2003   APRIL 28   #118

Mother - Ball In The Jack

OK... Well my father, a long time Irish tenor singer, was a square dance caller from 1968 until sometime in 1978. I remember one day when he first brought home his "Unit". It was around 1969-70. The Unit was a one speaker, turntable, mic-in, line-in, and speakers-out, a self contained PA ! (speaker was the cover & detached) Brandy new, it was cool ! He had this fold up stage big enough for one person, an expensive Radio-Shack Mic, A separate 4 speaker stack, and a TON of 45's. He would set it all up in the living room.

These 45's had the full voice and instruments on one side (the original cut) and on the other side was JUST the Instrumental. You name the dance song from the 40,50,60's he had it. Not to mention all the square dance Hits !

He would practice on Saturdays on into the night. I was 10 and three siblings younger, at 2 year intervals. After he got done, we all got a chance to play our favorites and sing along with them. Wicked Fun ! Mind you, the words Karaoke and DJ had not even been heard in the vernacular at this time. I never thought of this as Karaoke-still don't. In fact I'm displeased at what Karaoke and DJs have done to some of my favorite watering holes. I suppose it's cheaper than bands, and keeps the crowds down, but.... I digress.....

So Mother even got into the act ! This is a recording of Mom singing "BALL IN THE JACK". (1970) I recorded it. You can even hear my zealous sister singing along if you listen close. Mom passed away last June, age 71. Today is her Birthday !

I hope you have as much fun with the recording as we had making it !

- Greg McCarthy

TT-2:07 / 1.7MB / 112kbps 44.1khz

(Halloween Party - Mom on right - Good friend Joan Murphy on left -
October, 1956 - Image courtesy of Greg McCarthy)

Who Really Cares? In Kingston, NY writes:
This tune featured is called "Ballin' the Jack" , Words by James Henry Burris, Music by Chris Smith, 1913, in case someone wants to find out about it somewhere.

Vincent Wamsley writes:
Concerning your feature of 4/28, which you called "Ball In the Jack". The phrase is actually "Ballin' the jack", as in operating a jack-hammer. Throughout the early to mid 20th century, this phrase was used in a variety of popular songs, usually blues standards or prison work songs; so it's easy to see how it would come to be used in describing a dance step (among other things). The only example That I can think of off the top of my head is a song on the Grateful Dead's 1972 album "Working Man's Dead", called "Easy Wind". The first verse starts:

'I been ballin' that shiny black steel jack-hammer,
Been chippin' up rocks for the great high-way.'
'I'll live five years if I take my time,
Ballin' the jack and drinkin' my wine.'


'Doctor says "baby stop ballin' the jack,
If you live five years you're gonna bust your back"'.

And later:

"'Cause I'm a stone jack-baller and my heart is true..."