Grab a signed copy of Devi’s entertaining & award-winning glossary The Language of the Blues: From Alcorub to Zuzu (Foreword by Dr. John) at Bluescentric.com. Also available as an eBook.
Depending on the decade, there are many different meanings in the blues for shake, including a rent party (1920s), an erotic dance (1930s), or to extort or “shake down” someone (1940s). Shake is also slang for poor-quality marijuana that is mostly stems and seeds.
The cry “Shake it!” was shouted to encourage dancers at juke joints and rent parties–not to mention women walking down the street.
Guitarist Hubert Sumlin told me how he and Howlin’ Wolf came up with the title for their hip-shaking song “Shake It for Me.” Sumlin explained, “You know womens is the thing. They all look good to you. Although some you gonna find looks better than others. We used to sit, and your eyes gonna look. Wolf, he’d say, ‘You see that woman’s booty? Shake it for me, oh man.’ And I said, ‘Let’s record it!’ And that’s what we did.”
“Shake It for Me”- Howlin’ Wolf (Chester Burnett)
“Shake Your Moneymaker”- Elmore James
Howlin’ Wolf – “Shake It for Me”