Song Of The Week: “Get A Job” by The Silhouettes

In 1999, TLC issued a strongly worded proclamation declaring their disdain for a man without gainful employment, stating in no uncertain terms, “I don’t want no scrub. A scrub is a guy who can’t get no love from me.”

By no means were they the first to express this sentiment. Indeed, during the reign of Henry VIII there probably lived a minstrel who wrote madrigals about how his lady would not be wooed until he put away his damnable lute and got a proper job.

Which brings us to The Silhouettes.

In the early 1950’s, Richard Lewis finished his time in the military and returned to his family home in Philadelphia. Despite diligently trying for some time, he failed to find work and his mother hounded him about it on a daily basis. What he ended up finding instead was a singing group called The Thunderbirds, who changed their name to The Silhouettes soon after Lewis joined.

After a number of rejections, the group signed with the tiny Junior label, owned by a local DJ who then became their manager. For their first studio session, The Silhouettes recorded two songs: a ballad for the A-side, and a novelty song for the B-side, full of “dip dip dips” and “sha na nas” with lyrics by Lewis about his previous employment woes (he did, however, change his mom to his girlfriend in the song, because girlfriends are cooler than moms — sorry, moms).

Released as a single in the fall of 1957, the A-side fell flat but the phone lines at Philadelphia radio stations lit up with requests for “Get A Job.” So great was the demand that the group’s manager had to arrange a deal with the Ember label to press more copies and distribute the record nationally. The single hit #1 in the US in early 1958 and the nonsense backing vocals became synonymous with doo-wop, incorporated by other artists for years.

The group never reached the charts again, but all it takes is one massive hit to set you up. Richard Lewis’s song about not finding a job ended up providing him with a job for life.

So get out of bed and grab those want ads. Dip dip dip and sha na na … with The Silhouettes.

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