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'Wake Up Little Susie' became a hit despite 'suggestive' lyrics

'Wake Up Little Susie' became a hit despite 'suggestive' lyrics

October 11th, 2018 by Doug Davis in Features

This week in 1957: Jimmy Hoffa was elected president of Intl. Brotherhood Of Teamsters; twenty-two nations voted to support the United States plan to limit outer space to peaceful purposes only; Premier Khrushchev said the Soviets were willing to bring their earth satellite and all pilotless missiles under international control in a pact with the U.S.; and a singing brother duo had their second No. 1 record.

The Everly Brothers have often been called "an overnight success," and although the duo became one of the most successful music acts between 1957 and 1962—that success did not happen overnight.

Their father Ike Everly moved to Chicago in an effort to sustain a career in country music, but wound up in the Midwest. In 1955, he brought his family to Nashville, hoping his singing sons might find the success that had eluded him.

Don Everly did find some success as a writer, penning "Thou Shalt Not Steal" by Kitty Wells, two songs recorded by Justin Tubb and for Anita Carter.

Don and Phil signed a recording contract with Columbia Records, but after four songs, the label terminated their contract and released them. Then the man who later became their record producer turned them down the first time he heard them because he didn't like their sound.

Archie Bleyer, who initially turned them down, was searching for a country act for his Cadence Records. But after a second listen, he gave Don and Phil a recording contract.

Don and Phil had scored their first No. 1 earlier with "Bye Bye Love," when Wesley Rose, of Acuff Rose Music, took the song "Wake Up Little Susie" to Bleyer, who immediately disliked the song because of the lyrics. The song was written by Boudleaux and Felice Bryant. Bleyer said it sounded like Susie and the boyfriend had slept together at the drive-in movie.

But Don and Phil recorded the song despite Bleyer's objection.

Although the record was banned by some radio stations because of its "suggestive lyrics," it entered the country music charts Sept. 30, 1957 and quickly made it to the No. 1 spot, where it stayed for 22 weeks. The record was also No. 1 in pop music the week of Oct. 14, 1957.

The Everly Brothers were unique to the music business not only for their commercially crafted recordings, but because they were one of the first consistently successful acts in both country and Rock 'n Roll music to come out of Nashville. Their songs came from Nashville songwriters, were recorded in Nashville with Nashville musicians, yet left their mark on both pop and country music charts.


Doug Davis & The Good Ole Boys will perform at 10 a.m. today at Opportunities Inc. Senior Day Center.

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