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] The song 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]

"Get a Job"
Single by The Silhouettes
A-side"I Am Lonely"
ReleasedNovember 1957 (1957-11)
Format45 rpm, 78 rpm
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.

The song 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][lower-alpha 1] Ultimately the single sold more than a million copies.[9]


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). In the 1980s, the UK recruitment agency, Brook Street Bureau, used the song in their two TV commercials, replacing the words "get a job" with "better job".

The revival group Sha Na Na derived their name from the song's doo-wop introduction.[4] They performed the song at Woodstock in 1969. "Get a Job" inspired a number of answer songs, including "Got a Job", the debut recording by The Miracles.[10] Dennis Wilson, co-founder of the Beach Boys, believed that the group's song "She's Goin' Bald" (1967) paid reference to "Get a Job".[11] 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 one of the episode of Married... with Children when Al Bundy told his son Bud what he should do to earn money.

Cover versions

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


  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]


  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. 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. Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 25 – The Soul Reformation: Phase two, the Motown story. [Part 4]" (audio). Pop Chronicles. University of North Texas Libraries.
  11. Felton, David (1976). "The Healing of Brother Brian". Rolling Stone.
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