Great Balls of Fire- who was it wrote for?



Great Balls of Fire- who was it wrote for?

Postby rockin532000 » Tue Jan 05, 2010 8:57 am

I am currently reading the excellent biography of Fats Domino called "Blue Monday" which I can highly recommend. It is one of the best biographies I have read about a musician (all JLL biographies included).

Something which was new to me (or at least I cannot recall having read this before) is about Great Balls of Fire. According to Rick Coleman (the writer of the biography) this song was originally written by Otis Blackwell for Little Richard as he was the one scheduled to perform in the film "Jamboree". It was only after Little Richard's decision to stop his music career that the producers needed a replacement for him and that's how Jerry got hold of the song.

Can anybody confirm this story?

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Re: Great Balls of Fire

Postby Andrew McRae » Tue Jan 05, 2010 9:25 am

rockin532000 wrote:I am currently reading the excellent biography of Fats Domino called "Blue Monday" which I can highly recommend. It is one of the best biographies I have read about a musician (all JLL biographies included).

Something which was new to me (or at least I cannot recall having read this before) is about Great Balls of Fire. According to Rick Coleman (the writer of the biography) this song was originally written by Otis Blackwell for Little Richard as he was the one scheduled to perform in the film "Jamboree". It was only after Little Richard's decision to stop his music career that the producers needed a replacement for him and that's how Jerry got hold of the song.

Can anybody confirm this story?

Best Wishes
Joerg


It's news to me. I've always understood that the song was originally pitched at Carl Perkins.

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Postby jarireinikka » Tue Jan 05, 2010 9:55 am

^same here,Perkins picked Glad All over instead...
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Re: Great Balls of Fire

Postby tchr » Tue Jan 05, 2010 12:13 pm

Andrew McRae wrote:
rockin532000 wrote:I am currently reading the excellent biography of Fats Domino called "Blue Monday" which I can highly recommend. It is one of the best biographies I have read about a musician (all JLL biographies included).

Something which was new to me (or at least I cannot recall having read this before) is about Great Balls of Fire. According to Rick Coleman (the writer of the biography) this song was originally written by Otis Blackwell for Little Richard as he was the one scheduled to perform in the film "Jamboree". It was only after Little Richard's decision to stop his music career that the producers needed a replacement for him and that's how Jerry got hold of the song.

Can anybody confirm this story?

Best Wishes
Joerg


It's news to me. I've always understood that the song was originally pitched at Carl Perkins.

Andrew


So what's being said in the I Am What I Am doc, is not quite true? Blackwell tells the story about a guy named Jack Hammer who came with the song GBOF. Blackwell didn't like the storyline, but he thought the title fitted Jerry Lee. So if he could re-write it a liltle bit, they both could be credited for it. So he says anyway....
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Postby peterchecksfield » Tue Jan 05, 2010 1:04 pm

Personally I find it difficult to believe that any of them wrote the song with Jerry Lee Lewis in mind, as at the time he was just a one-hit-wonder.
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Postby rockin532000 » Tue Jan 05, 2010 4:19 pm

Given the fact that this Fats Domino biography seems to be very well researched, I actually tend to believe in Rick Coleman's story.

There is another thing where Coleman clearly disagrees with the Murray Silver "Great Balls of Fire" book. Based on his research (in talking to numerous musicians who were present) it was Fats Domino who always closed the show at the Paramount Theater in New York in December 1957. I haven't checked myself but apparently in the Great Balls of Fire biography it is claimed that it was Jerry who closed the show.

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Postby peterchecksfield » Tue Jan 05, 2010 4:28 pm

rockin532000 wrote:Given the fact that this Fats Domino biography seems to be very well researched, I actually tend to believe in Rick Coleman's story.

There is another thing where Coleman clearly disagrees with the Murray Silver "Great Balls of Fire" book. Based on his research (in talking to numerous musicians who were present) it was Fats Domino who always closed the show at the Paramount Theater in New York in December 1957. I haven't checked myself but apparently in the Great Balls of Fire biography it is claimed that it was Jerry who closed the show.

Best Wishes
Joerg


I believe this book too, incredibly well researched & written. Reading this last year made me investigate Fats Domino's recordings further (I've always liked him but I appreciate him even more now).
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Postby Andrew McRae » Tue Jan 05, 2010 4:52 pm

peterchecksfield wrote:Personally I find it difficult to believe that any of them wrote the song with Jerry Lee Lewis in mind, as at the time he was just a one-hit-wonder.


I'm not sure I'd by into that argument, Peter! "Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On" was one hell of a hit; revolutionary. I think an awful lot of 'one-hit-wonders' are instantly recognisable as such, novelty, gimmicky songs / singers who you can sense are likely to be mere 'flash-in-the-pans'. But not so with JLL; I wasn't around at the time, obviously, but I think a lot of people - not just Sam Phillips - would have realised that here was a massive talent and that a strong selection for a follow up record would be a must. The same principle applied ten years on...did anyone think "Another Place Another Time" was going to be an isolated occurence? No, of course not... the best writers immediately formed a queue to present the best material to JLL to capitalise.

Actually, despite having drawn attention to the 'fact', I always found the idea of "Great Balls of Fire" having been written with Carl Perkins in mind very odd, if not inconceivable... no more can I buy into the idea that it would have suited Little Richard (and wouldn't he, anyway, have wanted to parade one of his own songs in a film like 'Jamboree', had he been scheduled to appear?). Did either of these two actually record "Great Balls of Fire" subsequently? If so, the recordings have passed me by... For me, JLL and"Great Balls of Fire" is, whatever the truth of a possible intention for either Perkins or Penniman to record the song first, the ultimate 'marriage' of artist and song... creating the perfect pop record. Maybe it was just a happy accident that it fell to JLL to record it, but I think 20th century popular culture would have been a lot poorer and far less colourful had the combination not come about.

I'd far rather buy into the idea that "Great Balls of Fire" was written specifically for JLL.. if not, it certainly should have been... whatever the truth!

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Postby rockin532000 » Tue Jan 05, 2010 11:12 pm

[/quote]

I believe this book too, incredibly well researched & written. Reading this last year made me investigate Fats Domino's recordings further (I've always liked him but I appreciate him even more now).[/quote]

Same for me. Since reading this book I have vastly increased my music collection of Fats.

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Postby bluesinc. » Wed Jan 06, 2010 5:21 pm

The unreleased Mercury LP Southland USA would have been interesting...
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Great Balls of Fire

Postby Rocky » Wed Jan 06, 2010 6:10 pm

Concerning the Little Richard/Jerry Lee thing in 1957. When Jerry was doing the tv work in New York City in August 1957, he was offered the part in "Jamboree" movie. Carl Perkins also was in the movie. Jerry's spot was filmed on NYC soundstage. Jud Phillips got Blackwell to deliver the song to Jerry. He and band rehearsed it and following day did the soundtrack. The actual Sun recording was not done until much later at Sun Studio in Memphis. When Jerry did the Alan Freed TV show in NYC, Freed offered Lewis the Labor Day Big Beat Show at the Paramount but Jerry had to turn it down because of prior commitments. Little Richard replaced him for the ten days at the Paramount in Aug/Sept of 1957. However, Richard had been booked on the Fats Domino/Chuck Berry/Buddy Holly Christmas week shows with Alan Freed in December, 1957. When Richard went to religion in October while on tour in Australia, Alan Freed booked Lewis in his place.
Concerning the Fats Domino Southland USA album. Mercury had the cover jackets printed up and the LP was advertised in the January 1/66 Billboard prematurely. Only 4 tracks had ever been recorded for it. Two were released in a single in October of 1965. Because the tracks Mercury lined up for the LP did not suit Fats, he left Mercury in a disagreement. This material would never have suited him, songs like "Cottonfields" and "St. Louis Blues".
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Re: Great Balls of Fire

Postby Andrew McRae » Wed Jan 06, 2010 11:31 pm

Rocky wrote:Concerning the Little Richard/Jerry Lee thing in 1957. When Jerry was doing the tv work in New York City in August 1957, he was offered the part in "Jamboree" movie. Carl Perkins also was in the movie. Jerry's spot was filmed on NYC soundstage. Jud Phillips got Blackwell to deliver the song to Jerry. He and band rehearsed it and following day did the soundtrack. The actual Sun recording was not done until much later at Sun Studio in Memphis. When Jerry did the Alan Freed TV show in NYC, Freed offered Lewis the Labor Day Big Beat Show at the Paramount but Jerry had to turn it down because of prior commitments. Little Richard replaced him for the ten days at the Paramount in Aug/Sept of 1957. However, Richard had been booked on the Fats Domino/Chuck Berry/Buddy Holly Christmas week shows with Alan Freed in December, 1957. When Richard went to religion in October while on tour in Australia, Alan Freed booked Lewis in his place.
Concerning the Fats Domino Southland USA album. Mercury had the cover jackets printed up and the LP was advertised in the January 1/66 Billboard prematurely. Only 4 tracks had ever been recorded for it. Two were released in a single in October of 1965. Because the tracks Mercury lined up for the LP did not suit Fats, he left Mercury in a disagreement. This material would never have suited him, songs like "Cottonfields" and "St. Louis Blues".


Paul's comments about the Jamboree performance of "Great Balls of Fire" are very interesting; the implication appears to be that the soundtrack was recorded in NYC? If so, clearly this suggestion is at odds with the details in Peter's discography (as published in "Killer"), though I've never been convinced about the idea put forward in that document that all known 'Sun' takes of "Great Balls of Fire" (numbered 1 to 15, including the 'WB' cut) were laid down during the three days 6-8 October 1957. Isn't the likelihood (supported, I believe, by some comments attributed to Sam Phillips himself) that JLL first recorded the 'rougher, heavier' takes, including the movie soundtrack version at Sun some weeks before the 'polished' takes that feature the noticeable echo/reverb (including Sun 281)? Between these two distinct sessions (all published takes fall fairly readily into one or other group) JLL was in NYC and filmed the performance seen in Jamboree, miming to the best of what Sam already had in the can, and this early take was indeed featured on the film soundtrack. But Sam wasn't happy with what was heard in the film, and also ended up being pressed on the WB soundtrack LP, and carried on with the song's development until he got the right sound for the hit version released on Sun 281.

On the other matter of Fats' unreleased/unrecorded "Southland USA" LP, it reminds me that Mercury were all too ready to jump the gun in printing LP sleeves... early mock-ups of JLL's "She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye" album featured, amongst the song titles listed on the front, the song "In Loving Memories", before the track was shelved and held back for the later "Gospel Album". The 'offending' artwork was released to overseas distributors and was printed as an advert for the album on a couple of Swedish-made JLL LPs. It's that easy to create a myth!

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Re: Great Balls of Fire

Postby bluesinc. » Thu Jan 07, 2010 10:09 am

Concerning the Fats Domino Southland USA album. Mercury had the cover jackets printed up and the LP was advertised in the January 1/66 Billboard prematurely. Only 4 tracks had ever been recorded for it. Two were released in a single in October of 1965. Because the tracks Mercury lined up for the LP did not suit Fats, he left Mercury in a disagreement. This material would never have suited him, songs like "Cottonfields" and "St. Louis Blues".[/quote]

Yep, I know. I have the two Mercury singles. But it would be interesting. They made only cover jackets without records? I´ve read that there were made a few promotional copies.
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Postby peterchecksfield » Thu Jan 07, 2010 10:41 am

I find very it difficult to believe that the 'Jamboree' version of GBOF was recorded outside the Sun studios, as early Sun outtakes are almost identical (I think that this would be more likely with the movie version of 'High School Confidential' though).
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Postby Andrew McRae » Thu Jan 07, 2010 3:46 pm

peterchecksfield wrote:I find very it difficult to believe that the 'Jamboree' version of GBOF was recorded outside the Sun studios, as early Sun outtakes are almost identical (I think that this would be more likely with the movie version of 'High School Confidential' though).


Yes, some of the 'Jamboree'-style takes are very much alike, so much so that both Charly and Bear Family have 'screwed up' over the years and pressed both vinyl and /or CDs with the 'wrong' take, identifying a particular recording as the movie soundtrack version when it wasn't. Certainly the track that appears described as such on the 1986 'Sun' (Charly) LP "The Great Ball of Fire" wasn't 'authentic', nor was the version issued by Bear Family on the more recent "Southern Swagger" CD. The first 'giveaway' in comparing that take with the 'original' WB version is a completely different inflection on the second syllable of the word 'funny' at 14 secs in, but as you get further in there are myriad noticeable, if minor, differences; it is, admittedly, hard work on the ears trying to sort out all these takes! Even the 'Sun 281' style performance was misrepresented by a very similar sounding alternate on at least one 'Golden Oldies' 45rpm single issued sometime in the 1980s after Charly / BF had unearthed all the different tapes.

On reflection, I'm not wholly convinced that the actual movie soundtrack performance ever has been issued by anyone other than Warner Brothers, on the DJ only 'Jamboree' LP (and later bootleggers who simply dubbed the recordings from the original vinyl, with serious sound-quality loss); I don't think I've ever been able to 'confirm' it satisfactorily on a subsequent release. (Can anyone say different?) So, is there a possibility that the actual recording in question was simply sent by Sam Phillips to Warner Brothers, with no copy retained in the Sun vault, and subsequently lost? If so, what price a genuine copy of the 'Jamboree' soundtrack LP?! (Actually, there is one on ebay right now, for a mere $2,000! http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?Vi ... K:MEWAX:IT )

I guess many of us, back in those 'wilderness years' when we had so little released material to entertain us, first heard the movie version c/o the 1972 bootleg "For JLL Fans Only", where some enterprising soul had probably taped the recording via a hand-held microphone onto cassette or reel-to-reel tape, before it was pressed onto recycled vinyl; notionally terrible quality, but for me, at the time, it sounded great, like thunder!

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