Pop Archives

Johnny O’Keefe - Shake, Baby, Shake (1957)

(Johnny O'Keefe*)
Australia Australia

On Festival EP Whole Lotta Shakin’, December 1957.

A rearranged version released in September 1963 charted in four capital cities (#21 Sydney #8 Melbourne #21 Brisbane #26 Adelaide). See below.

Also released in the USA on Brunswick, May 1958, and in the UK on Coral July 1958. Both were as B-sides of Real Wild Child (see The Wild One).

*The song is clearly an adaptation of the Hank Ballard composition Sexy Ways, recorded by Ballard’s group The Midnighters (1954). See below under The Midnighters.

• This EP wrongly credits the writer as Champion Jack Dupree whose Shake Baby Shake (1953) is a different song.
• The US and UK releases also credit Dupree.
• The 1963 re-recording by O’Keefe credits him as the writer.
• The Australian copyright societies APRA & AMCOS list the song with John Michael O’Keefe as the writer.

Johnny O’Keefe (1935-1978), known in Australia as “The Wild One”, “The King of Rock’n’Roll” or just “J. O’K.”, was a pioneer Australian rocker, a chart-topping artist in his home country. The TV mini-series Shout! The Story of Johnny O’Keefe (1985) was adapted as a stage musical in 2001. The definitive biography is Damian Johnstone’s The Wild One (2001).

Page updated Nov 2021 with thanks to John Pierce at 94.1FM Gold Coast and Tony Watson.
Suggestion and analysis from Terry Stacey.
I reassessed the Wayne Raney and Jesse Lee Turner version Jan 2022.

Champion Jack Dupree - Shake Baby Shake (1953)

(Champion Jack Dupree)
Red herring

Same title but not the same song as ‘Shake, Baby, Shake’ by Johnny O’Keefe.

45 rpm single on Red Robin, also on 78 rpm. Reissued on Vik, 1957. YouTube

Johnny O’Keefe’s Shake Baby Shake, (1957) inaccurately credits Dupree as writer of that song.

Champion Jack Dupree: blues singer and pianist, former boxer from New Orleans (William Thomas Dupree c.1910-1992). He recorded for several labels from the 40s, including Okeh, King and Atlantic. Later in life he lived in the UK and continued to record there.

Clarification: In his hit song Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On (1957) Jerry Lee Lewis prominently repeats the words shake, baby, shake. Song historian Joop Jansen suggests that Champion Jack Dupree’s 1957 rerelease of his Shake Baby Shake may have been a response to the success of Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On. However Lewis did not record Dupree’s Shake Baby Shake and there is no real connection between the two songs.

Johnny O’Keefe - Shake, Baby, Shake (1963)

(Johnny O'Keefe*)
Australia Australia
Later version
#21 Sydney #8 Melbourne #21 Brisbane #26 Adelaide

Single on Leedon September 1963, a re-recording with a new arrangement of O’Keefe’s 1957 EP track. Double-sided hit in Sydney with Good Luck Charm. Also on EP Shake Baby Shake And Twist And Shout (1964).

*The writer credit is now to O’Keefe. See note above under Johnny O’Keefe (1957).

This rearrangement loses the energetic pace and delivery of the original 1957 rocker. It has a similar feel to O’Keefe’s #1 hit Move Baby Move, released a few months earlier.

Wayne Raney - Shake Baby Shake (1957)

(Louie Ennis - Wayne Raney)

B-side on Decca February 1957 by country singer-songwriter and harmonica player from Arkansas (1921-1993). The lyric goes Shake baby shake baby shake.

Listen at YouTube

1. Like Johnny O’Keefe’s Shake Baby Shake, this song borrows from The Midnighters’ Sexy Ways (1954), written by Hank Ballard:

Hank Ballard’s I just love your sexy ways becomes I love your purty ways baby.
Ballard’s premise of shaking till something happens is intact, although with a fresh catalogue of consequences (till the roof falls on the floor).

2. Rayney’s recording also inserts a variation on Little Richard’s Rip It Up (1956) in this section:

Little Richard: I’m gonna rock it up, I’m gonna rip it up / I’m gonna shake it up, gonna ball it up / I’m gonna rock it up, and ball tonight
Wayne Rayney: You gotta romp it up, you gotta stomp it up / You gotta live it up, never give it up / You gotta keep it up, I just love those purty ways

Sources: 1. Discogs.com’s Wayne Raney biography. 2. Comments on the YouTube video, especially by John Montague who discusses Sexy Ways and Rip It Up as sources. 3. Audio comparisons.

Jesse Lee Turner - Shake Baby Shake (1958)

(Jesse Lee Turner)
Later version

B-side on Carlton YouTube December 1958 by singer-songwriter from Texas who released over a dozen singles on various labels, mostly from 1958 to 1962. The A-side of this track, The Little Space Girl, charted #20 Billboard, his only national hit.

This Shake Baby Shake also draws on Hank Ballard’s Sexy Ways musically, thematically and lyrically.

Verse 1:
Hank Ballard Shake baby shake shake shake / till the meat roll off your bones
Jesse Lee Turner Shake-a-baby shake-a-baby shake / before this dance is through

HB I just love your sexy ways
JLT I just love your carry on

Verse 2:
HB Wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle / Till your hips get tired and weak
JLT Wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle / When you dance across the floor

HB Upside down, all around…
JLT You bop around, all around…

It’s interesting to note that the phrase shake-a-baby shake-a-baby shake was also heard in Johnny O’Keefe’s earlier Australian version (December 1957).

Further reading: Short biography at All Music.

Celestine - Shake Baby Shake (1961)

(John Bizant)
Red herring

Same title but not the same song as ‘Shake, Baby, Shake’ by Johnny O’Keefe.

B-side on Adore, a small, short-lived New York label.

This appears to be the only output on record by Celestine or by writer John Bizant, and the only trace I can find of either.

Listen at YouTube

Red herring alert from Philippe Edouard.

The Midnighters - Sexy Ways (1954)

(Hank Ballard)
Original version

Single on Federal by Detroit group formed 1950 as The Royals, by now led by Hank Ballard, real name John Henry Kendricks (1927-2003), shown in the writer credit for Sexy Ways as Henry Ballard.

Ballard was a pioneer of what became rock’n’roll, an R&B singer and songwriter famous for writing and recording The Twist (1958), a B-side of his that was turned into a #1 hit and a dance craze by Chubby Checker (1960).

See also Ray Hoff & The Off BeatsLet’s Go, Let’s Go, Let’s Go (1966), another Hank Ballard composition.

Comparison of each song’s melody, structure, and lyrics leaves no doubt that O’Keefe’s Shake Baby Shake is an adaptation of The Midnighters’ Sexy Ways with some rewording and additional lyrics. The key line I love your sexy ways is not out of place among Ballard’s lyrics, but it has been watered down to I love your cute little ways on O’Keefe’s record, an unsurprising adjustment for an Australian audience of 1957.

Some lyrics from the first verse and the chorus of each song:

Hank Ballard Shake baby shake shake shake
Johnny O’Keefe Well, shake-a-baby shake-a-baby shake

HB till the meat roll off your bones
JO’K till the meat falls off the bone

HB till your mama and daddy comes home
JO’K till your mama and your papa come home

HB I just love your sexy ways
JO’K Well I love your cute little ways

HB Upside down, all around, any old way, just pound
JO’K Well, upside down, all around, any way you do it baby clown(?)

Listen to Shake Baby Shake variations: open in Spotify or use the embedded player above..

Sexy Ways was also released in the 60s and 70s by:
Ronnie Hawkins And The Hawks (1964) on The Best Of…
Jerry Lee Lewis (1965) on The Return Of Rock
Gene Vincent (1970) on I’m Back And I’m Proud
Shakin’ Stevens And The Sunsets (1976) on EP Sexy Ways.

See also: Sexy Ways at Second Hand Songs for a list with about 10 other versions from the 1980s and beyond.

Same title different song:
Crown Heights AffairSexy Ways (Arnold “Muki” Wilson – Britt Britton – Freida Nerangis) 1977
The EbonysSexy Ways (Kenny Gamble – Leon Huff) 1971
The Four TopsSexy Ways (Valjean Johns – Willie Hutch) 1985

Further reading: Steve Huey’s biography of Hank Ballard at All Music.

Ronnie Gallant - Shake, Shake, Baby (1962)

(Billy Myles)
Red herring

Similar title but not the same song as ‘Shake, Baby, Shake’ by Johnny O’Keefe.

B-side on NY label Starlite, also on Atlantic, by singer who released two singles in 1962 and nothing else, as far as I can see. This was written, arranged and produced by singer-songwriter Billy Myles (see Discogs.com for biography).

Listen at YouTube

Red herring alert from Terry Stacey.

Lee Bates - Shake, Baby, Shake (1976)

(Isaac Bolden)
Red herring

Same title but not the same song as ‘Shake, Baby, Shake’ by Johnny O’Keefe.

Single on Allen Toussaint’s label Sansu by New Orleans-based soul singer. Written, arranged and produced by Isaac Bolden (see discogs.com), as was the B-side Shake, Baby, Shake (Disco Version).

Listen at YouTube

Further reading: Detailed account of Lee Bates’s career at the Soul Detective blog.

Archibald And His Orchestra - Shake Shake Baby (1950)

(Leon T. Gross)
Red herring

Similar title, ‘Shake Shake Baby’, but not the same song as ‘Shake, Baby, Shake’ by Johnny O’Keefe.

78 rpm Imperial disc. also on 45 rpm single, an original composition by New Orleans singer-pianist Leon Gross (1912/16-1973) who used the stage name Archibald.

Possibly because Jerry Lee Lewis’s use of the phrase shake baby shake is so familiar, Shake Shake Baby is easily mistyped as Shake Baby Shake. The AllMusic biography of Archibald has the slip, as do several YouTube posts of the song.

Listen at YouTube.