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…..it 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…

Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On

Electric…that is the best way I can describe Jerry Lee Lewis. From those old black and white clips in the fifties, the Killer was doing just that. Using all of his limbs to pulverize the piano. The song peaked at #3 in the Billboard 100, #8 in the Uk, and #1 in the Billboard Country Chart in 1957. It is one of THE recognizable songs of the 1950s.

From Songfacts.

This was Jerry Lee Lewis’ second single, following up his cover of the Ray Price country song “Crazy Arms,” which went nowhere. Lewis was signed to the famous Sun Records, who also had Elvis Presley. This song was the first of Lewis’ four Top 40 hits, which all occurred in a period of about a year and a half. In 1958, his hits dried up when word of his marriage to 13-year-old Myra Gale Brown got out. Despite just the four hits and an unsavory reputation, Lewis was so revered as a rock pioneer that he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the first class.

Radio stations found all kinds of reasons not to play this song: it was too suggestive, he cursed on it, (“We-e-ll-a” sounded like “We-hella”), he sounded black (most stations didn’t play songs by black artists). Still, the song sold well in the southern United States, but it wasn’t until Lewis’ TV debut on The Steve Allen Show on July 28, 1957 that it became a national hit and sold over 6 million copies. The song also generated a lot of controversy, as the lyrics are rather lascivious and quite shocking coming from a singer from the Bible Belt. >>

This appeared in the Top 5 of the Pop, Country, and R&B charts simultaneously with Lewis’ other big hit, “Great Balls of Fire.” Both songs hit #1 on the Country chart.

This song was written by Roy Hall (using the pseudonym Sunny David) and Dave “Curly” Williams. Hall was a songwriter/piano player who ran a music venue in Nashville and played in Webb Pierce’s band. Hall and Williams (a black musician) wrote this song in 1954 while fishing on Lake Okeechobee in Florida. They were drunk when they heard a bell clanging on an island in the middle of the lake. After Hall blurted out, “What’s going on?” he heard someone say “We got 21 drums, we got an ol’ bass horn and they’re even keepin’ time on a ding-dong” – which became the original first line of the song.

Webb Pierce helped Hall get a record deal with Decca, and in 1955 Hall recorded this song for the label. Back in 1954, Hall hired Jerry Lee Lewis to play some gigs at his club, and when it came time for Lewis to record his second single, he pulled out Hall’s song and turned it into a rock classic. Hall said that he had to sign over the royalties from the song to his ex-wife, and he spent his remaining years playing around Nashville. He died in 1984 at age 61.

After Roy Hall recorded this song and before Lewis did it, versions were recorded by Big Maybelle, The Commodores (no relation to the ’70s Motown group), and Delores Frederick. All four were done in completely different styles. Jerry Lee Lewis made it a lascivious rocker – his take was wildly divergent from the original.

Whole Lot of Shakin’ Goin’ On

Come along my baby, whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on
Yes, I said come along my baby, baby you can’t go wrong
We ain’t fakin’, while lotta shakin’ goin’ on

Well, I said come along my baby, we got chicken in the barn
Woo-huh, come along my baby, really got the bull by the horn
We ain’t fakin’, whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on

Well, I said shake, baby, shake
I said shake, baby, shake
I said shake it, baby, shake it
And then shake, baby, shake
Come on over, whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on
Oh, let’s go!

Alright

Well, I said come along my baby, we got chicken in the barn
Whose barn? What barn? My barn
Come along my baby, really got the bull by the horn
We ain’t fakin’, whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on

Easy now
Shake it
Ah, shake it, baby
Yeah
You can shake it one time for me
Ye-ah-ha-ah, I said come on over, baby
Whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on
Now, let’s get down real low one time now
Shake, baby, shake
All you gotta do, honey, is kinda stand in one spot
Wiggle around just a little bit, that’s when you got it, yeah
Come on baby, whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on
Now let’s go one time

Shake it baby, shake, shake it baby, shake
Woo, shake baby, come on babe, shake it, baby, shake
Come on over, whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on

Jerry Lee Lewis – What’s Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made a Loser Out of Me)

The title alone made me want to listen to this song. This song went to #2 in the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles chart and #1 in the Canadian Country Charts in 1968. Rod Stewart also made a great cover of this song. The Stewart version is the one I listen to the most but I like both versions.

From Songfacts.

Jerry Lee Lewis took the song to #94  in the Billboard 100 in 1968, but that’s the only version of the song to chart in that country. Rod Stewart’s 1972 rendition was a much bigger hit in the UK, even though the song is very American in its subject matter.

This was written by Glen Sutton, who was the first husband of country singer Lynn Anderson. They married in 1968 and divorced in 1977. Anderson recorded a version on her 1971 album How Can I Unlove You.

 

 

It’s late and she is waiting, and I know I must go home,
But every time I start to leave, they play another song,
Then someone buys another round and whatever drinks are free,
What made Milwaukee famous has made a loser out of me.

Baby’s begged me not to go, so many times before,
She said love and happiness can’t live behind those swingin’ doors,
Now she’s gone and I’m to blame, too late I finally see,
What made Milwaukee famous has made a loser out of me.

Baby’s begged me not to go, so many times before,
She said love and happiness can’t live behind those swingin’ doors,
Now she’s gone and I’m to blame, too late I finally see,
What made Milwaukee famous has made a loser out of me.

What made Milwaukee famous has made a loser out of me,
What made Milwaukee famous has made a loser out of me.
What made Milwaukee famous has made a loser out of me.

 

Hail! Hail! Rock ‘N’ Roll 1987

This documentary starts off in 1986 with Chuck Berry reminiscing about the Cosmopolitan Club where he played in the earlier days.

The film is centered around Chuck Berry’s 60th birthday and Keith Richards assembling an All-Star Band to support Chuck in concert. Chuck had been touring since the 60s by traveling town to town and playing with any pickup band he found…all he brought was his guitar. He would get paid with cash in a paper bag in many places. That was his motivation more than playing with a good band. Chuck could be very sloppy playing live.

Chuck could also be difficult, to say the least. Keith was determined that Chuck was going to be backed by a great band for this concert… Chuck was Keith’s idol but Chuck seemed to want to give Keith as much trouble as possible. Richards says in the documentary that Chuck was the only man that hit him that he didn’t hit back. During the rehearsals for the song “Carol”, you can feel the tension in the air between the two.

Seeing Keith’s reaction to Chuck at times is worth the price of admission and I’m glad Keith was persistent and patient and got this done. It’s great footage of Chuck playing his classics.

The concert at the Fox Theatre ended up a success. Chuck sounded great and so did the band.

During the documentary, there are some great comments by Little Richard, Bo Diddley, Bruce Springsteen, Jerry Lee Lewis, Willie Dixon and more.

Little Richard, Bo Diddley, and Chuck have a very interesting conversation about how hard it was to get played on the radio because of being African American in the 50s. They also talk about payola and Alan Freed.

The band was incredible… Keith Richards, Robert Cray, the great Johnnie Johnson (Chuck’s original piano player), Steve Jordan, Bobby Keys, Chuck Leavell and Eric Clapton guests on a few songs.

Some of the artists that came on and sang were Etta James, Linda Ronstadt, and Julian Lennon.

Chuck was a complicated man but he was a poet as well. I can’t recommend this documentary enough. If you are a music fan you should like it. Chuck Berry may have influenced Rock and Roll more than anyone else…

My favorite story is from Bruce Springsteen. Bruce and the E Street Band volunteered to back up Chuck Berry for a show in the early seventies. Being Chuck’s temporarily pickup band must have been nerve-wracking for musicians. Chuck didn’t tell them what songs he was playing or what key…this is Bruce’s quote “About five minutes before the show was timed to start, the back door opens and he comes in. He’s by himself. He’s got a guitar case, and that was it,” Springsteen said. “[I said] ‘Chuck, what songs are we going to do?’ He says, ‘Well, we’re going to do some Chuck Berry songs.’ That was all he said!”

Below is the video…not extremely clear but watchable.