Great Balls of Fire

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"Great Balls of Fire"
Single by Jerry Lee Lewis
B-side"You Win Again"
RecordedOctober 8, 1957
StudioSun Studio (Memphis, Tennessee)
GenreRock and roll
LabelSun 281
Producer(s)Sam Phillips
Jerry Lee Lewis singles chronology
"Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On"
"Great Balls of Fire"
"You Win Again"

"Great Balls of Fire" is a 1957 popular song recorded by American rock and roll musician Jerry Lee Lewis on Sun Records[2] and featured in the 1957 movie Jamboree. It was written by Otis Blackwell and Jack Hammer. The Jerry Lee Lewis 1957 recording was ranked as the 96th greatest song ever by Rolling Stone. It is written in AABA form.[3] It sold one million copies in its first 10 days of release in the United States making it one of the best-selling singles in the United States at that time.

Background and Composition[edit]

"Great Balls of Fire" is best known for Jerry Lee Lewis's original, which was recorded in the Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee,[2] on October 8, 1957, using three personnel: Lewis (piano/vocals), Sidney Stokes (bass), and a session drummer, Larry Linn, instead of the usual Sun backups Jimmy Van Eaton (drums) and Roland Janes (guitar). Lewis was quoted in the book JLL: His Own Story by Rick Bragg, (pg 133), as saying "I knew Sidney Stokes but I didn't know him that well either, and I don't know what happened to them people. That's the last time I ever seen 'em. That's strange isn't it?" It was released as a 45rpm single on Sun 281 in November 1957. It reached No. 2 on the Billboard pop charts, No. 3 on the R&B charts,[4] and No. 1 on the country charts.[5] It also reached No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart,[6][7] and 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 Perkins, Fats Domino, Buddy Knox, and Dick Clark. The recording was released in the UK on London Records.

The tune opens up side 2 of Lewis's 1964 album Live at the Star Club, Hamburg.

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1957–1958) Peak
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[8] 30
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[9] 8
UK Singles Chart (The Official Charts Company)[6] 1
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles 1
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 2


  • The song was performed by Levi Kreis in the 2010 musical Million Dollar Quartet, portraying Jerry Lee Lewis.[10][11]
  • The title of the 1989 biopic, Great Balls of Fire! about Lewis, played by Dennis Quaid, is derived from the song title.
  • In 2017, WWE held a professional wrestling event titled Great Balls of Fire, referencing the song. Jerry Lawler's personal attorney, who also represents Jerry Lee Lewis, informed him that the singer had actually trademarked the phrase, prompting Lawler to inform them of this. He stated that he "put him in touch with the WWE people, gave him a name. Apparently he called them and got everything worked out. Not only are they using the name, they are using Jerry Lee's song."[12]
  • Ric Flair revealed he started using his iconic "Wooo!" catchphrase in 1974 after he heard Jerry Lee Lewis sing the lyric, “Goodness gracious, great balls of fire, woo!”[13]
  • Cree Summer, at age 17, sang the song as the opening and closing for Madballs’ Escape from Orb.
  • Dolly Parton sang it at the grand opening of FireChaser Express.

In 1998, the 1957 recording of "Great Balls of Fire" by Jerry Lee Lewis on Sun Records was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.[14]

Top Gun franchise[edit]

In the 1986 film Top Gun, LTJG Nick "Goose" Bradshaw (portrayed by Anthony Edwards) plays the song in a bar with his family and Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (Tom Cruise). The song is available on the Top Gun soundtrack special edition released in 1999. The song is performed again in the sequel, the 2022 film Top Gun: Maverick by Goose's son LT Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw (portrayed by Miles Teller). Teller's performance is included on that film's soundtrack Top Gun: Maverick (Music from the Motion Picture), on which it is labeled as a live performance. Paramount Pictures later released the extended scene of Teller's performance as Rooster on YouTube on June 16, 2022.[15]


  1. ^ "Jack Hammer". Retrieved 2014-04-03.
  2. ^ a b Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 8 - The All American Boy: Enter Elvis and the rock-a-billies. [Part 2]" (audio). Pop Chronicles. University of North Texas Libraries.
  3. ^ Covach, John (2005), "Form in Rock Music: A Primer", in Stein, Deborah, Engaging Music: Essays in Music Analysis, New York: Oxford University Press, p.70, ISBN 0-19-517010-5
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942–2004. Record Research. p. 347.
  5. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 200.
  6. ^ a b Rice, Jo (1982). The Guinness Book of 500 Number One Hits (1st ed.). Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness Superlatives Ltd. p. 34. ISBN 0-85112-250-7.
  7. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 80. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  8. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Jerry Lee Lewis" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40.
  9. ^ "Jerry Lee Lewis – Great Balls of Fire)". Top 40 Singles.
  10. ^ "Photo Coverage: MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET Opens on Broadway". Retrieved 2014-04-03.
  11. ^ "Rocker-Turned-Broadway Star Levi Kreis Wins Tony for Million Dollar Quartet | Tony Awards 2010". 2010-06-13. Retrieved 2014-04-03.
  12. ^ "WWE Had Reportedly Received Copyright Complaint Over 'Great Balls Of Fire' Name -". Wrestling Inc. Retrieved 2017-07-22.
  13. ^ "Ric Flair Reveals The Origin Of His Infamous 'Woo' Catchphrase". 2016-12-13. Archived from the original on 2018-07-15. Retrieved 2017-05-29.
  14. ^ [bare URL]
  15. ^ Miles Teller - Great Balls of Fire (From "Top Gun: Maverick") [Official Video] (YouTube video). Paramount Pictures. June 16, 2022. Retrieved June 27, 2022.

External links[edit]