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Lyr/Tune Req: Ballin' the Jack (J Burris, C Smith)

Greg Golgart 18 Jun 97 - 09:38 AM
20 Jun 97 - 12:33 AM
20 Jun 97 - 11:31 AM
Evelyn McFadden 20 Jun 97 - 03:38 PM
Will 24 Jun 97 - 07:52 PM
davisd@ucs.orst.edu 28 Jun 97 - 08:12 AM
Gene 14 Aug 97 - 07:12 PM
Joe Offer 14 Aug 97 - 07:30 PM
PattyG 14 Aug 97 - 07:44 PM
Barry Finn 15 Aug 97 - 02:24 AM
Whip 15 Aug 97 - 02:28 PM
Jon W. 18 Aug 97 - 01:12 PM
Jim Dixon 28 Apr 10 - 05:28 PM
Jim Dixon 28 Apr 10 - 06:49 PM
Jim Dixon 28 Apr 10 - 07:02 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 28 Apr 10 - 08:14 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 28 Apr 10 - 08:37 PM
Tinker 28 Apr 10 - 09:23 PM
GUEST,strummer 07 Jul 10 - 11:56 AM
GUEST,Johnmc 08 Jul 10 - 06:31 AM
Roger the Skiffler 08 Jul 10 - 07:11 AM
GUEST,dpblais1 23 Jun 12 - 03:06 PM
Don Firth 23 Jun 12 - 03:17 PM
Joe_F 23 Jun 12 - 10:09 PM
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Subject: Ballin' the Jack
From: Greg Golgart
Date: 18 Jun 97 - 09:38 AM

Looking for lyrics and tune and/or recording. Searched the database and was surprised this "old" classic is not here yet.


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Subject: RE: Ballin' the Jack
From:
Date: 20 Jun 97 - 12:33 AM

The following songs refer to BALLin’ the Jack...Perhaps it is one of them...and there’s at least one more I know of.

BRINGIN’ IN THE GEORGIA MAIL
Words and music by Fred Rose

See that engine puffin’, boy she’s making time
That old train’s a going off the rail
Heading for the mountain that she’s got to climb
Bringin’ in the Georgia mail.

Ninety miles an hour and she’s gaining speed
Just listen to that whistle moan and wail
Has she got the power, I say yes indeed
Bringin’ in the Georgia mail.

See the driver scramble, watch it spin the track
They ought to put that engineer in jail
Has he got her rolling, watch her ball the jack
Bringin’ in the Georgia mail.

Rocking and a rolling, spouting off the steam
Stoke the fire and hope the brakes don’t fail
Serving all the people, listen to her scream
Bringin’ in the Georgia mail.

Or this one: CHOO CHOO CH BOOGIE

Gonna settle down by the railroad track
And live the life of Reilly in a beaten down shack
So when I hear a whistle I can peep through the crack
And watch the train a-rollin’ when she’s ballin’ the jack...

Or this one circa the 40’s?

First you put your two knees close up tight,
Then you swing them to the left and swing ‘em to the right,
Then you dance around and dance around with all of your might
Take you loving baby close up tight
And you hug her, hug her, hug her with all of your might
Then you swing her out, and pull her back
And that’s what I call ‘ballin' the jack’!

-Gene

HTML line breaks added. --JoeClone, 21-Feb-02.


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Subject: RE: Ballin' the Jack
From:
Date: 20 Jun 97 - 11:31 AM

also-"Wanderin"

"My daddy is an engineer
My brother drives a hack
My mother takse in washin'
And the baby balls the jack.......etc...


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Subject: RE: Ballin' the Jack
From: Evelyn McFadden
Date: 20 Jun 97 - 03:38 PM

First you put your two knees close up tight,
Swing ‘em to the left and then you swing ‘em to the right --
Step around the floor kinda nice and light,
And then you twist around, twist around, with all your might.

Spread your lovin’ arms way out in space,
Dance around the floor with lots of style and grace --
You put your left foot out, then you bring it back,
And that’s what I call Ballin’ the Jack.

HTML line breaks added. --JoeClone, 21-Feb-02.


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Subject: Lyr/Chords Add: WANDERING
From: Will
Date: 24 Jun 97 - 07:52 PM

"Wandering" is in Rise Up Singing, credited as traditional and arranged by Sammy Kaye.
Nice song. Now, could someone tell us what "balling the jack" is?

C Em
My daddy is an engineer, my brother drives a hack
F G
My sister takes in washing and the baby balls the jack
C Am F G C
And it looks like I'm never gonna cease my wandering.

My daddy longs to see me home, my brother'd share his bed
My sister longs for me to have a roof above my head
And it looks ...

I've been wandering early and late
From Singapore to the Golden Gate
And it looks ...

I've worked on freighters and I've worked on a farm
And what I've got to show for it is muscles in my arm
And it looks ...

There's snakes on the mountain and eels in the sea
I let a red-headed woman make a fool out of me
And it looks ...


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Subject: RE: Ballin' the Jack
From: davisd@ucs.orst.edu
Date: 28 Jun 97 - 08:12 AM

There is a wonderful rendition of this done by Dom Deluise in drag BTW, and Gilda Radner in the movie

"Haunted Honeymoon"

Probably rent it for 99 cents at your local video store.


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Subject: Lyr Add: BALLIN’ THE JACK (Jim Burris, C Smith)
From: Gene
Date: 14 Aug 97 - 07:12 PM

Ran across this version of Ballin’ The Jack awhile back...

BALLIN' THE JACK
Words by Jim Burris; Music by Chris Smith
New York: Jos. W. Stern & Co., 1913.

1. Folks in Georgia's 'bout to go insane
Since that new dance down in Georgia came.
I'm the only person who's to blame.
I'm the party introduced it there,
So, give me credit to know a thing or two.
Give me credit for springing something new.
I will show this little dance to you.
When I do you'll say that it's a bear.

CHORUS: First you put your two knees close up tight,
Then you sway 'em to the left, then you sway 'em to the right.
Step around the floor kind of nice and light,
Then you twis' around and twis' around with all your might.
Stretch your lovin' arms straight out in space,
Then you do the Eagle Rock with style and grace.
Swing your foot way 'round then bring it back.
Now that's what I call "Ballin' the Jack."

2. It's being done at all the cabarets.
All society now has got the craze.
It's the best dance done in modern days.
That is why I rave about it so.
Play some good "rag" that will make you prance.
Old folks, young folks, all try to do the dance.
Join right in now while you got the chance.
Once again the steps to you I'll show.


Featured in the movie: THAT’S MY BOY! with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.

HTML line breaks added. --JoeClone, 21-Feb-02.


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Subject: RE: Ballin' the Jack
From: Joe Offer
Date: 14 Aug 97 - 07:30 PM

There was a discussion of this song on rec.music.folk a while back. Does anybody know what the "eagle rock" is? Nobody could come up with the answer.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Ballin' the Jack
From: PattyG
Date: 14 Aug 97 - 07:44 PM

This discussion took me right back to my childhood! Wonderful old tunes that everyone sang along with and just had *fun* with! Ah, the good old days:) My recollection is of the tune that speaks of doin' a certain dance - Ballin' The Jack. Probably became known to me around 1952, but don't know how long it had been around. I was a young thing, of course:)


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Subject: RE: Ballin' the Jack
From: Barry Finn
Date: 15 Aug 97 - 02:24 AM

Joe, somewhere I seem to remember the eagle rock coming up in a couple of songs refering to it as a dance. Barry


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Subject: RE: Ballin' the Jack
From: Whip
Date: 15 Aug 97 - 02:28 PM

There were a number of popular dances in the 19-'teens and '20s that originated in the black community and were commandeered (sp?) by white socialites. The eagle rock was one, as were the buzzard lope and the black bottom. Not sure if the Charleston started out black or not.

Most of them were considered "not nice" by Mrs. Grundy and crew.


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Subject: RE: Ballin' the Jack
From: Jon W.
Date: 18 Aug 97 - 01:12 PM

I've heard of the eagle rock in a few old blues/ragtime/boogie songs from the 30's. And Ballin' the Jack was referred to in a Chuck Berry song - I don't remember the title, something about school days. The line was "we were balling the jack, but were all back in place when the teacher got back."

As for trains, could it refer to the governor mechanism on a steam locomotive? There were two steel balls on a centrifuge-type mechanism. When the balls swung out to a preset point (controlled by the engineer) by centrifugal force, it would automatically decrease the power, thus maintaining a constant speed. I believe the expression "Balls to the wall" meaning full speed came from this.


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Tune Req: Ballin' the Jack (J Burris, C Smith)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 28 Apr 10 - 05:28 PM

You can view the sheet music at The New York Public Library web site.

The lyrics agree with what Gene posted above.


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Tune Req: Ballin' the Jack (J Burris, C Smith)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 28 Apr 10 - 06:49 PM

I expected to find that the expression "balling the jack" was older than the song, but I failed to find any examples. The closest I could get was this: from The Freeman, an Illustrated Colored Newspaper, December 20, 1913, page 12:

ANNUAL STAGE REVIEW
The Parliament of Intellect as a Lost Cause in a Valley of Imbecility
Immoral Sarcasm—Managers and Alliances—Colored Shows
The Southern Situation—Picture Houses—Artists Illustrated

. . .
Cost of Slang and Immoral Dances

There is no cost so dear as the price of slang and immorality seen enacted upon the stage by brazen, illegitimate performers, who vaguely think the applause of a few noisy rowdies is an endorsement that will meet the approval of managers who forfeit their pride and disregard the welfare of children for the sake of revenue only. The actor who swears too much is a nuisance. Some theaters don't allow it at all. But when it comes to smutty slang managers should not allow it: actors should be watched and chided and the limit of the law regarded. Stories that suggest ill repute are especially offensive. It is quite the same with suggestive dances. The shivering bodice, twitching of the shoulders, centralized emotion and balling the jack are all sufficient reason for the revoking of any manager's license.


[Note: the song BALLIN' THE JACK was published in October, 1913, only a couple of months before this article was published. The writer doesn't explain the expression "balling the jack"—he assumes his readers already know what it means, and that they understand why he considers it obscene.

[Furthermore, it is hard to believe that anyone would consider the song obscene, or the movements described in the song. Am I justified in concluding that the original meaning of "balling the jack" must have been something quite different from what is described in the song?—and that the song somewhat sanitized the concept of "balling the jack"?—JD.]


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Tune Req: Ballin' the Jack (J Burris, C Smith)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 28 Apr 10 - 07:02 PM

From The Atlanta Constitution, December 4, 1917, page 3:

Actresses Go Free After Girl Shows Dance to Recorder
It Was a "Naughty Little Wiggle," According to Assistant Chief Jett, So Judge Johnson Orders Demonstration.

... the attorney for the defense, called upon the leading lady to show the judge a sample of the dance which he stated was called "Balling the Jack." ...

[Unfortunately, you can't see more of the article without paying a fee.]


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Tune Req: Ballin' the Jack (J Burris, C Smith)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 28 Apr 10 - 08:14 PM

J. E. Lighter, Historical Dictionary of American Slang

Ball the jack. 1. To go fast (said esp. of a railroad train), make haste; hence to run away.
"1913 quot. from a well-known ragtime song gave the phrase wide currency and ref. specifically to the performance of a dance step presumably introduced by the song: whether the phrase itself was coined at the same time is uncertain.
"1913 Burris and Chris Smith song "Now that's what I call 'ballin' the jack'."
"1914, in Handy, Blues Treasury Said a black headed gal make a freight train jump the track / But a long tall gal makes a preacher ball the jack.
"1918 Niles Singing Soldiers I come to France to make de Kaiser ball de jack."


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Tune Req: Ballin' the Jack (J Burris, C Smith)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 28 Apr 10 - 08:37 PM

Originally a railroad term.

"Balling the jack (High Balling the Jack)
Giving a proceed signal to a locomotive (see High Ball, Jack) a series of proceed signals allows a train to make sufficient speed to maintain a schedule".
A Book of Railroad Terms, W. E. Bill Wood.

"Highball- Signal made by waving hand or lamp in a high, wide semicircle, meaning "Come ahead" or "Leave town" or "Pick up full speed." Verb highball or phrase 'ball the jack means to make a fast run. Word highball originated from old-time ball signal on post, raised aloft by pully when track was clear. A very few of these are still in service, in New England and elsewhere."

http://www.catskillarchive.com/rrextra/glossary1.html


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Tune Req: Ballin' the Jack (J Burris, C Smith)
From: Tinker
Date: 28 Apr 10 - 09:23 PM

Here is another definition
http://www.slangcity.com/ask_ac_archive/balling%20_the_%20jack.htm

Dear Slang City:

1. What does "balling the jack" mean and what is its origin? I hope it's not gross......


To answer your first question, "balling the jack" has several meanings. None of them are used much these days, but maybe the expression may become more popular because of the recent novel, Balling the Jack, by Frank Baldwin. It's being made into a movie, starring Ben Affleck as a gambler, and the expression means "risking everything on one attempt" - in this case, he bets $40,000 on a dart game.

However, that's not the original meaning of the word. It was the name of a popular dance in 1913, which goes like this:

"First you put your two knees close up tight
Then you sway them to the left, then you sway them to the right
Step around the floor kind of nice and light
Then you twist around and twist around with all your might,
Stretch your loving arms straight out into space,
Then you do the Eagle Rock with style and grace.
Swing your foot way 'round then bring it back.
Now that's what I call Ballin' the Jack."

Later, the meaning was expanded from just "dancing" to "having a great time". Around the same time the song came out, the expression was used by railroad workers to mean "going at full speed." It's not clear whether the dance or railroad reference came first. And (if that's not enough) it's also been used to describe operating a jackhammer.

So it wasn't anything gross (disgusting), though you can find later uses of the expression where it has a sexual meaning, similar to "balling" (having sex). For example, in the 1940s, blues artist Big Bill Broonzy sang:

My baby's coming home.
I hope that she won't fail because I feel so good, I feel so good.
You know I feel so good, feel like balling the jack.

Well, he could be talking about dancing… but maybe not.

6.15.04
I recently got an interesting email on this topic from a reader:

"To "ball" a "jack" refers possibly to the action of risking a shot in "Boules", or Bocce or its sister game Petanque. The jack in either case is the smaller ball for which the goal of the game is to either throw your team's ball closest to it, or to knock away your opponent's ball. To hit the target ball to another location, or to "ball the jack", is to alter the focus of the gameplay. To do so requires great accuracy, and assuming the game is scored for money instead of points (it is a drinking game, and takes skill and a bit of luck as well), takes risk as well, for in double or triple team play, you only get one shot (one ball per player). So to "ball the jack" is to risk a miss, and a wasted shot, at something that is really important to you."

Thanks to Nasmichael for this info!

11.14.05
More information on the railway origins from Steve, who says

Believe it or not I was looking for "balling the jack" after listening to my new Hobart Smith record. He sings the Broonzy tune you quoted and there's no doubt what he meant there :-). But I think the phrase has it's origins in how men worked on the railway. Hobart does another song with the lines "Balling the jack, lining track / You can't shovel no more" and the liner notes say it comes from railroad section gangs in the early 1870's. Now if you look up railway know-how on http://madisonrails.railfan.net/lewman10.html you will see that to fix a crooked rail you had one person sit on the track and site along it to see where it needed to be straightened (lining the track), then two men would put jacks at an angle against the inside ball of the rail and lever it until it was straight. Then you had to shovel ballast back in under the ties and tamp it down. The ball of the rail is the curved part going up to the flattened surface on top of the rail. The jack had a groove across the top that fit against the ball so it wouldn't slip off.


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Tune Req: Ballin' the Jack (J Burris, C Smith)
From: GUEST,strummer
Date: 07 Jul 10 - 11:56 AM

Does anyone have guitar chords for this song?


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Tune Req: Ballin' the Jack (J Burris, C Smith)
From: GUEST,Johnmc
Date: 08 Jul 10 - 06:31 AM

Which British gangster movie is this in - THE KRAYS ? Has totally coloured anyone's response to it (anyone who has seen the movie) IMO.


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Tune Req: Ballin' the Jack (J Burris, C Smith)
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 08 Jul 10 - 07:11 AM

Re: Eagle Rock.
In Leadbelly's Titanic he refers to Jack Johnson doing the Eagle Rock when he realises that the racial prejudice that stopped him boarding probably saved his life. So many obscure dances seem only to survive in their introductory song (ie Locomotion), this one seems to have got into several.

RtS


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Tune Req: Ballin' the Jack (J Burris, C Smith)
From: GUEST,dpblais1
Date: 23 Jun 12 - 03:06 PM

Memphis slim (who worked with bill broonzy) did a version of ballin the jack which I discovered on a bootleg cassette tape in Singapore when I was in the Navy. Not sure which album it came from but it has some of the same lyrics attributed to the Broonzy version referenced in previous post on this thread.


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Tune Req: Ballin' the Jack (J Burris, C Smith)
From: Don Firth
Date: 23 Jun 12 - 03:17 PM

When Jim Burris who wrote the lyrics passed away, the undertaker prepared his body for burial. All went well until the funeral staff tried to put his body into the casket. They tried to put his left foot in—

And that's when the trouble started.

(Okay, I'll leave now. . . .)

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Lyr/Tune Req: Ballin' the Jack (J Burris, C Smith)
From: Joe_F
Date: 23 Jun 12 - 10:09 PM

I saw a cartoon once in which the jack was a jackass. That made everything perfectly clear.


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