and I'm sure this one will be just as enjoyable and educational.



norrie

Re: Jailhouse Rock - The Lyrics.

Sun Sep 14, 2014 1:39 am

Mister Moon wrote:I had never heard of "Little" Joe Burton, either. Very nice information. Here's a sleeve from a 1957 album, and a little bit more about him. Yes, he was a pianist, but in "Jailhouse Rock" L&S made him blow "on the slide trombone". Very funny ! :


And I think this is where this kind of information becomes problematic. If the book has an interview with Leiber and Stoller saying that they based the characters on real people, then all well and good (and mysterytrain doesn't disclose this).

If we haven't got this information from the composers, then it's simply an issue of putting a case together which then falls apart when an apparent piano player is playing the trombone. Some of those names, most notably Little Joe and Bugsy, are generic nick-names that many people have. Little Joe may not have been a reference to Burton at all. After all, he wasn't a "noted" jazz musician, but a highly obscure one, acting mostly as an accompanist in recording sessions in the early 50s. Sure, he had a few sessions under his own name by the time Jailhouse Rock was recorded, but only one album. And why make him a trombonist? That makes no sense if the character is supposedly Joe Burton. Rather oddly, there was a trombonist called Little Joe Burton, but he wasn't around until the 1970s. And who was Spider Murphy? If everyone else was based on a real person, then presumably he must have been too. Having said that, the name-check of "Shifty Henry" has been known for some time.

Did sad sack refer to the comic book character, or to the generic nickname for someone who's a bit useless ("sad sack of sh*t" to give its full title)? There was probably a "sad sack" in every prison in 1957. While Elvis sings "Sad Sack," the sheet music refers to "The sad sack" - and we don't know if Elvis simply dropped the "the" during the recording process, especially as the verse only appears in the master take, or whether the sheet music was mis-printed and not representative of Leiber and Stoller's intentions.

I'm not saying what has been written is untrue - but unless we got the info from the composers in some way, some of the names are just too commonly used to pinpoint a real-life character and be sure it is correct.

Re: Jailhouse Rock - The Lyrics.

Sun Sep 14, 2014 2:03 am

Mister Moon wrote:
mysterytrainrideson wrote:I always used to think that the lyrics to "Jailhouse Rock" was just clever wordplay from songwriting giants Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller, that is, until i read, Trevor Simpson's great new book (which i got yesterday) "The Best Of British - The RCA Years 1957-1958".

Some of the lyrics to the song are actually based on real life characters. What i'm gonna do here is give you a quick rundown of what is what, if you want the full picture with photo illustrations etc, may i suggest you get this book, it's fabulous.

PURPLE GANG - is an actual gang of Jewish bootleggers who operated in Detroit in the 20's. Though they were mainly into bootleg alcohol, other crimes were Murder, prostitution etc. They allegedly formed an alliance with Al Capone.

SAD SACK - is an American ficitional comic book character created by Sgt. George Baker during WW11.

LITTLE JOE & SHIFTY HENRY - Little Joe is a noted Jazz musician from Chicago, real name Joe Burton. He later joined BB Kings band in 1960. John Willie "Shifty" Henry was a bass player out of Texas and was also a noted Blues Songwriter.

BUGSY - is Bugs Moran eho spent most of his time battling with Al Capone.

This is all fascinating info that i've learnt today. Whether some of this info is already known, i can't say, it certainly is new to me. Another great piece of the puzzle to the Presley story.

Thanks Trevor Simpson for the book.

All praise to Jerry Leiber (RIP) & Mike Stoller fir such a memorable and fantastic song, without we will be lost.

Q - Whats the hardest song you've ever sang?
A - "Jailhouse Rock" it practically leaves my tongue hanging out.
From a 1957 interview.


This is a very cool post, mysterytrainrideson. Thank you very much. I hope you don't mind if I expand it a little bit.

There are several Leiber & Stoller songs featuring mentions of famous characters. This verse from "Searchin'" comes to mind, which namechecks six fictional private investigators :

Well, Sherlock Holmes,
Sam Spade got nothin', child, on me,
Sergeant Friday, Charlie Chan,
And Boston Blackie.
No matter where she's hidin',
She's gonna hear me a comin',
Gonna walk right down that street
Like Bulldog Drummond.



***********************


Regarding the characters in "Jailhouse Rock", I had never heard of the "Sad Sack" comic magazines. Here's a cover from... November 1957 :


Sad Sack 1957.JPG


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sad_Sack


***********************


I recently learned about The Purple Gang, and was very amused to find out that they were real life characters. It sounds like the name of a psychedelic band from the late sixties but, as you mentioned, they were gangsters operating in Detroit during the 20s :


The Purple Gang.jpg



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Purple_Gang


****************


And speaking of gangsters, "Bugs" Moran, was one of the best ! I was familiar with this character through the unforgettable Roger Corman film "The St. Valentine's Day Massacre" (1967), where we can see Moran's rivalry with Capone. A very entertaining movie. But I had never made the connection between this character and the lyrics of "Jailhouse Rock". Now I'm a happier man !


Moran.JPG



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bugs_Moran


******************


I had never heard of "Little" Joe Burton, either. Very nice information. Here's a sleeve from a 1957 album, and a little bit more about him. Yes, he was a pianist, but in "Jailhouse Rock" L&S made him blow "on the slide trombone". Very funny ! :


Joe Burton 1957.jpg


http://www.allmusic.com/artist/joe-burton-mn0000723956/biography


**************


Finally, John Willie "Shifty" Henry is a bit more familiar, because he wrote the classic "Let Me Go Home, Whiskey", a big hit for Amos Milburn in early 1953 :

phpBB [video]


Amos Milburn and his Aladdin Chickenshackers - "Let Me Go Home, Whiskey" - Aladdin single 3164 - Released January 1953.


Henry appeared briefly playing bass in a night club scene included in the great 1950 b-movie "D.O.A.". This film starred Edmond O'Brien, who also appeared six years later as one of the leading characters in the rock and roll movie "The Girl Can't Help It". He's the guy laughing out loud during Eddie Cochran's performance.

Here's the complete "D.O.A." film, and a screen grab from the relevant scene where Henry appears :


phpBB [video]




Shifty Henry DOA.jpg


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shifty_Henry

Wow ! Thank you, Mister Moon. This post is fabulous. The picture you posted of The Purple gang is in the Trevor Simpson book.

Just a bit more info - the identity of "Spider Murphy" is still yet to be resolved....maybe one day someone will find him.

Re: Jailhouse Rock - The Lyrics.

Sun Sep 14, 2014 2:07 am

poormadpeter wrote:
Mister Moon wrote:I had never heard of "Little" Joe Burton, either. Very nice information. Here's a sleeve from a 1957 album, and a little bit more about him. Yes, he was a pianist, but in "Jailhouse Rock" L&S made him blow "on the slide trombone". Very funny ! :


And I think this is where this kind of information becomes problematic. If the book has an interview with Leiber and Stoller saying that they based the characters on real people, then all well and good (and mysterytrain doesn't disclose this).

If we haven't got this information from the composers, then it's simply an issue of putting a case together which then falls apart when an apparent piano player is playing the trombone. Some of those names, most notably Little Joe and Bugsy, are generic nick-names that many people have. Little Joe may not have been a reference to Burton at all. After all, he wasn't a "noted" jazz musician, but a highly obscure one, acting mostly as an accompanist in recording sessions in the early 50s. Sure, he had a few sessions under his own name by the time Jailhouse Rock was recorded, but only one album. And why make him a trombonist? That makes no sense if the character is supposedly Joe Burton. Rather oddly, there was a trombonist called Little Joe Burton, but he wasn't around until the 1970s. And who was Spider Murphy? If everyone else was based on a real person, then presumably he must have been too. Having said that, the name-check of "Shifty Henry" has been known for some time.

Did sad sack refer to the comic book character, or to the generic nickname for someone who's a bit useless ("sad sack of sh*t" to give its full title)? There was probably a "sad sack" in every prison in 1957. While Elvis sings "Sad Sack," the sheet music refers to "The sad sack" - and we don't know if Elvis simply dropped the "the" during the recording process, especially as the verse only appears in the master take, or whether the sheet music was mis-printed and not representative of Leiber and Stoller's intentions.

I'm not saying what has been written is untrue - but unless we got the info from the composers in some way, some of the names are just too commonly used to pinpoint a real-life character and be sure it is correct.

You are full of sh*t !!

Re: Jailhouse Rock - The Lyrics.

Sun Sep 14, 2014 2:24 am

poormadpeter wrote:
Mister Moon wrote:I had never heard of "Little" Joe Burton, either. Very nice information. Here's a sleeve from a 1957 album, and a little bit more about him. Yes, he was a pianist, but in "Jailhouse Rock" L&S made him blow "on the slide trombone". Very funny ! :


And I think this is where this kind of information becomes problematic. If the book has an interview with Leiber and Stoller saying that they based the characters on real people, then all well and good (and mysterytrain doesn't disclose this).

If we haven't got this information from the composers, then it's simply an issue of putting a case together which then falls apart when an apparent piano player is playing the trombone. Some of those names, most notably Little Joe and Bugsy, are generic nick-names that many people have. Little Joe may not have been a reference to Burton at all. After all, he wasn't a "noted" jazz musician, but a highly obscure one, acting mostly as an accompanist in recording sessions in the early 50s. Sure, he had a few sessions under his own name by the time Jailhouse Rock was recorded, but only one album. And why make him a trombonist? That makes no sense if the character is supposedly Joe Burton. Rather oddly, there was a trombonist called Little Joe Burton, but he wasn't around until the 1970s. And who was Spider Murphy? If everyone else was based on a real person, then presumably he must have been too. Having said that, the name-check of "Shifty Henry" has been known for some time.

Did sad sack refer to the comic book character, or to the generic nickname for someone who's a bit useless ("sad sack of sh*t" to give its full title)? There was probably a "sad sack" in every prison in 1957. While Elvis sings "Sad Sack," the sheet music refers to "The sad sack" - and we don't know if Elvis simply dropped the "the" during the recording process, especially as the verse only appears in the master take, or whether the sheet music was mis-printed and not representative of Leiber and Stoller's intentions.

I'm not saying what has been written is untrue - but unless we got the info from the composers in some way, some of the names are just too commonly used to pinpoint a real-life character and be sure it is correct.


Wow you simply never top amazing. Perhaps you should devote your time to analyzing Steve Allen'a 4500 hits. The OP was great.

Re: Jailhouse Rock - The Lyrics.

Sun Sep 14, 2014 2:35 am

fn2drive wrote:
poormadpeter wrote:
Mister Moon wrote:I had never heard of "Little" Joe Burton, either. Very nice information. Here's a sleeve from a 1957 album, and a little bit more about him. Yes, he was a pianist, but in "Jailhouse Rock" L&S made him blow "on the slide trombone". Very funny ! :


And I think this is where this kind of information becomes problematic. If the book has an interview with Leiber and Stoller saying that they based the characters on real people, then all well and good (and mysterytrain doesn't disclose this).

If we haven't got this information from the composers, then it's simply an issue of putting a case together which then falls apart when an apparent piano player is playing the trombone. Some of those names, most notably Little Joe and Bugsy, are generic nick-names that many people have. Little Joe may not have been a reference to Burton at all. After all, he wasn't a "noted" jazz musician, but a highly obscure one, acting mostly as an accompanist in recording sessions in the early 50s. Sure, he had a few sessions under his own name by the time Jailhouse Rock was recorded, but only one album. And why make him a trombonist? That makes no sense if the character is supposedly Joe Burton. Rather oddly, there was a trombonist called Little Joe Burton, but he wasn't around until the 1970s. And who was Spider Murphy? If everyone else was based on a real person, then presumably he must have been too. Having said that, the name-check of "Shifty Henry" has been known for some time.

Did sad sack refer to the comic book character, or to the generic nickname for someone who's a bit useless ("sad sack of sh*t" to give its full title)? There was probably a "sad sack" in every prison in 1957. While Elvis sings "Sad Sack," the sheet music refers to "The sad sack" - and we don't know if Elvis simply dropped the "the" during the recording process, especially as the verse only appears in the master take, or whether the sheet music was mis-printed and not representative of Leiber and Stoller's intentions.

I'm not saying what has been written is untrue - but unless we got the info from the composers in some way, some of the names are just too commonly used to pinpoint a real-life character and be sure it is correct.


Wow you simply never top amazing. Perhaps you should devote your time to analyzing Steve Allen'a 4500 hits. The OP was great.


I never said it wasn't. What I said was that certain elements of the information don't quite add up and/or are unproveable because of the common use of names such as Little Joe or sad sack. If Little Joe is based on Little Joe why is he playing a trombone? If "sad sack" refers to Sad Sack the character, why does the sheet music refer to "The sad sack" - not only is the "the" added but the words "sad sack" are not capitalised. These are valid issues that need to be taken into account before we simply accept information put before us.

Re: Jailhouse Rock - The Lyrics.

Sun Sep 14, 2014 5:14 am

poormadpeter wrote:
fn2drive wrote:
poormadpeter wrote:
Mister Moon wrote:I had never heard of "Little" Joe Burton, either. Very nice information. Here's a sleeve from a 1957 album, and a little bit more about him. Yes, he was a pianist, but in "Jailhouse Rock" L&S made him blow "on the slide trombone". Very funny ! :


And I think this is where this kind of information becomes problematic. If the book has an interview with Leiber and Stoller saying that they based the characters on real people, then all well and good (and mysterytrain doesn't disclose this).

If we haven't got this information from the composers, then it's simply an issue of putting a case together which then falls apart when an apparent piano player is playing the trombone. Some of those names, most notably Little Joe and Bugsy, are generic nick-names that many people have. Little Joe may not have been a reference to Burton at all. After all, he wasn't a "noted" jazz musician, but a highly obscure one, acting mostly as an accompanist in recording sessions in the early 50s. Sure, he had a few sessions under his own name by the time Jailhouse Rock was recorded, but only one album. And why make him a trombonist? That makes no sense if the character is supposedly Joe Burton. Rather oddly, there was a trombonist called Little Joe Burton, but he wasn't around until the 1970s. And who was Spider Murphy? If everyone else was based on a real person, then presumably he must have been too. Having said that, the name-check of "Shifty Henry" has been known for some time.

Did sad sack refer to the comic book character, or to the generic nickname for someone who's a bit useless ("sad sack of sh*t" to give its full title)? There was probably a "sad sack" in every prison in 1957. While Elvis sings "Sad Sack," the sheet music refers to "The sad sack" - and we don't know if Elvis simply dropped the "the" during the recording process, especially as the verse only appears in the master take, or whether the sheet music was mis-printed and not representative of Leiber and Stoller's intentions.

I'm not saying what has been written is untrue - but unless we got the info from the composers in some way, some of the names are just too commonly used to pinpoint a real-life character and be sure it is correct.


Wow you simply never top amazing. Perhaps you should devote your time to analyzing Steve Allen'a 4500 hits. The OP was great.


I never said it wasn't. What I said was that certain elements of the information don't quite add up and/or are unproveable because of the common use of names such as Little Joe or sad sack. If Little Joe is based on Little Joe why is he playing a trombone? If "sad sack" refers to Sad Sack the character, why does the sheet music refer to "The sad sack" - not only is the "the" added but the words "sad sack" are not capitalised. These are valid issues that need to be taken into account before we simply accept information put before us.



Good grief. Seriously fella?

Re: Jailhouse Rock - The Lyrics.

Sun Sep 14, 2014 7:32 am

poormadpeter wrote:
Mister Moon wrote:I had never heard of "Little" Joe Burton, either. Very nice information. Here's a sleeve from a 1957 album, and a little bit more about him. Yes, he was a pianist, but in "Jailhouse Rock" L&S made him blow "on the slide trombone". Very funny ! :


And I think this is where this kind of information becomes problematic. If the book has an interview with Leiber and Stoller saying that they based the characters on real people, then all well and good (and mysterytrain doesn't disclose this).

If we haven't got this information from the composers, then it's simply an issue of putting a case together which then falls apart when an apparent piano player is playing the trombone. Some of those names, most notably Little Joe and Bugsy, are generic nick-names that many people have. Little Joe may not have been a reference to Burton at all. After all, he wasn't a "noted" jazz musician, but a highly obscure one, acting mostly as an accompanist in recording sessions in the early 50s. Sure, he had a few sessions under his own name by the time Jailhouse Rock was recorded, but only one album. And why make him a trombonist? That makes no sense if the character is supposedly Joe Burton. Rather oddly, there was a trombonist called Little Joe Burton, but he wasn't around until the 1970s. And who was Spider Murphy? If everyone else was based on a real person, then presumably he must have been too. Having said that, the name-check of "Shifty Henry" has been known for some time.

Did sad sack refer to the comic book character, or to the generic nickname for someone who's a bit useless ("sad sack of sh*t" to give its full title)? There was probably a "sad sack" in every prison in 1957. While Elvis sings "Sad Sack," the sheet music refers to "The sad sack" - and we don't know if Elvis simply dropped the "the" during the recording process, especially as the verse only appears in the master take, or whether the sheet music was mis-printed and not representative of Leiber and Stoller's intentions.

I'm not saying what has been written is untrue - but unless we got the info from the composers in some way, some of the names are just too commonly used to pinpoint a real-life character and be sure it is correct.


I thought about these issues, too, poormadpeter. Thank you.

I don't have the book, but I just assumed that the author, who is a frequent contributor to the reliable ETMAHM magazine, did a serious research before stating these "facts", not just a mention of assumptions based on name coincidences.

It would be interesting to know if the book includes more information about this subject.

Also, maybe FECC member PStoller could lend us a hand.

mysterytrain - could you, as the author of this topic, send him a PM ?

Thanks !

Re: Jailhouse Rock - The Lyrics.

Sun Sep 14, 2014 9:38 am

Very very nice and interesting topic, this makes even bigger this great song, definitely a true masterpiece

Re: Jailhouse Rock - The Lyrics.

Sun Sep 14, 2014 12:02 pm

Mister Moon wrote:
poormadpeter wrote:
Mister Moon wrote:I had never heard of "Little" Joe Burton, either. Very nice information. Here's a sleeve from a 1957 album, and a little bit more about him. Yes, he was a pianist, but in "Jailhouse Rock" L&S made him blow "on the slide trombone". Very funny ! :


And I think this is where this kind of information becomes problematic. If the book has an interview with Leiber and Stoller saying that they based the characters on real people, then all well and good (and mysterytrain doesn't disclose this).

If we haven't got this information from the composers, then it's simply an issue of putting a case together which then falls apart when an apparent piano player is playing the trombone. Some of those names, most notably Little Joe and Bugsy, are generic nick-names that many people have. Little Joe may not have been a reference to Burton at all. After all, he wasn't a "noted" jazz musician, but a highly obscure one, acting mostly as an accompanist in recording sessions in the early 50s. Sure, he had a few sessions under his own name by the time Jailhouse Rock was recorded, but only one album. And why make him a trombonist? That makes no sense if the character is supposedly Joe Burton. Rather oddly, there was a trombonist called Little Joe Burton, but he wasn't around until the 1970s. And who was Spider Murphy? If everyone else was based on a real person, then presumably he must have been too. Having said that, the name-check of "Shifty Henry" has been known for some time.

Did sad sack refer to the comic book character, or to the generic nickname for someone who's a bit useless ("sad sack of sh*t" to give its full title)? There was probably a "sad sack" in every prison in 1957. While Elvis sings "Sad Sack," the sheet music refers to "The sad sack" - and we don't know if Elvis simply dropped the "the" during the recording process, especially as the verse only appears in the master take, or whether the sheet music was mis-printed and not representative of Leiber and Stoller's intentions.

I'm not saying what has been written is untrue - but unless we got the info from the composers in some way, some of the names are just too commonly used to pinpoint a real-life character and be sure it is correct.


I thought about these issues, too, poormadpeter. Thank you.

I don't have the book, but I just assumed that the author, who is a frequent contributor to the reliable ETMAHM magazine, did a serious research before stating these "facts", not just a mention of assumptions based on name coincidences.

It would be interesting to know if the book includes more information about this subject.

Also, maybe FECC member PStoller could lend us a hand.

mysterytrain - could you, as the author of this topic, send him a PM ?

Thanks !

I've just sent PStoller an email, so with any luck he'll provide us with additional info.

Re: Jailhouse Rock - The Lyrics.

Sun Sep 14, 2014 12:23 pm

poormadpeter wrote:If "sad sack" refers to Sad Sack the character, why does the sheet music refer to "The sad sack"


Exactly. You're right, simple as that.


mysterytrainrideson wrote:I've just sent PStoller an email, so with any luck he'll provide us with additional info.


If he's familiar with your posts, I doubt it.

Re: Jailhouse Rock - The Lyrics.

Sun Sep 14, 2014 1:43 pm

poormadpeter wrote:
Mister Moon wrote:I had never heard of "Little" Joe Burton, either. Very nice information. Here's a sleeve from a 1957 album, and a little bit more about him. Yes, he was a pianist, but in "Jailhouse Rock" L&S made him blow "on the slide trombone". Very funny ! :


And I think this is where this kind of information becomes problematic. If the book has an interview with Leiber and Stoller saying that they based the characters on real people, then all well and good (and mysterytrain doesn't disclose this).

If we haven't got this information from the composers, then it's simply an issue of putting a case together which then falls apart when an apparent piano player is playing the trombone. Some of those names, most notably Little Joe and Bugsy, are generic nick-names that many people have. Little Joe may not have been a reference to Burton at all. After all, he wasn't a "noted" jazz musician, but a highly obscure one, acting mostly as an accompanist in recording sessions in the early 50s. Sure, he had a few sessions under his own name by the time Jailhouse Rock was recorded, but only one album. And why make him a trombonist? That makes no sense if the character is supposedly Joe Burton. Rather oddly, there was a trombonist called Little Joe Burton, but he wasn't around until the 1970s. And who was Spider Murphy? If everyone else was based on a real person, then presumably he must have been too. Having said that, the name-check of "Shifty Henry" has been known for some time.

Did sad sack refer to the comic book character, or to the generic nickname for someone who's a bit useless ("sad sack of sh*t" to give its full title)? There was probably a "sad sack" in every prison in 1957. While Elvis sings "Sad Sack," the sheet music refers to "The sad sack" - and we don't know if Elvis simply dropped the "the" during the recording process, especially as the verse only appears in the master take, or whether the sheet music was mis-printed and not representative of Leiber and Stoller's intentions.

I'm not saying what has been written is untrue - but unless we got the info from the composers in some way, some of the names are just too commonly used to pinpoint a real-life character and be sure it is correct.

Though i do not state in my original post what instrument "little Joe" played, but i checked the book again and he is listed as a trombonist. I just did a quick rundown of each character.

But that doesn't necessarily mean to say that what you are saying, poormadpeter is correct, because it's not.

Songwriters often change lyrics to suit the song, be it for comic effect, making words rhyme etc. So they may switch the real life characters occupation around a bit, thats the art of songwriting. But that doesn't mean to say they are not based on real life characters.

IIRC, the classic Leiber & Stoller song "Charlie Brown" is based on a real life character that either Jerry or Mike knew at school, but i don't think Charlie Brown was his real name, i seem to remember is real name being mentioned in an article but can't remember what it was. Every class in every school has it's jokers or clowns. I don't suppose in the song that this Charlie Brown fella did everything the lyrics say he did, but there's certainly elements if truth in the character, but jerry and Mike wrote lyrics for comic effect to make the song more exciting, which is obviously the whole idea behind the song.

Re: Jailhouse Rock - The Lyrics.

Sun Sep 14, 2014 2:26 pm

Here's some British chart history :

"Jailhouse Rock" was Britains 67th No.1. It replaced Jerry Lee Lewis' "Great Balls Of Fire" from the No.1 spot. It remain No.1 for 3 weeks before being replaced by Liverpool crooner Michael Holliday with "The Story Of My Life". "Jailhouse Rock" remained in the charts for an incredible 20 weeks.

Because of advanced orders for the single, it created a problem for Decca UK who had the task of manufactoring the vinyl. They solved the problem by delaying the scheduled release date by one week, releasing it on the 17th Jan 1958.

Re: Jailhouse Rock - The Lyrics.

Sun Sep 14, 2014 3:29 pm

mysterytrainrideson wrote:
poormadpeter wrote:
Mister Moon wrote:I had never heard of "Little" Joe Burton, either. Very nice information. Here's a sleeve from a 1957 album, and a little bit more about him. Yes, he was a pianist, but in "Jailhouse Rock" L&S made him blow "on the slide trombone". Very funny ! :


And I think this is where this kind of information becomes problematic. If the book has an interview with Leiber and Stoller saying that they based the characters on real people, then all well and good (and mysterytrain doesn't disclose this).

If we haven't got this information from the composers, then it's simply an issue of putting a case together which then falls apart when an apparent piano player is playing the trombone. Some of those names, most notably Little Joe and Bugsy, are generic nick-names that many people have. Little Joe may not have been a reference to Burton at all. After all, he wasn't a "noted" jazz musician, but a highly obscure one, acting mostly as an accompanist in recording sessions in the early 50s. Sure, he had a few sessions under his own name by the time Jailhouse Rock was recorded, but only one album. And why make him a trombonist? That makes no sense if the character is supposedly Joe Burton. Rather oddly, there was a trombonist called Little Joe Burton, but he wasn't around until the 1970s. And who was Spider Murphy? If everyone else was based on a real person, then presumably he must have been too. Having said that, the name-check of "Shifty Henry" has been known for some time.

Did sad sack refer to the comic book character, or to the generic nickname for someone who's a bit useless ("sad sack of sh*t" to give its full title)? There was probably a "sad sack" in every prison in 1957. While Elvis sings "Sad Sack," the sheet music refers to "The sad sack" - and we don't know if Elvis simply dropped the "the" during the recording process, especially as the verse only appears in the master take, or whether the sheet music was mis-printed and not representative of Leiber and Stoller's intentions.

I'm not saying what has been written is untrue - but unless we got the info from the composers in some way, some of the names are just too commonly used to pinpoint a real-life character and be sure it is correct.

Though i do not state in my original post what instrument "little Joe" played, but i checked the book again and he is listed as a trombonist. I just did a quick rundown of each character.

But that doesn't necessarily mean to say that what you are saying, poormadpeter is correct, because it's not.

Songwriters often change lyrics to suit the song, be it for comic effect, making words rhyme etc. So they may switch the real life characters occupation around a bit, thats the art of songwriting. But that doesn't mean to say they are not based on real life characters.

IIRC, the classic Leiber & Stoller song "Charlie Brown" is based on a real life character that either Jerry or Mike knew at school, but i don't think Charlie Brown was his real name, i seem to remember is real name being mentioned in an article but can't remember what it was. Every class in every school has it's jokers or clowns. I don't suppose in the song that this Charlie Brown fella did everything the lyrics say he did, but there's certainly elements if truth in the character, but jerry and Mike wrote lyrics for comic effect to make the song more exciting, which is obviously the whole idea behind the song.


Most people with a serious knowledge of jazz knows who Joe Burton was, and what he played, despite his only brief attempts at being a leader. My point is simply that, unless the info comes from the composers, we have no way of proving whether generic names like "the sad sack" and "little Joe" were based on real people. There is, for example, nothing mentioned in their interview for Writing for the King, despite the fact that the book is actually about the actual song-writing process.

Re: Jailhouse Rock - The Lyrics.

Sun Sep 14, 2014 5:23 pm

mysterytrainrideson wrote:Here's some British chart history :

"Jailhouse Rock" was Britains 67th No.1. It replaced Jerry Lee Lewis' "Great Balls Of Fire" from the No.1 spot. It remain No.1 for 3 weeks before being replaced by Liverpool crooner Michael Holliday with "The Story Of My Life". "Jailhouse Rock" remained in the charts for an incredible 20 weeks.

Because of advanced orders for the single, it created a problem for Decca UK who had the task of manufactoring the vinyl. They solved the problem by delaying the scheduled release date by one week, releasing it on the 17th Jan 1958.

In the U.K 'Jailhouse Rock' charted again four more times:
#42 in 1971
#44 in 1977
#27 in 1983
#1 in 2005 (The U'K's 999th No.1 hit record)

Re: Jailhouse Rock - The Lyrics.

Sun Sep 14, 2014 6:26 pm

And while we're at it, what about Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel ? :

Benjamin Siegel (February 28, 1906 – June 20, 1947) was an American mobster with the Luciano crime family. Nicknamed "Bugsy", Siegel was known as one of the most "infamous and feared gangsters of his day". Described as handsome and charismatic, he became one of the first front-page-celebrity gangsters. He was also a driving force behind the development of the Las Vegas Strip.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bugsy_Siegel


Bugsy Siegel.jpg
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