Sixty-eight years ago today (Feb. 9), Country Music Hall of Famer George Jones released his rockabilly hit “White Lightning,” marking his first of many songs to reach No. 1 on country music charts.
Penned by J.P. Richardson, the fast-paced tune tells the tale of a father-son duo who brew their own “white lightning,” presumably a moonshine type drink.
“Well I asked my old pappy why he called his brew/White lightnin’ stead of mountain dew/I took a little sip and right away I knew/And my eyes bugged out and my face turned blue/Light has started flashin’ thunder started krashin’ (whew white lightnin’),” Jones croons.
In Jones’ autobiography, I Lived to Tell it All, the country singer admitted he was under heavy influence of alcohol when he arrived to the studio to record the future hit. Because of this, Jones and the studio musicians had to do 80 takes before they found one they liked. If you listen closely to the recorded version, you can hear him slur the word “slug” in the final verse.
Despite the trouble getting the recording, “White Lightning” was met with huge success. Beyond reaching the top spot in country music, it also charted in the pop genre. “White Lightning” launched Jones into the spotlight where he racked up an additional dozen No. 1 hits and received CMA, ACM, Billboard and Grammy honors.
Unfortunately, Jones passed away in April of 2013 after being hospitalized with fever and irregular blood pressure. Fans can still relive his career at the George Jones Museum in the heart of Music City.