We was down in Pahokee, on Lake Okeechobee.. out on a damn pond, fishin' and milkin' snakes .. drinkin' wine, mostly.. This guy down there had a big bell that he's ring to get us all to come in to dinner, an' I'd call over say, 'What's goin' on?' Colored guy said, 'We got twen'y-one drums, we got an old bass horn, an' they even keepin' time on a ding-dong.' See, that was the big bell they'd ring to git us t'come in.
On 21 March 1955, Big Maybelle made the first recording for Okeh Records. The songwriting was credited to D. C. Williams, and the record was produced by Quincy Jones. Roy Hall made a recording of the song in September 1955 for Decca Records and maintained that he had written it and had secured the legal copyright as co-writer under the pseudonym of "Sunny David". However, a Decca sample copy of Hall's recording lists Dave Williams as the sole writer. On the Pop Chronicles documentary, Jerry Lee Lewis incorrectly credited Big Mama Thornton. All subsequent recordings of the song (including Lewis' recording for Sun Records) list the composers as Sunny David and Dave Williams. Hall was also a Nashville club owner, who later claimed to have employed the young piano player Lewis at some point around 1954.
Lewis had been performing the song in his stage act and recorded it at his second recording session for Sun Records in February 1957. The release is reviewed in Billboard magazine on 27 May 1957. Supervised by producer Jack Clement, Lewis radically altered the original, adding a propulsive boogie piano that was complemented by J.M. Van Eaton's energetic drumming and Roland Janes' "muted" guitar and also added suggestive spoken asides. Lewis later stated: "I knew it was a hit when I cut it. Sam Phillips thought it was gonna be too risqué, it couldn't make it. If that's risqué, well, I'm sorry." The song was engineered by Jack "Cowboy" Clement, who told Lewis when he entered the studio, "We don't do much country around here. We're in the rock & roll business. You ought to go home and work up some rock & roll numbers".
In Lewis' biographical film, Great Balls of Fire!, Lewis is shown spying in on an African American speak-easy type club, listening to "Whole Lotta Shakin Goin' On" performed by a black woman, supposedly Big Maybelle. The part was played by the singer Valerie Wellington and her version was also on the film's soundtrack.