Get a Job (song)

"Get a Job" is a song by the Silhouettes released in November 1957. It reached the number one spot on the Billboard pop and R&B singles charts in February 1958,[1] and was later included in Robert Christgau's "Basic Record Library" of 1950s and 1960s recordings, published in Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981).[2] The song celebrates the virtues of securing gainful employment.

"Get a Job"
Single by The Silhouettes
A-side"I Am Lonely"
ReleasedNovember 1957 (1957-11)
RecordedOctober 1957. Robinson Recording Laboratories, Philadelphia
GenreDoo-wop, rhythm and blues
  • Earl Beal
  • Raymond Edwards
  • Richard Lewis
  • William Horton


"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," said tenor Richard Lewis, who wrote the lyrics.[3] The four members of the group shared the credit, jointly creating the "sha na na" and "dip dip dip dip" hooks later imitated by other doo-wop groups.[citation needed]

It was recorded at Robinson Recording Laboratories in Philadelphia in October 1957. Rollee McGill played the saxophone break, and the arranger was Howard Biggs. Intended as the B-side to "I Am Lonely",[4] "Get a Job" was initially released on Kae Williams' Junior label; Williams, who was also a Philadelphia disc-jockey, was the Silhouettes' manager.[5][6] Doug Moody, an executive at Ember Records, acquired the rights to the song for that label, where it was licensed for national distribution.

In early 1958, the Silhouettes performed "Get a Job" several times on American Bandstand and once on The Dick Clark Show, appearances that contributed to the song's success by exposing it to a large audience.[7][a] Ultimately the single sold more than a million copies.[9]


  • Richard "Rick" Lewis - vocals
  • Bill Horton - vocals
  • Earl T. Beal - vocals
  • Raymond Edwards - vocals
  • Rollee McGill - saxophone
  • Howard Biggs - arrangements


The song was later featured in the soundtracks of the movies American Graffiti (1973), Stand By Me (1986), Trading Places (1983), Get a Job (1985), Joey (1986), and Good Morning, Vietnam (1987).[citation needed] In the 1980s, the UK recruitment agency Brook Street Bureau used it in their two TV commercials, replacing the words "get a job" with "better job".[citation needed]

The revival group Sha Na Na derived their name from the song's doo-wop introduction.[4] They performed it at Woodstock in 1969. Sha Na Na in return, though under the spelling "Xanana" became the nickname of former East Timorese President and Prime Minister José Alexandre Gusmão, better known as "Xanana Gusmão".[10] "Get a Job" inspired a number of answer songs, including "Got a Job", the debut recording by The Miracles.[11] Dennis Wilson, co-founder of the Beach Boys, believed that his group's song "She's Goin' Bald" (1967) paid homage to "Get a Job".[12] Several bars of "Get a Job" are quoted at the start of "The Obvious Child," the first track on Paul Simon's album The Rhythm of the Saints.

The famous line "yep yep yep yep yep um um um um get a job" was used in an episode of Married... with Children (Al Bundy tells his son Bud what he should do to earn money).

Cover versionsEdit

Australian band Ol' 55 covered the song on their album Take It Greasy (1976). It was recorded by Jan Berry of Jan & Dean on his 1997 solo album Second Wave. Other versions include those by the Hampton String Quartet (What if Mozart Wrote "Roll Over Beethoven"?), Neil Young & Crazy Horse (Americana, 2012).[citation needed] and The Delltones. James Taylor did a rendition on his Other Covers album. The Mills Brothers (Dot Records 45-15695) 1958.

Television and filmEdit

In the 1984 "You and the Horse You Rode In On" episode 7 of season 2 of the TV series Hardcastle and McCormick, at 11 minutes and 2 seconds, this song is played during the sequence in which the character Mark McCormick is walking the streets in search of employment.


  1. ^ Bandstand was a Philadelphia show, broadcast nationally by ABC. Bandstand producer Tony Mammarella bought a share of the rights to "Get a Job" from Kae Williams, an example of the "pay for play" practices for which Clark, Mammarella and others were later rebuked during the payola scandal.[8]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942–2004. Record Research. p. 525.
  2. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "A Basic Record Library: The Fifties and Sixties". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 0899190251. Retrieved March 16, 2019 – via
  3. ^ "Get a Job – The Silhouettes". The Silhouettes. Retrieved 22 August 2010.
  4. ^ a b Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Omnibus Press. p. 2817. ISBN 978-0-85712-595-8.
  5. ^ Rosalsky, Mitch (2002). Encyclopedia of Rhythm & Blues and Doo-Wop Vocal Groups. Scarecrow Press. p. 518. ISBN 978-0-8108-4592-3.
  6. ^ "Kae Williams". The Silhouettes. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  7. ^ "The Silhouettes and Dick Clark". The Silhouettes. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  8. ^ Scheurer, Timothy E. (1989). American Popular Music: The age of rock. Popular Press. pp. 81–82. ISBN 978-0-87972-468-9.
  9. ^ Jasen, David A. (2013-10-15). A Century of American Popular Music. Routledge. ISBN 9781135352714.
  10. ^ "Xanana Gusmao: From Guerrilla goalkeeper to president". Irish Examiner. Irish Examiner Ltd. April 16, 2002. Retrieved February 11, 2022.
  11. ^ Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 25 – The Soul Reformation: Phase two, the Motown story. [Part 4]" (audio). Pop Chronicles. University of North Texas Libraries.
  12. ^ Felton, David (1976). "The Healing of Brother Brian". Rolling Stone.