Sherwood Johnson was an American G.I. when he caught malaria in the Pacific during World War II. The illness caused him to have the "shakes" and earned him the now famous nickname "shakey".
When the war was over, Shakey came home to California, and together with a group of friends, discovered their common love of dixieland jazz. Gathering regularly to play this lively music, the group also discovered Shakey Johnson's home cooking, especially his pizza. Needless to say, the group got larger and met regularly at Shakey's home--and nowhere else.
The fame of his fine cooking sparked an idea. Shakey and a college friend, Ed Plummer, pooled their savings together and bought an old grocery store at the corner of 57th and J street in Sacramento. On April 30, 1954, with a mere $1.85 in the till, the remodeled grocery store became the first Shakey's Pizza Parlor. Actually, no pizza was served because the oven weren't ready yet that Friday evening. Nevertheless, Shakey played the piano and Ed served the beer for their customers. With the money from the weekend, Shakey and Ed fired up their ovens on Monday and served the very first Shakey's Pizza. By 10 o'clock that evening, they were out of food, but people were still lining up to get in. Ten days later, they had fourteen employees and a month later, Dixieland jazz entertainment was added.
With the success of the first Sacramento restaurant, Johnson and Plummer opened a second Shakey’s two years later in a remodeled mattress factory on Foster Road in Portland, Oregon. The Shakey’s name and concept were already familiar due to the nightly jazz radio program they sponsored. In 1957 Shakey’s service companies began franchising. Opening that year were franchised restaurants in Seattle, Washington, Albany, Oregon, Carmichael, Concord, and Marysville, California. The franchise units also introduced a standard Shakey’s building design. Prior to it, the restaurants have always been located in existing...