Ballin' the Jack
|"Ballin' the Jack"|
Cover, sheet music, 1913
"Ballin' the Jack" (sometimes misspelled "Balling the Jack") is a popular song from 1913, written by Jim Burris with music by Chris Smith. It introduced a popular dance of the same name with "Folks in Georgia's 'bout to go insane." It became a ragtime, pop, and trad jazz standard, and has been recorded hundreds of times by many prominent artists. Around the same time the song came out, the expression "ballin' the jack" was used by railroad workers to mean "going at full speed." It's not clear whether the dance or railroad reference came first. And the phrase has also been used to describe operating a jackhammer. In a recent novel, Balling the Jack, by Frank Baldwin, to a gambler the expression means "risking everything on one attempt."
The song and dance were performed in For Me and My Gal, the 1942 movie starring Judy Garland and Gene Kelly. It was also performed by Danny Kaye in the 1951 movie On the Riviera, and Dean Martin in the 1951 movie That's My Boy. It also featured as the After Dinner song sung in the mock-horror 1986 movie Haunted Honeymoon performed by Gilda Radner and Dom DeLuise. Jimmy Jewel playing Cannonball Lee performed the song in the 1990 film The Krays.
Lyrics and dance
The lyrics describe the dance:
- First you put your two knees close up tight,
- Then you sway 'em to the left, then you sway 'em to the right,
- Step around the floor kind of nice and light,
- Then you twis' around and twis' around with all your might,
- Stretch your lovin' arms straight out in space
- Then do the Eagle Rock with style and grace
- Swing your foot way 'round then bring it back,
- Now that's what I call "Ballin' the Jack."
- The Osmonds released a version of the song on their 1974 album, Love Me for a Reason.
- Sharon, Lois & Bram recorded and released a version of the song on their 1986 album, "The Elephant Show Record, which went platinum. The Trio performed this song numerous times in Shows with their Band called The Mammoth Band throughout the years.
- Burris, "Ballin' the Jack".
- Burris, Jim (w.); Smith, Chris (m.). "Ballin' the Jack" (Sheet Music). New York: Jos. W. Stern & Co. (1913).
- "Ballin' the Jack", National Promenade Band (Edison Blue Amberol 2480, 1914)—Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project.
- "Ballin' the Jack" (Sheet music)—The E. Azalia Hackley Collection, Detroit Public Library.
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