Ballin' the Jack

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"Ballin' the Jack"
Ballin' the Jack 1913.jpg
Sheet music cover, 1913
Published 1913
Songwriter(s) Composer: Chris Smith
Lyricist: Jim Burris

"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.


The origins of the term are obscure. Around the same time the song came out, the expression "ballin' the jack" was used by railroad workers to mean "going at full speed," but it is not clear whether the dance or railroad reference came first. The composer and entertainer Perry Bradford claimed to have seen the dance steps performed around 1909.[1]

The dance moves were standardized in the Savoy Ballroom, and put to music by Smith and Burris in 1913. The tune became popular in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1913.[1]

Film usage[edit]

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. Bob Hope and Ginger Rogers performed the song and dance on Bob Hope's "Chevy/Buick" TV show on February 22, 1960.

Lyrics and dance[edit]

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."[2]

Other versions[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Gammond, Peter (1991). The Oxford Companion to Popular Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 36–37. ISBN 0-19-311323-6. 
  2. ^ Burris, "Ballin' the Jack".


  • Burris, Jim (w.); Smith, Chris (m.). "Ballin' the Jack" (Sheet Music). New York: Jos. W. Stern & Co. (1913).

External links[edit]