Elvis Presley is held by guards Carl Sax (left) and Hubi Kearns (right) as Warden Hugh Sanders prepares to sentence Elvis for creating a disturbance in prison in a scene from the 1957 film Jailhouse Rock.
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Elvis Presley's 'Jailhouse Rock' Name-Drops a Real Life Group of Bootleggers


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Elvis Presley knew how to be the talk of the town, releasing fun and interesting songs throughout his career, including, "Jailhouse Rock," which caused quite the commotion. The tune is, of course, a classic song by the King of Rock 'n Roll, and it was recorded for the 1957 film of the same name. The musical drama stars Presley, Judy Tyler, Mickey Shaunessy, Vaughn Taylor and Jennifer Holden, and while the film itself is remembered by fans, "Jailhouse Rock" has taken on a life of its own beyond the film as one of Presley's most classic hits.

"Jailhouse Rock" was written by songwriter and producer duo Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who wrote other Presley hits such as "Hound Dog" and "Love Me." The duo was assigned to write the song, as well as others, for the movie. According to The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits, the duo received a copy of the movie script and the producers looked to Leiber and Stoller to write the songs for specific scenes.

"We would get a script marked off where they wanted some type of song, like 'Scene II, Elvis is with so-and-so and needs a love song,'" Leiber said (quote via CheatSheet). "The love songs were a great problem, because I can't really write love songs. But that was the least of it. I certainly would never have written a song like 'Jailhouse Rock,' for example, if somebody hadn't said 'Look, there's going to be a big production number in a jail.'"

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In the case of Jailhouse Rock, the duo was tasked with writing multiple songs, and they didn't write them until Presley's manager, Colonel Tom Parker, put pressure on them. Stoller shared with Tablet Magazine that Parker camped out in their hotel room while they finished the songs, and they wrote "Jailhouse Rock," "I Want to Be Free," "Treat Me Nice" and "(You're So Square) Baby I Don't Care" in a matter of hours.

"Anyway, he had come in and said, 'Where's my songs?' and Jerry said, 'Oh, you'll have them,'" Stoller says. "He said, 'I know,' he said, 'because I'm not leaving until I have them.' And because we hadn't started even looking at the script so we were locked in, he pushed his chair over in front of the door for the way out, and he said,' I'm going to take a nap.' And about four or five hours later, we got our freedom and we had finished those songs."

The song features references to various inmates, and many of these were named after real-life people. The "Shifty Henry" character, for example, was a musician in L.A. and The Purple Gang were a real criminal mob of bootleggers. The tune finds Presley's character and these real-life and imagined characters having a raging party thrown by the warden in the middle of the jail.

Although the writing process was somewhat rushed, MGM Producers were happy with "Jailhouse Rock," and it was after the song was written that the movie title was changed from the working title, Ghost of a Chance, to Jailhouse Rock. The song is memorable for the musical dance number Presley and his fellow inmates perform in the movie. Stoller also appears in the movie as the piano player.

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"Jailhouse Rock" was a hit following its release, spending seven weeks atop the top of the US charts. The tune has since received many other accolades, including being included on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, being named one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll and being inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

'Jailhouse Rock' Lyrics:

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 them 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
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 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 awhile 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

Read More: 'Elvis' Movie Trailer: Austin Butler, Tom Hanks Star in Elvis Presley Biopic

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