White Lightning (George Jones song)
|Single by George Jones|
|from the album White Lightning and Other Favorites|
|B-side||"Long Time to Forget"|
|Released||February 9, 1959|
|Genre||Rock and roll, rockabilly, country|
|Writer(s)||J. P. Richardson|
|George Jones singles chronology|
"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.
Recording and composition
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. This is probably understandable since his life-long friend the Big Bopper – whose composition he was recording – had been killed during the preceding week on "the day the music died". To make matters worse, Buddy Killen, who played the upright bass on the recording, was reported as having severely blistered fingers from having to play his bass part 80 times. Killen not only threatened to quit the session, but also threatened to physically harm Jones for the painful consequences of Jones' drinking. In the end, producer Pappy Daily opted to use the first take of the song, even though Jones flubs the word "slug" (Jones would mimic the mistake in live performances 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."
"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 long...George hee-hawed it up in a giddy, bilbous frenzy." The song gave him his best showing on the pop chart as well, peaking at No. 73.
- Waylon Jennings recorded the song for RCA.
- Shakin' Stevens and The Sunsets covered the song on their 1972 album Rockin' and Shakin' (album)|Rockin' and Shakin'.
- Hank Williams, Jr. did a cover of the song on his 1979 album Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound.
- Manchester post-punk band The Fall covered the song on their 1991 album Shift-Work.
|U.S. Billboard Hot C&W Sides||1|
|U.S. Billboard Hot 100||73|
"When It's Springtime in Alaska (It's Forty Below)"
by Johnny Horton
|Billboard Hot C&W Sides
April 13May 11, 1959
"The Battle of New Orleans"
by Johnny Horton
- Jones, George (1997). I Lived To Tell It All. Dell, Inc.
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 179.