"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.[1] The song sold one million copies in its first 10 days of release in the United States and would go on to sell over 5 million copies, making it both one of the best-selling singles in the United States as well as one of the world's best-selling singles of all time.

Song information[edit source | editbeta]Edit

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. It reached #2 on the Billboard pop charts, #3 on the R&B charts, and #1 on the country charts. It also reached #1 on the UK pop charts, appeared on the New Zealand Singles Chart, and the Dutch Top 40.

The song was featured in a performance by Jerry Lee Lewis and his band in the 1957 Warner Brothers rock and roll film Jamboree, which also featured Carl PerkinsFats DominoBuddy Knox, and Dick Clark. The recording was also released in the UK on London Records.

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 as "cloven tongues as of fire" and the Apostles spoke in tongues.

Chart performance[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Chart (1957–1958) Peak


Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[2] 30
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[3] 8
UK Singles (The Official Charts Company) 1
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles 1
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 2

Legacy[edit source | editbeta]Edit

  • Monty Python references the song's title in the "World Forum" sketch, a fake game show, as heard on the live album Monty Python Live at City CenterTerry Gilliam, portraying Mao Zedong, says the song title as the only correct answer the "distinguished panel" offers in the early rounds. The song was used for the New York City audience in place of "Sing, Little Birdie," which was the song title used in the original sketch.
  • The song is featured in the 1989 jukebox musical Return to the Forbidden Planet.
  • This song is also performed by Scott Bakula in Quantum Leap in the episode called Miss Deep South in Season 3.
  • Levi Kreis, portraying Jerry Lee Lewis, sang "Great Balls of Fire" in the Broadway musical "Million Dollar Quartet," which opened in New York in April, 2010;[4] and Kreis covered the song on the "Million Dollar Quartet" original Broadway cast recording (copyright 2010 by MDQ Merchandising, LLC).[5] Levi Kreis won a 2010 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his portrayal of Jerry Lee Lewis in “Million Dollar Quartet.”[6]
  • In the fantasy novel Temptress of the Flame, a character exclaims "Goodness gracious. Great balls of fire?" after being informed about stars. [3]</ref>
  • In the 1986 film, Top Gun, LTJG Nick "Goose" Bradshaw (Portrayed by Anthony Edwards) sang this song in a bar with his family and Pete Mitchell (Tom Cruise)

Other recordings[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.