This song was written by group member Richard Lewis when he was in the US army. When Lewis returned to his Philadelphia home, he joined a church quartet, the Gospel Tornadoes, which evolved into a secular group, the Thunderbirds. Says Lewis: "When I was in the service in the early 1950s and didn't come home and go to work my mother said 'Get A Job' and basically that's where the song came from."
The Thunderbirds recorded for a local label (Kae Records) owned by DJ Kae Williams, whose first act as manager of the group was to suggest that they change their name. Group member Earl Beal offered The Silhouettes, (after the hit by the Rays, and also the Diamonds), which all concerned liked.
When the single started to sell, the master recording was sold to Ember Records, which reissued the record for national distribution. It hit #1 - the only single by the Silhouettes to make the national charts.
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The '50s revivalists Sha-Na-Na took their name from the "Sha na na na, sha na na na na" refrain in this song. Sha-Na-Na covered the song and performed it at Woodstock in 1969.
Kae Williams issued this as B-side of the ballad "I Am Lonely," but Philadelphia record stations chose to spin the upbeat "Get A Job," instead. The record was an immediate hit locally but gained national prominence when the group performed it on Dick Clark's Saturday Night Beechnut Show and American Bandstand.
This was featured in the movies American Graffiti (1973), Trading Places (1983), Stand By Me (1986), and Good Morning, Vietnam (1987). The group also appeared in the 1986 movie Joey, centered around a former doo-wop singer and his rock 'n roller son, and sang the tune.
The Miracles released the answer song "Got A Job" in 1958 as their debut single.