Jump to content

White Lightning (The Big Bopper song)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"White Lightning"
Single by George Jones
from the album White Lightning and Other Favorites
B-side"Long Time to Forget"
ReleasedFebruary 9, 1959
GenreRock and roll, rockabilly, country
Songwriter(s)J. P. Richardson
Producer(s)Pappy Daily
George Jones singles chronology
"Treasure of Love"
"White Lightning"
"Who Shot Sam"

"White Lightning" is a song written by the rockabilly artist J. P. Richardson, best known by his stage name, the Big Bopper. The song was recorded by American country music artist George Jones and released as a single in February 1959. On April 13, 1959, Jones' version was the first number-one single of his career. The song has since been covered by numerous artists. Richardson never got to see the success of the record, as he had been killed in an airplane accident 6 days before its release.

Recording and composition[edit]

In his 1997 autobiography, I Lived To Tell It All, Jones recalls arriving for the recording session under the influence of a great deal of alcohol and the track took approximately 80 takes. To compound matters, bassist Buddy Killen was reported to have developed blisters from replaying his part dozens of times. As a result, Killen not only threatened to quit the session, but also threatened to physically harm Jones for the painful consequences of Jones' drinking.[1] Ultimately, producer Pappy Daily opted to use the first take of the song, even though Jones flubbed the word "slug" (Jones would intentionally mimic this mistake in live performances and subsequent re-recordings of the song). Former Starday president Don Pierce later explained to Jones' biographer Bob Allen, "We tried doing the song again, but it never was as good as it was that first time. So we just released it that way."[2]

Besides Buddy Killen, Hargus "Pig" Robbins was also a notable session participant, playing piano on the record.[3]

"White Lightning" became Jones' first number-one country hit - with a more convincing rock and roll sound, than the half-hearted rockabilly cuts he had previously recorded. In the liner notes to the 1994 compilation Cup of Loneliness: The Classic Mercury Years, country music historian Colin Escott writes, "Ironically, it became the pop hit Mercury had been hoping for all along...George hee-hawed it up in a giddy, bilbous frenzy." The song gave Jones, a notorious critic of pop-country crossovers in his later years, the best showing he would ever achieve on the pop chart as well, peaking at No. 73.

Cover versions[edit]

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1959) Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot C&W Sides[5] 1
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[6] 73


  1. ^ Jones, George (1997). I Lived To Tell It All. Dell, Inc.
  2. ^ Allen, Bob (1996). George Jones: The Life and Times of a Honky Tonk Legend. St Martin's Press. p. 126. ISBN 978-0312956981.
  3. ^ "Hargus "Pig" Robbins Highlights Country Music Hall of Fame Programs". Cybergrass. April 19, 2007. Archived from the original on January 16, 2011. Retrieved May 21, 2008.
  4. ^ "Frenchie Burke Bio | Frenchie Burke Career | CMT". Archived from the original on 2017-04-09. Retrieved 2017-04-08.
  5. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 179.
  6. ^ "The Hot 100 Chart". Billboard.com. Retrieved 26 April 2021.