Wake Up Little Susie

Album: The Everly Brothers - They're Off And Running! (1957)
Charted: 2 1
  • This was written by the husband and wife team of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, who wrote most of The Everly Brothers songs in the '50s. Their songs were also recorded by Bob Dylan, Elvis, and Buddy Holly.
  • This is about a young couple who fall asleep at the drive-in, realize they are out past curfew, and make up a story to tell Susie's parents.
  • Some Boston radio stations banned this because of the lyrics, which imply that the young couple spent the night together. At the time, staying out late with a girl was a little controversial.
  • For The Everly Brothers, this was the first of four US #1 hits. It also went to #1 on the Country & Western charts.
  • At an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show while campaigning for President in year 2000, George W. Bush was asked by Oprah what his favorite song was. He said: "Wake Up Little Susie - by Buddy Holly."
  • Simon & Garfunkel played this at their 1981 concert in Central Park. The live recording was released as a single the next year and hit #27 in the US.
  • Chet Atkins played guitar on this. Atkins, who died of cancer in 2001, was a Nashville musician who created a distinctive sound using a three-fingered picking technique.
  • This was a labor of love for the songwriting duo. "We persevered with 'Wake Up Little Susie' for many hours," Boudleaux recalled to Country Music People. "I started writing one night, kept trying to get my ideas down, but it just wouldn't happen. Finally I woke Felice, who took one listen to what I had so far achieved and came up with the final touches that I couldn't get. The Everlys liked the song, but like me had problems with getting it right in the studio. They worked a whole three-hour session on that one song and had to give up, they just couldn't get it right. We all trooped back to the studio the next day and got it down first take. That's the way it happens sometimes."

Comments: 30

  • Paula from Washington DcThe entire point of the song is these poor kids realizing that even though they're completely innocent, and are telling the truth about having fallen asleep at a boring movie, no one is ever going to believe them. Their reputation is shot, as they say. It's both funny and sad.
  • Brian from La Mesa, CaSorry, I don't see it. The singer is quite obviously informing his drowsy girlfriend that they have fallen asleep during a movie and that they will have to confront their parents and friends. The song loses all its charm and meaning if he is making up a lie to tell them. The actual innocence leading to society's suspicion is main point.
  • Keely from FlOne of the "final touches" that Felice supplied was the line "The movie wasn't so hot, it didn't have much of a plot," which replaced Boudreaux's original line: "Your father's gonna be hot, he'll kill me like as not." According to Felice, that line was way too risque for the times, as it implied that the couple had slept together.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn January 15th 1958, the Everly Brothers made the British TV debut; they appeared on the American-produced 'The Perry Como Show' and performed "Wake Up Little Susie", at the time it was at #11 on the United Kingdom's Singles chart and one month earlier on December 8th, 1957 it had peaked at #2* {for 1 week}...
    The brothers also performed "Bye Bye Love" and it had reached #6 on August 25th, 1957 on the U.K. Singles...
    * The week "Wake Up Little Susie" was at #2, the #1 record for that week was "Mary's Boy Child" by Harry Belafonte.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn March 10th 1965, the Righteous Brothers performed "This Little Girl of Mine" on the ABC-TV program 'Shindig!'...
    Seven years earlier on February 4th, 1958 the song entered Billboard's Top 100 at #68 by a real set of brothers, the Everlys...
    They reached #26 with the song, and it was the next release after their first #1 record, "Wake Up Little Susie"...
    And coincidentally, the Everly Brothers were on this same 'Shindig!' show and they just happened to performed "Wake Up Little Susie".
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn February 20th 1958, the debut show of the six-date, 12 show 'Big Gold Stars' tour opened in Orlando, Florida...
    One of the acts* on the bill were the Everly Brothers; and at the time they had two records on Billboard's Top 100 chart, "This Little Girl of Mine"" at #39, and "Wake Up Little Susie” at #90; four months earlier on October 6th, 1957 it had peaked at #1...
    * Other acts were Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly & the Crickets, Jimmie Rodgers, and Bill Haley & the Comets.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn July 8th 1970, the Everly Brothers performed "Wake Up, Little Susie" on their ABC-TV program 'The Everly Brothers Show'...
    Thirteen years earlier on September 15th, 1957 it entered Billboard's Top 100 at position #43; eventually it peaked at #1 (for 4 weeks) and spent a half-year on the chart (26 weeks)...
    The show was a ten-week summer replacement for 'The Johnny Cash Show', who was a guest on the show (he performed "What Is Truth?, which reached #3 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles chart earlier in 1970).
  • Susan from Atlanta, GaFor a long time I thought I was named Susan (Susi) because of this song, as my dad called me "Susi Baby" all my life, but as it turns out, I got here just a few months before the song came out. Besides, everybody and their dog was named Susie in the '50s -- even my best friend's dog was named Susie.
  • Donna from Quincy, MaI've done some research on this (I'm a media historian), plus I lived in Boston during the 1950s: it may be a myth that the song was banned. I recall hearing it on the air a number of times. But in that era, the Catholic Church was very influential and it had an "index," a list of songs considered too vulgar for Catholic youth to listen to or buy. Needless to say, getting a song on that kind of list tended to make kids want to hear it even more. And while the lyrics are pretty innocent by today's standards, the idea of two young people sleeping in a theater and getting in trouble with their parents was enough to generate controversy, in an era when there was tremendous disapproval of rock music by the older generation.
  • Megan from Toronto, OnClearly a lot of people thought it was about sex, or it wouldn't have been banned.

    Back then it was all about 'saying it without really saying it'. That was the fun part- did they have sex, or didn't they?

    The point is that they could have- that's why it's so funny.
  • Mike from Matawan, Nj"LoL Bush thinks that Buddy Holly sung this song? I have to quote from my favorite movie on this one, "I reserve the right to be ignorant. That's the Western way of life" (Lol)" Hey Crystal Light from Elizabeth!! Let me guess the movie: "Farenheit 9/11"? Figures a brainless twat like you would be a Michale Moore fan.
  • Trish from Sachse, TxThis song had NOTHING to do with adultery, fornication, or politics. In 57 we didn't automatically think garbage thoughts back then like people do today. When the song came out no one thought it was about some couple having sex. It certainly should not have been banned. Maybe not the best of the Everly Bros, but many moons have past since then. Get over it
  • Jim from Phoenix, AzBefore "Elizabeth of Athens,GA" tells people they are not nearly as smart as they think, perhaps she should get her facts straight --- when Bush made the gaffe, the press were quick to pick it up and verify Holly NEVER recorded the song. It was written in 1957, and on the charts late that year; Holly died Feb, 1959 -- a little more than a year later. When exactly did he record it, Elizabeth? Maybe Elizabeth could post a link to the Buddy Holly recording she asserts exists.
  • Maggie from Miami, FlIn 1953 in Miami FL my young sister Suzie and her boyfriend, Kenny (he traveled with the horse race circuit and was down from NJ) fell asleep at the drive-in theater. They woke up at 2A and were scared and upset about what they were going to tell our parents and their friends. He actually did say, what are we going to tell your mom? This song has to be about them. Kenny knew lots of famous jockeys who knew lots of other famous people. They did not have sex so relax, ok? Sleeping means sleeping in this case.
  • Steve Dotstar from Los Angeles, Canot much of a song in my opinion, but it WAS the start of that Everly Bros. sound we all love..
  • Joe from Longview, TxA lady tells me that the person who wrote "Wake Up Little Suzie is now a priest at the Catholic church in Tickfaw, Louisiana. Can anyone verify this/ I'll try to get his name to see if it matches the name given (Boudleaux Bryant)
  • Don from Asheville, NcI'm just so thankful that I have a life and can come to a site that discusses music and song meanings without having to figure out a way to turn it into a soap box for my own political discussions. I find most people who do this simply vomit back what the media tells them and aren't able to think for themselves.
    This song has absolutely NOTHING to do with any political issue. Grow up!
  • John from Lincoln, Nethe greatful dead did a nice acoustic cover of little susie on the album "bears choice". i can't believe people are so fixated on bush that they would waste their time discussing him on a music site. geeeeez get over it. think about the music, okey dokey, honest john
  • Gary R. Evans from Lavallette, NjElizabeth, Athens, GA wrote that "Wake Up Little Susie" was indeed recorded by Buddy Holly. I can find no references or documentation to this. Does anyone?
  • Mark from Lancaster, OhHmm. This came out in 1957, which probably explains why I heard/saw it on the Hit Parade on TV. This was a popular network TV show--probably live--on which the top songs were sung and acted out by a resident cast. It's easiest to think of the show as a weekly group of music videos.

    They did this one for several weeks (the skit for a specific song was different every week.) In the one I saw, there they were, the two of them, waking up (widely separated) in a 1950's sort of car, I think with some sort of clock in the background. They bemoaned their fate. Nobody thought anything of it--it was just another popular song.
  • Matthewz from Corpus Christi, Tx~ but but but...
    the lyrics are ambiguous.
    the part about the movie not being so hot and didn't have much of a plot, etc., MIGHT be, if you listen literally, the "story" they're making up to tell Susie's parents. it's no gimme that they're actually IN a movie theater or Drive-In.
    unless one of the Everly's has revealed as much to be the case.
  • Jon from Oakridge, OrLike the great Johnny Cash said, "If you have political convictions keep them to yourself".
  • Rob from Vancouver, CanadaWho could possibly have anything against fornication?
  • Elizabeth from Athens, GaNone of you are nearly as smart as you think you are. Buddy Holly also did a recording of this song. I'm not a Bush fan myself, but get your facts straight before you start bashing him.
  • Fyodor from Denver, CoDonald, I would say they didn't screw, but they're afraid everyone will think they did, because people are so cynical and distrustful, including, apparently (unless you're joking) YOU. This song is amazing in how it reflects the coming changes in sexual mores (probably mostly due to The Pill) from such a sweet and innocent point of view. Aw, so what if they DID do it...
  • Crystal from Elizabeth, NjLoL Bush thinks that Buddy Holly sung this song?
    I have to quote from my favorite movie on this one,
    "I reserve the right to be ignorant. That's the Western way of life" (Lol)
  • Nena from Atlanta, Gap.s.
    These lyrics were not about two kids sleeping together......they fell asleep at the drive in while watching a boring flick...and they weren't necessarily making up a story....it just says..."What are we going to tell ..........etc, etc.......Nena
  • Robb from Williamstown, Nj 08094, NjThe Who released a song called"I can see for miles" which sounds almost identical to the intro of "Wake up little Susie"
  • Donald from El Dorado, ArThis song was a bit controversial. It's about Susie sleeping with her boyfriend. Don't you think it's obvious. What are going to tell our mama, our papa and our friends when they say oohlala. This song should have been banned. We have too much adultery going on in the world. This song actually promotes adultery and fornication.
  • Melissa from Happy Place, KsIt says up there that George W. Bush said this song was by Buddy Holly, not The Everly Brothers.

    Being anti-Bush, that cracks me up.
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