But for the most part the story line about old ne’er-do-well Joe Turner rang very similar over time. So Joe Turner got his grizzly self put into song out in the Saturday juke joints out in places like the Mississippi Delta where more legends were formed than you could shake a stick, got sanctified once old Willie’s liquor, white lightning home-made liquor got to working, and some guy, maybe not the best singer if you asked around but a guy who could put words together to tell a story, a blues story, and that guy with a scratch guitar would put some verses together and the crowd would egg him on. Make the tale taller as the night went until everybody petered out and that song was left for the next guy to embellish.
In any case the Joe Turner, make that Big Joe, Turner I want to mention here as far as I know only stole the show when he got up on the bandstand and played the role of “godfather” of rock and roll. Yeah, that is what I want to talk about, about how one song, and specifically the place of Big Joe and one song, Shake Rattle and Roll in the rock pantheon. No question Big Joe and his snapping beat has a place in the history of rhythm and blues which is one of the musical forbear strands of rock and roll. The question is whether Shake is also the first serious effort to define rock and roll. If you look at the YouTube version of Big Joe be-bopping away with his guitar player doing some flinty stuff and that sax player searching for that high white note and Big Joe snapping away being very suggestive about who should shake and what she should shake you can make a very strong case for that place. Add in that Bill Haley, Jerry Lee, and Elvis among others in the rock pantheon covered the song successfully and that would seem to clinch the matter.