Jerry Lee Lewis – Great Balls Of Fire

The wild man Jerry Lee Lewis. There is no mistaking who this is…they call him The Killer for a reason. Pam from All Things Thriller wrote a great piece about Jerry Lee… here.

This song became Lewis’ signature tune, as well as the title of the movie about Lewis. Otis Blackwell, a prolific songwriter who wrote many hits for Elvis Presley, wrote this song with Jack Hammer.

This was released in England the same month that Lewis married 13-year-old Myra Gale Brown, who was the daughter of his cousin (and bass player) J.W. Brown. At the time, Lewis was headlining shows with Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry, but when the UK press found out, public outrage forced Lewis to leave the country.

Back in the States, his career started to spiral as radio stations refused to play his records and stores refused to sell them. Jerry Lee turned to country music in the late sixties and made a very successful comeback and started to appear on the charts again.

The peaked at #2 in teh Billboard 100, #1 in the Billboard Country Charts, and #1 in the UK in 1957.

Eric Clapton: “I remember the first Rock & Roll I ever saw on TV was Jerry Lee Lewis doing ‘Great Balls of Fire.’ That threw me – it was like seeing someone from outer space.”

From Songfacts

Like Lewis’ previous hit, “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” this song is filled with sexual innuendo (” let me love you like a lover should…”), which was shocking for a southern musician in 1957. Lewis grew up in a religious household and was conflicted over whether or not he should record this. He and Sun Records owner Sam Phillips argued as Phillips tried to convince him to sing it. Tape was rolling during the spat and the exchange can be heard on some Sun Records collections. “I thought it was funny because I could see both of them,” recalled house drummer JM van Eaton to Uncut magazine April 2012. “Sam’s as serious as he could be, and Jerry’s as heated as he could be.”

This song made the Top 5 of the Pop, R&B, and Country charts simultaneously with “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.” Both hit #1 on the Country charts, and while this sold 5 million copies, which was less then its predecessor, it still charted higher.

In the UK, a similarly raucous version by the female singer Georgia Gibbs was released in 1957 before Lewis’ version was issued. It didn’t chart, and Jerry Lee’s recording became a huge hit, topping the UK chart and becoming the first Sun Records recording to score there.

In 1989, Dennis Quaid portrayed Lewis in the movie Great Balls Of Fire, which told the story of his life.

The film took a few liberties, including a scene where Lewis sets his piano on fire while performing this song – a tale often told by Lewis but never verified.

In America, the song was released on November 11, 1957, just one day before the movie Jamboree hit theaters. Lewis performed the song in the film, which gave it great exposure. Other singers appearing in the movie were Carl Perkins, Fats Domino and Frankie Avalon.

In the movie Top Gun, “Goose” (Anthony Edwards) and “Maverick” (Tom Cruise) sing this while “Goose” plays a piano that still sits at the Kansas City Barbeque Restaurant in San Diego, California where the scene was filmed.

Dolly Parton made “Great Balls Of Fire” the title track to her 1979 album. Her cover was used in the 1985 Miami Vice episode “Golden Triangle (Part I).” Other artists to cover the song include Conway Twitty, Sha Na Na, Mae West, Rolf Harris and the Misfits.

Great Balls of Fire

You shake my nerves and you rattle my brain
Too much love drives a man insane
You broke my will, oh what a thrill
Goodness gracious great balls of fire

I learned to love all of Hollywood money
You came along and you moved me honey
I changed my mind, looking fine
Goodness gracious great balls of fire

You kissed me baba, woo… feels good
Hold me baba, learn to let me love you like a lover should
Your fine, so kind
I’m a nervous world that your mine mine mine mine-ine

I cut my nails and I quiver my thumb
I’m really nervous but it sure is fun
Come on baba, you drive me crazy
Goodness gracious great balls of fire

{ piano solo }

Well kiss me baba, woo-oooooo….it feels good
Hold me baba
I want to love you like a lover should
Your fine, so kind
I got this world that your mine mine mine mine-ine

I cut my nails and I quiver my thumb
I’m real nervous ’cause it sure is fun
Come on baba, you drive me crazy
Goodness gracious great balls of fire

I say goodness gracious great balls of fire…oooh…

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

18 thoughts on “Jerry Lee Lewis – Great Balls Of Fire”

      1. I’ve heard of that one…some say it’s one of the best ever live albums ever in rock and roll. Thank you! I will listen this afternoon. I’ve always wanted to hear it.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. There is a story that says the Killer, who never opens for anybody, was somehow expected to go on before Chuck Berry. So, he climaxed a scorching performance by setting his piano on fire in the middle of this song while pounding the keys. Lewis was heard saying, “Burned it to the ground”, and that must have been a tough act for Chuck Berry to follow.

    Liked by 1 person

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