“I think a guy who’s had just the right amount of booze can sing the blues a hell of a lot better than a guy who is stone sober.”
“Charlie Rich had the intuitive instinct to feel, see and hear pain, disappointment, happiness and joy and somehow transmute it into music. I don’t know anyone who has ever written or sung in a way that depicted more of the humanity of man, with greater melodic beauty, than Charlie Rich.”
“Charlie Rich was the best. His talent and style knew no boundaries. After years of being the victim of stereotypical critics who could neither understand nor label him, Charlie’s beautiful, haunting voice, surrounded by his piano, was discovered by the world. I’m just glad I was around for the ride.”
~Billy Sherrill (Record Producer)
“The Sun recordings maximized the effective contrast between the hustling rhythm of the bass and acoustic guitar and the ponderous, sparse vocals & lead guitar. Phillips achievement was to keep Cash’s sound at it’s bare essentials, an then fatten it up with the use of slapback echo. Subsequent producers and engineers could never quite recapture that formula. .. Johnny Cash’s three years of recordings for Sun are a wonderful demonstration of just how far a whole can outclass the sum of it’s parts”
~Colin Escott & Martin Hawkins (Good Rockin’ Tonight: Sun Records and the Birth of Rock ‘N’ Roll)
I’m visiting SUN Studio again i January, and will post a series of SUN/STAX/Memphis related articles the coming months. This is the first one.
“Great Balls of Fire” is a 1957 song recorded by Jerry Lee Lewis on Sun Records and featured in the 1957 movie Jamboree. It was written by Otis Blackwell (under the pseudonym Jack Hammer). The Jerry Lee Lewis 1957 recording was ranked as the 96th greatest song ever by Rolling Stone. The song is in AABA form.
From Rollingstone.com (500 greatest songs):
With Lewis pounding the piano and leering, “Great Balls of Fire” was full of Southern Baptist hellfire turned into a near-blasphemous ode to pure lust. Lewis, a Bible-college dropout and cousin to Jimmy Swaggart, refused to sing it at first and got into a theological argument with Phillips that concluded with Lewis asking, “How can the devil save souls?” But as the session wore on and the liquor kept flowing, Lewis’ mood changed considerably — on bootleg tapes he can be heard saying, “I would like to eat a little pussy if I had some.” Goodness gracious, great balls of fire, indeed.
From allmusic.com – Cub Koda:
Written by African-American songwriter Otis Blackwell under the pseudonym of Jack Hammer, this was Jerry Lee Lewis’ third release and second consecutive hit. There are only two instruments on this recording, Lewis’ piano and J.M. Van Eaton’s drumming, with the echo from the Sun studios working as a third instrument. The song is over in a little more than a minute and a half and yet is perfectly realized with probably Jerry Lee’s best solo to recommend it and a vocal that borders on lascivious. You can do many things with “Great Balls of Fire” but most covers stick damn close to the original Jerry Lee strut and arrangement, so perfectly realized and empathetically played.
The song is best known for Jerry Lee Lewis’s original recording, which was recorded in the Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee, on October 8, 1957, and released as a 45rpm single on Sun 281 in November 1957.
The song title is derived from a Southern expression, which some Christians consider blasphemous, that refers to the Pentecost’s defining moment when the Holy Spirit manifested itself as “cloven tongues as of fire” and the Apostles spoke in tongues.
In this spirit-numbing information age, we gorge on the web and on CNN, we cannot free our hands of our Blackberrys and lap-tops and cellphones, but, in the end, we know less and less … of each other … of our hearts … of our souls.
But Johnny Cash singing “I Walk The Line” or Hank sorrowing through “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” still gives us more insight in three minutes, tells us more about what matters most in our lives, than we get in an entire twenty-four-hour news cycle.
– Dana Jennings, in his magnificent book “Sing Me Back Home: Love, Death, and Country Music“
This is our first article in a series highlighting the best country songs. We start off by nominating songs from the start up till 1955. The next post will focus on songs from 1956-1965.
When we are through nominating songs.. probably around 70-80 songs.. we will pull it all together and put a list of the 20 best Country songs ever.. in JV’s humble opinion.
Our goal is to only nominate one song from each artist.. I’ve managed to do so on this first article (although it was tough only including one Hank Williams song….)
… and btw .. the songs are presented in random order…
Can The Circle Be Unbroken (Bye and Bye), The Carter Family
Produced by Art Satherley
Written by A.P. Carter