Tuesday 16 April 2024


Otis Blackwell (February 16, 1931 – May 6, 2002) was an American songwriter, singer, and pianist, whose work influenced rock and roll. His compositions include "Fever", recorded by Little Willie John; "Great Balls of Fire" and "Breathless", recorded by Jerry Lee Lewis; "Don't Be Cruel", "All Shook Up" and "Return to Sender" (with Winfield Scott), recorded by Elvis Presley; and "Handy Man", recorded by Jimmy Jones.

"Great Balls of Fire" is a 1957 popular song recorded by Jerry Lee Lewis on Sun Records and featured in the 1957 movie Jamboree. It was written by Otis Blackwell and Jack Hammer. The Jerry Lee Lewis 1957 recording was ranked as the 96th greatest song ever by Rolling Stone. The song is in AABA form. The song sold one million copies in its first 10 days of release in the United States making it one of best-selling singles in the United States at that time.

Blackwell was born in Brooklyn, New York. He learned to play the piano as a child and grew up listening to both R&B and country music. His first success was winning a local talent contest ("Amateur Night") at the Apollo Theater, in Harlem, in 1952. This led to a recording contract with RCA and then with Jay-Dee. His first release was his own composition "Daddy Rolling Stone", which became a favorite in Jamaica, where it was recorded by Derek Martin.The song later became part of the Who's mod repertoire. Enjoying some early recording and performing success, he found his first love was songwriting and by 1955 had settled into the groove that he would ride for decades. His first successes as a songwriter came in 1956, when Little Willie John's R&B hit with the sultry "Fever" was an even bigger pop success for Peggy Lee, and "Don't Be Cruel" began a highly profitable association with Elvis Presley.

During an appearance on Late Night with David Letterman, Blackwell said he never met Presley in person. When he was having a contract dispute with his publishing company, he also wrote under the "white-sounding".

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