White Lightning (The Big Bopper song)

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"White Lightning"
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
Length 2:48
Label Mercury
Writer(s) J. P. Richardson
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.

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. 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.[1] 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."[2]

"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.

Cover versions[edit]

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1959) Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot C&W Sides[3] 1
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 73
Preceded by
"When It's Springtime in Alaska (It's Forty Below)"
by Johnny Horton
Billboard Hot C&W Sides
number-one single

April 13May 11, 1959
Succeeded by
"The Battle of New Orleans"
by Johnny Horton


  1. ^ Jones, George (1997). I Lived To Tell It All. Dell, Inc. 
  2. ^ Allen, Bob 1996, pp. 126.
  3. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 179. 

External links[edit]