It reached number 8 on the Billboard Country charts in 1959, but this is the kind of song that crosses genres. By the late 1950s rock & roll was the most controversial and dominant musical force in America, but there were still plenty of artists who could comfortably fit into country and rhythm & blues as well as rock charts. Johnny Cash was a performer who defied genre and expectation.
When Luther played that boogie woogie, the crowd ate it up!
We were just a plain ol’ hillbilly band with a plain ol’ country style
We never played the kind of songs that’d drive anybody wild
Played a railroad song with a stomping beat
We played a blues song, kinda slow and sweet
But the thing that knocked them off of their feet was, ooh-wee
Sounds to me like they added a little rock & roll. Luther played it in the strangest kind of way, and that’s what got the audience’s attention. The band started off with regular old hillbilly songs, you know, nothing spectacular. But here comes Luther with that devil boogie woogie, and what do you know? Ooh-wee!
If I could pick any decade to live in, I would choose to be a kid in the 50s when rock & roll was starting out. I’d want to experience the sensation of seeing Elvis for the first time, all the tingly loveliness that a young girl would enjoy while watching him swivel those hips. Witnessing Jerry Lee Lewis scare the shit out of parents with his crazy hair and suggestive lyrics would be electrifying. Screaming for Little Richard along with millions of other white girls, inducing panic in older folks.
That’s what this song is about for me. Waking people up from their daily routines and giving them something to be excited about. Music is supposed to do that for us.