Jack Hammer (songwriter)

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Jack Hammer
Birth nameEarl Solomon Burroughs
Also known asEarl Burrows
George Stone
T.T. Tyler
Born(1925-09-16)September 16, 1925
Fulton County, Georgia, United States
DiedApril 8, 2016(2016-04-08) (aged 90)
Oakland, California, United States
GenresRhythm and blues, pop
Occupation(s)Songwriter, pianist, singer, actor, dancer, MC

Earl Solomon Burroughs (September 16, 1925 – April 8, 2016), known professionally as Jack Hammer, was an American pianist, singer, and songwriter, credited as the co-writer of "Great Balls of Fire".[1]

Life and career[edit]

Burroughs was born either in Fulton County, Georgia,[2], New Orleans,[3], or Grovetown, Georgia,[4] but grew up in California. In the early 1950s, he moved to New York City, where he worked as an MC at the Baby Grand Theatre. He began writing songs, one of his earliest being "Fujiyama Mama", recorded by Annisteen Allen, Eileen Barton, and a few years later by Wanda Jackson. After starting to use the pseudonym Jack Hammer, he also wrote "Rock 'n' Roll Call", recorded by the Treniers and Louis Jordan. He also recorded several singles in the mid-1950s, including "Football Rock" on Decca, and "Girl Girl Girl" on Roulette.[5]

Hammer wrote a song, "Great Balls of Fire", and submitted it to songwriter Paul Case, who liked the title but not the song itself.[5] Case passed the idea to Otis Blackwell, and commissioned him to write a song of the same title for inclusion in the film Jamboree, with Hammer taking a half share of the songwriting royalties.[5] The song was successfully recorded by Jerry Lee Lewis. Hammer also wrote "Peek-A-Boo", a hit for the Cadillacs.[5] Much of Hammer's songwriting work is credited to various aliases including Earl Burrows, Early S. Burrows, George Stone, and T.T. Tyler.[6][7] His song "Plain Gold Ring" appeared on Nina Simone's 1958 debut album Little Girl Blue, and was later recorded by Nick Cave, Kimbra and others.

In 1960, he recorded an LP, Rebellion - Jack Hammer Sings and Reads Songs and Poems of the Beat Generation, for the Warwick label.[5] In the same year, when the lead vocalist of the Platters left for a solo career, Jack Hammer joined the group and performed, recorded, and wrote songs for them.[8] The following year he moved to Paris, where he performed impersonations of Sammy Davis Jr. and Chuck Berry in cabaret, and then to Belgium. There, he recorded a series of twist songs, including "Kissin' Twist", which became a big hit in Belgium, Germany, France and Sweden. A good dancer, Hammer became known in Europe as "The Twistin' King", and released an LP under that title. In Britain, its title was changed to Hammer + Beat = Twist, released by Oriole Records. He then moved to Germany, and performed on US military bases.[5]

In the mid 1970s, he moved back to the US, and at one point was scheduled to play the part of Jimi Hendrix in a movie that was never made. Jack Hammer performed in the Broadway production of Bubbling Brown Sugar from February 1976 to December 1977.[9][10]

He later lived in Hollywood. He died on April 8, 2016 at home in Oakland, California.[3]

Hammer's daughter, Amelia Hammer Harris, appeared on season 16 of American Idol in 2018. In addition to revealing to the show's judges, Luke Bryan, Katy Perry, and Lionel Richie, that her father wrote "Great Balls of Fire", she also claimed that he wrote "Yakety Yak".[11] However, Hammer actually wrote a song with a similar title, "Yakkity Yak", which was issued as a B-side by the Markeys (not to be confused with the Mar-Keys).[12]


  1. ^ Nick Tosches (1998) Hellfire Page 129 "During the third week of August, Jerry Lee recorded "Great Balls of Fire," a song written by Jack Hammer, a New York session pianist, and Otis Blackwell, the eccentric black songwriter and singer who had supplied Elvis with his two biggest ...
  2. ^ Jack Hammer, Rocky Productions. Retrieved 28 November 2016
  3. ^ a b "Earl Burroughs, co-writer of 'Great Balls of Fire,' dies at 90". SF Gate. April 13, 2016. Retrieved April 14, 2016.
  4. ^ Columnist, Don Rhodes Music. "Ramblin' Rhodes: Jerry Lee Lewis song has local connection". The Augusta Chronicle. Retrieved 2018-09-02.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Jack Hammer". Rockabilly.nl. Retrieved April 12, 2016.
  6. ^ "Earl Burroughs Discography". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2016-04-12.
  7. ^ "Earl "Jackhammer" Burroughs Going Strong at 87". Post News Group. 2012-10-26. Retrieved 2016-04-12.
  8. ^ "The Most Trusted Place for Answering Life's Questions". Answers. Retrieved 2016-04-12.
  9. ^ "Bubbling Brown Sugar, at ANTA Playhouse, February 20, 1976 - December 31, 1977". Abouttheartists.com. Retrieved 2016-04-12.
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on September 9, 2014. Retrieved September 8, 2014.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ Ho, Rodney (March 18, 2018). "'American Idol' season 16 third audition episode recap". Atlanta Journal Constitution. Retrieved March 19, 2018.
  12. ^ "The Markeys Featuring Georgie Morton - Hot Rod / Yakkity Yak". 45cat. Retrieved 20 March 2018.

External links[edit]