Shirley & Lee: Let the Good Times Roll


Let the Good Times Roll


Shirley & Lee


Let the Good Times Roll (Warwick Records)

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Shirley Goodman (vocals), Leonard Lee (vocals),

Justin Adams or Ernest McLean (guitar), Frank Fields (bass), Edward Frank (piano), Joe Harris (alto sax), Alvin ‘Red’ Tyler (baritone sax), Clarence Hall (tenor sax), Herb Hardesty (tenor sax), Earl Palmer (drums)


Composed by Leonard Lee,


Recorded: New Orleans, May 1956


Rating: 93/100 (learn more)

So many famous artists have performed this song—the Rolling Stones, Barbara Streisand, the Righteous Brothers, Roy Orbison—but it has New Orleans stamped on every measure, and can be traced back to the local R&B duo Shirley and Lee. They had enjoyed earlier hits; "I'm Gone" climbed to number two on the R&B chart in 1952, but this 1956 single made it all the way to the top spot and even crossed over on to the airwaves of mainstream America.

 Earl Palmer

Despite a marketing campaign which proclaimed them as "Sweethearts of the Blues," Shirley Goodman and Leonard Lee were just friends. By the early 1960s they had split up, each pursuing a solo career that never matched the success of the early work as pretend lovers. (Although Shirley had one more taste of fame with her lead vocal on the disco hit "Shame, Shame, Shame.") On "Let the Good Times Roll," boy meets girl and invites her to a "roll" of vague description. Just another Spring day in New Orleans.

The vocals are convincing, but Earl Palmer's drumming is a major contributor to this song's success. He rocks and rolls as the need arises and briefly switches into stop time, but—best of all—engages in a circus-type march beat over the main theme that is both strange and effective. The history of New Orleans music is partly the tale of how the march beat was liberated, taken from the soldiers and given to the lovers and assorted party-goers. "You could always tell a New Orleans drummer the minute you heard him play his bass drum," Palmer himself once noted, "because he'd have that parade beat connotation." Here is a classic example from the height of Big Easy R&B.

Note: This song should not be confused with the Louis Jordan hit of the same name.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia


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