The Story Behind The Song: “White Lightning”


(written by J. P. Richardson)


George Jones (#1 country, #73 pop, 1959)

George Jones grew up in Beumont, Texas and as a fledgling musician became acquainted with another Beumont resident who was also attempting to build a career in music, Jiles Perry Richardson, who was known as “J. P.” around town. Although J. P. leaned more toward the new rock and roll style while George preferred country music, the two men became lifelong friends, which neither one could have guessed that this would be of a very short duration.

Jones signed with Pappy Dailey’s Houston-based Starday Records in 1953 and logged his first hit “Why Baby Why” in late 1955. By ’57 he had switched to the bigger Mercury label, where Dailey was promotions director, and started recording in Nashville.

Meanwhile, Jones’ old Starday label had set up additional offices in Nashville and Don Pierce (an original founder and financial partner at the label’s headquarters in Houston) was assigned to run the Nashville operation while Dailey remained in Texas, although Dailey still served as George Jones’ manager and, when available, his main producer.

J. P. Richardson (adapting the stage moniker “The Big Bopper”) had also landed a recording contract with Mercury and in 1958 charted his lone hit, but it was a big one: the pop classic “Chantilly Lace,” which J. P. wrote. It reached #6 in Billboard. Jerry Lee Lewis covered “Chantilly Lace” as a country release in 1972 and had a number one record with it. Richardson also composed a couple of other songs around that time that would prove to be huge hits for other artists: “Running Bear” and “White Lightning.”

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