The Isleys wrote this on the spur of the moment at a Washington, DC, concert in mid-1959. As they performed Jackie Wilson's "Lonely Teardrops," Ronald Isley ad-libbed, "WELLLLLLLLLLL... you know you make me want to SHOUT" and Rudy and O'Kelly joined in on the improvisation. The audience went wild and afterwards, RCA executive Howard Bloom suggested putting it out as their first RCA single. (thanks, Brad Wind - Miami, FL)
This evolved out of the call-and-response style The Isleys grew up singing in church. The organist from their church, Professor Herman Stephens, played on the song.
The Isley Brothers did not consider this a song at first. It was just a "thing" they would do onstage and the crowd would go nuts. They knew they were onto something when Jackie Wilson, who they were opening for, started using the stop-and-go style in his show.
This song has its own dance. When The Isleys sing the "little bit softer now" part, you go a little lower, then gradually rise up for the "little bit louder now part." For the rest of the song, you just jump around and go crazy. It's an easy dance, which makes it popular at weddings, proms, and other events where many rhythmically-challenged people end up on the dance floor.
The 1978 movie Animal House featured this in a famous scene where the frat brothers danced to it. The movie starred John Belushi and became a classic, helping revive interest in the song as well as the dance associated with it. In 2003, the group MxPx recorded a new version for the 25th anniversary DVD release of the movie.
The version in Animal House was performed by a fictional band called Otis Day And The Knights. The movie became a huge hit, and many people thought Otis Day And The Knights were a real group, so they went on tour. They did very well, selling out many of the places they played, and released an album in 1989 called Shout. Otis Day's real name is DeWayne Jessie.
In the UK, this is the song that introduced the singing sensation Lulu. The Scottish singer came to London at age 15 and recorded a version of the song with her group Lulu & The Luvvers that made it to #7 on the UK charts. Early on, Lulu often performed in Blues clubs where the song was a great fit. She soon became a very successful actress as well, appearing in the film To Sir With Love
and scoring a #1 US hit with the title track
Lulu, just 13 at the time, was introduced to the song by the Scottish rocker Alex Harvey, who she saw perform it in a Glasgow club called The Scene. Lulu added it to her act with The Luvvers, and it became their first hit when Lulu sang it at an audition for Decca records. She had a terrible cold when she recorded it, which gave her a rougher sound that suited the song.
This was never a chart success, but it sold over a million copies and became a rock and R&B classic. The Brothers bought their mother a house in New Jersey with the proceeds from this. She was living in Cincinnati.
After this got some attention, RCA records signed the Isleys to a record deal despite concerns that people would not understand what they were singing.
According to The Isley Brothers: Summer Breeze Greatest Hits Live DVD, this song was recorded in its first take during the studio session. (thanks, Rudy - bako, CA)
The Isleys developed this on tours of black theaters in the late '50s. They were usually low on the bill with other R&B acts.
The B-side of the single was "Shout Part 2," an even wilder version.
The Isley Brothers next 4 singles tanked. They did not have another hit until "Twist And Shout
" in 1962.
A cover version by Joey Dee And The Starlighters was a US Top 10 hit in 1962.