Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Category: Country

Willin’

First recorded by Johnny Darrell (1970).
Also recorded by The Byrds (1970, released 2000), Seatrain (1970).
Album hit versions by Little Feat (1971 |1972 |1978), Linda Ronstadt (1974).

From the wiki: ‘Willin” was written by Lowell George, of Little Feat, but first recorded in the spring of 1970 by Johnny Darrell for his album California Stop-Over. The song is about a truck driver in the American southwest who makes some extra cash smuggling cigarettes and transporting illegals across the border from Mexico. George’s opening line, in which the narrator describes himself as being ‘warped by the rain,’ originated in a conversation between George and drummer Richie Hayward. Hayward had used it to describe a rocking chair. Prior to forming Little Feat, George was a member of Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention. It is probable that this song was a reason for his departure, due to its drug references in the chorus. It is known that his leaving had something to do with his drug use, which Zappa heavily frowned upon.

Caribbean

Written and first released by Mitchell Torok with the Louisiana Hayride Band (US #26/C&W #1 1953).
Other hit version by Mitchell Torok (US #27 1957).

From the wiki: “‘Caribbean’ was written and first recorded in 1953 by Mitchell Torok. It became a Country #1 single, and also charted in the US Top 40. In 1957, Torok recorded an updated but very similarly-arranged version of ‘Caribbean’ and it again charted in the US Top 40.

Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys

Co-written and first recorded by Ed Bruce (C&W #15 1975).
Other hit version by Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson (US #42/C&W #1/CAN #1 1978).

From the wiki: “‘Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys’ was first recorded in 1975 by Ed Bruce, written by him and wife Patsy Bruce. Bruce’s rendition of the song went to number 15 on the Hot Country Singles charts. Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson covered the song on their 1978 duet album Waylon & Willie. This recording peaked at #1 in March 1978, spending four weeks atop the Country music charts while also crossing-over to the Billboard Hot 100, and won the 1979 Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. Members of the Western Writers of America chose ‘Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys’ as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time.”

Mountain of Love

Written and first recorded by Harold Dorman (US #21 1959).
Other hit versions by Kenny Lynch (UK #33 1960), Johnny Rivers (US #9 1964), Charlie Pride (C&W #1 1981).

From the wiki: “‘Mountain of Love’ was written by Harold Dorman who first recorded the song in 1959, releasing it as a single in 1960 that peaked in the Top 40 at #21. In 1960, UK singer Kenny Lynch covered ‘Mountain of Love’. It became his first charting single on the UK Singles chart. Johnny Rivers’ 1964 cover went Top 10 in the US. Charlie Pride topped the US Country singles chart in 1981 with his cover of ‘Mountain of Love’.”

Detroit City (I Wanna Go Home)

First recorded ()as “I Wanna Go Home”) by Billy Grammer (C&W #18 1962).
Other ht versions by Bobby Bare (US #16/C&W #6/NOR #1 1963), Tom Jones (US #27/UK #8 1967), Dean Martin (US #101/MOR #36 1970) .

From the wiki: “‘Detroit City’ was written by Danny Dill and Mel Tillis, first made famous by Billy Grammer (as ‘I Wanna Go Home’). Country singer Bobby Bare, and Pop singers Tom Jones and Dean Martin, also enjoyed chart success with the song. ‘Detroit City’ was Bare’s first Country Top 10 hit and his recording won Bare the Grammy award for Best Country & Western Recording in 1964. Tom Jones charted ‘Detroit City’ into the UK Top 10 in 1967. Dean Martin’s 1970 cover of ‘Detroit City’ marked his final appearance on a Pop music chart. (A posthumous re-recording of ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside‘, featuring Martina McBride, would chart in 2006.)”

It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels

First recorded as “Did God Make Honky Tonk Angels” by “Al” Montgomery (1952).
Inspired by “The Wild Side of Life” by Hank Thompson (1951).
Based on “Thrills That I Can’t Forget” by John Ferguson (1927), “Great Speckled Bird” by Roy Acuff (1936).
Hit version by Kitty Wells (C&W #1 1952).

From the wiki: “Jay Miller wrote ‘Did God Make …’ as a reply to Hank Thompon’s hit ‘Wild Side Of Life‘. Alice ‘Al’ Montgomery was a gas station attendant in Louisiana at the time of her recording, which Miller produced and issued on one of his many labels. When covered by Kitty Wells in 1952, the song – which blamed unfaithful men for creating unfaithful women – became the first #1 Billboard Country hit for a solo female artist.

“In addition to helping establish Wells as country music’s first major female star, ‘It Wasn’t God …’ her success paved the way for other female artists to achieve chart success in Country music, particularly Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, and Dolly Parton, and for songs where women defied the typical stereotype of being submissive to men and having to put up with their oft-infidel ways.

“Even with its popularity, there was plenty of resistance to the song and its statement: the NBC radio network banned the song for being ‘suggestive,’ while Wells herself was prohibited from performing it on the Grand Ole Opry and NBC’s ‘Prince Albert’ radio programs.

Jolé Blon

First recorded (as “Ma blonde est partie”) by Amede, Ophy & Cleoma Breaux (1929).
Hit version by Red Foley (C&W #1 1947).
Also recorded by Waylon Jennings (1958), Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band (1980), Gary “U.S.” Bonds (1981).

From the wiki: “‘Jolé Blon’ is a traditional Cajun waltz, often called ‘the Cajun national anthem’ because of the popularity it had in Cajun culture’; is considered to be the very first Cajun recording. The song was then later popularized on a nationwide scale by a series of renditions and references in late 1940s country songs. There is some mystery to the song’s origin: According to Cleoma Breaux’s daughter, while Amede Breaux is credited with writing the song, it was his sister, Cleoma, who actually wrote the lyrics and Amede sang the song. Dennis McGee claims the original song was written by Angelas Lejeune as ‘La Fille De La Veuve (The Widows Daughter)’ during WWI and Cleoma simply rewrote the lyrics, allegedly about Amede’s first wife.

You’ve Got a Lover

Written and first recorded by Shake Russell & Dana Cooper (1978).
Hit version by Ricky Skaggs (C&W #2/CAN #1 1983).

From the wiki: “‘You’ve Got a Lover’ was written by Shake Russell, and first recorded by Russell and Dana Cooper in 1978. Covered by Ricky Skaggs, ‘You’ve Got a Lover’ was released in July 1983 as the fourth single from Skagg’s album Highways & Heartaches (preceded by ‘Heartbroke‘, ‘Highway 40 Blues’, and ‘I Wouldn’t Change You If I Could’), recipient of the 1983 ACM Album of the Year award.”

Hush

First recorded by Billy Joe Royal (US #52 1967).
Also recorded by Kris Ife (1967).
Hit versions by Deep Purple (US #4/UK #58/CAN #2 1968), Kula Shaker (US #19/UK #2 1997).

From the wiki: “‘Hush’ was written by Joe South (‘Games People Play’) for singer Billy Joe Royal (‘Down in the Boondocks’, also written by South; ‘Cherry Hill Park’), and first recorded by Royal in 1967 and charting modestly in the Billboard Hot 100. British singer Kris Ife covered ‘Hush’ in 1967 in the UK market. It was this version that inspired Deep Purple’s 1968 hit cover, recorded for their 1968 debut album Shades of Deep Purple. The track became the group’s first hit single peaking at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and at #2 on the Canadian singles chart. ‘Hush’ is one of four songs originally recorded by Deep Purple with vocals sung by Rod Evans before Ian Gillan later performed the group’s vocal leads.”

Summer Wine

First recorded by Lee Hazelwood & Suzi Jane Hokom (1966).
Hit version by Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazelwood (1967).

From the wiki: “‘Summer Wine’ was written by Lee Hazlewood. It was originally sung in 1966 by Hazelwood and Suzi Jane Hokom, but it was made famous by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood in 1967; the first of Sinatra and Hazlewood’s string of popular duets. The song has since been covered by the likes of Demis Roussos, Bono of U2 with The Corrs, and others.”

Runaway Train (Rosanne Cash)

Written and first recorded by John Stewart (1987).
Hit version by Rosanne Cash (C&W #1 1988).

From the wiki: “‘Runaway Train’ is a song written by John Stewart and was first released by Stewart on the album Punch the Big Guy. Rosanne Cash released her released in July 1988 as the fourth single from the album King’s Record Shop. It would become her ninth #1 hit on the Country chart as a solo artist.”

Rose Garden

First recorded by Billy Joe Royal (1967).
Also recorded by Dobie Gray (US #119 1969), Joe South, writer (1969), The Three Degrees (1970), Sandi Shaw (1970).
Hit version by Lynn Anderson (US #3/C&W #1/UK #3 1970).

From the wiki: “‘Rose Garden’ was written by Joe South (‘Down in the Boondocks’) and first recorded by Billy Joe Royal (‘Down in the Boondocks’, ‘Hush‘) in 1967 for the album Billy Joe Royal Featuring Hush. Several cover versions were recorded soon thereafter, including productions by the writer, Joe South, Dobie Gray and The Three Degrees, before Lynn Anderson took ‘Rose Garden’ to the top of the US Country Singles chart. Anderson had wanted to record the song but her producer (and husband) Glenn Sutton felt it was a ‘man’s song’, in part because of the line ‘I could promise you things like big diamond rings’.

“But, after arranging a more up-tempo, light-hearted melody, Sutton and the studio musicians were impressed with the results. Columbia Records’ executive Clive Davis was equally impressed and insisted the song be released as a single in both the country and pop markets. Shortly after its breakthrough on US Top 40 radio, the song became an international hit. A cover version released by Sandie Shaw in UK ultimately failed to chart, as Anderson’s version quickly became a major success there.”

Don’t Let the Rain Come Down (Crooked Little Man)

First recorded (as “Crooked Little House”) by Jimmie Rodgers (1960).
Hit version by The Serendipity Singers (US #6/MOR #2 1962).

From the wiki: “‘Don’t Let the Rain Come Down (Crooked Little Man)’ was written by rockabilly singer songwriter Ersel Hickey. The lyrics were based on the English nursery rhyme ‘There Was A Crooked Man’, arrangement with a Calypso-based melody. It was first recorded in 1960 by Country singer Jimmie Rodgers (‘Honeycomb’, ‘Kisses Sweeter Than Wine’) with no apparent chart impact. (This Rodgers is not to be confused with Country music pioneer Jimmie Rodgers).

“In 1962, ‘Crooked Little Man’ was covered by The Serendipity Singers as their debut recording, and charted in the US Billboard Hot 100 Top 10 that year.”

Dueling Banjos

First recorded (as “Feudin’ Banjos”) by Arthur Smith & Don Reno (1955).
Hit version by Eric Weissberg & Steve Mandell (US #2/MOR #1/CAN #2 1973).

From the wiki: “‘Dueling Banjos’ is an instrumental composition by Arthur ‘Guitar Boogie’ Smith. The song was composed in 1955 by Smith as a banjo instrumental he called ‘Feudin’ Banjos’. The composition’s first wide scale airing was on a 1963 television episode of The Andy Griffith Show called ‘Briscoe Declares for Aunt Bee’, in which it is played by visiting musical family The Darlings (played by The Dillards, a Bluegrass group).

“The song was made internationally famous by the 1972 film Deliverance, which also led to a successful lawsuit by the song’s composer, as it was used in the film without his permission. The film version, arranged and recorded by Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandell and subsequently issued as a single, peaked at #2 for four weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1973.”

Lovin’ Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again)

Written and first recorded by Kris Kristofferson (US #26/MOR #4 1971).
Other hit versions by Roger Miller (C&W #28 1971), Tompall & The Glaser Brothers (C&W #2 1981).

From the wiki: “Lovin’ Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again)” is a song written and recorded by Kris Kristofferson for his 1971 album The Silver Tongued Devil and I. It was also released by Roger Miller, who included it on his album The Best of Roger Miller and released it as a single in July 1971. Ten years later, it was recorded by Tompall & the Glaser Brothers for the album Lovin’ Her Was Easier. Their single charted Top 5 on the C&W Singles chart. In 1990, Hank Snow asked the brothers to perform at his tribute show so they reunited for this one night. It was the first time they had performed together as a group in over five years and the last time they would ever again appear on stage together.”

Change the World

Originally recorded by Wynonna (Feb 1996).
Hit version by Eric Clapton (US #5/MOR #1/R&B #54/UK #18 July 1996).

From the wiki: “’Change the World’ was written by Tommy Sims, Gordon Kennedy, and Wayne Kirkpatrick. Previous to the release of Eric Clapton’s hit version, the song was recorded by Country superstar Wynonna Judd for her album Revelations, released in February 1996. Wynonna, however, did not release her version as a single despite the popularity of Clapton’s subsequent recording when it was released to radio in July 1996.

Crying Time

Written and first recorded by Buck Owens (B-side 1964).
Hit version by Ray Charles (US #6/R&B #5/UK #50 1965).

From the wiki: “‘Crying Time’ is a song from 1964 written by Buck Owens. Owens recorded the original version of his song and released it as the B-side to ‘I’ve Got a Tiger By the Tail’ in 1964. A cover version of ‘Crying Time’ was then recorded in 1965 by Ray Charles, featuring backing vocals by the Jack Halloran Singers and The Raelettes. His version proved to be a hit strong Top 40 and R&B hit. Charles’ version of ‘Crying Time’ won two Grammy Awards in 1967, in the categories Best R&B Recording and Best R&B Solo Performance.

“Charles and Barbra Streisand together performed the song as a duet on her 1973 album Barbra Streisand … And Other Musical Instruments and on the TV special titled the same.”

Jingle Jangle Jingle

First performed by Dick Thomas (1942).
Hit versions by The Merry Macs (US #4 1942), Kay Kyser (US #1 1942), Gene Autry (US #17 1942).

From the wiki: “‘Jingle Jangle Jingle’ was written by Frank Loesser (‘Baby It’s Cold Outside‘, ‘Inch Worm’, ‘What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?‘) and Joseph J. Lilley, and published in 1942. It was first introduced in the motion picture The Forest Rangers, starring Fred MacMurray and Paulette Goddard, and was sung by movie cowboy Dick Thomas (‘Sioux City Sue’, 1945).

“The Merry Macs released the first commercial recording of ‘Jingle Jangle Jingle’ in 1942. First formed to play proms in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the Merry Macs were made up of the three McMichael brothers – tenors Judd and Joe, and baritone Ted – and vocalist Mary Lou Cook. The Merry Macs were discovered by organist-bandleader Eddie Dunstedter from radio station WCCO. Other popular 1942 versions of ‘Jingle Jangle Jingle’ were recorded by Kay Kyser with Harry Babbitt, and, most notably, by movie cowboy Gene Autry before his induction into the US Army.”

Faded Love

Co-written and first recorded by Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys (1946).
Also recorded by The Maddox Brothers & Rose (1950).
Hit versions by Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys (C&W #8 1950), Leon McAuliffe (C&W #22 1962 |C&W #22 1971), Patsy Cline (US #97/C&W #7 1963).

From the wiki: “‘Faded Love’ is a Western swing song written by Bob Wills; his father, John Wills; and his brother, Billy Jack Wills. The tune is considered to be an exemplar of the Western swing fiddle component of American fiddle. The song was first recorded as an instrumental in April, 1946 by Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys for the Tiffany record label; a 1950 re-recording for MGM Records, with lyrics by Billy Jack, became a major hit for the group, reaching #8 on the Country charts in 1950, becoming one of the Playboys’ signature songs.

One Day at a Time

First recorded by Marilyn Sellars (US #37/C&W #19 1974).
Hit version by on Gloria Sherry (IRE #1 1978), Lena Martell (UK #1 1979), Cristy Lane (C&W #1 1981).

From the wiki: “‘One Day at a Time’ was written by Marijohn Wilkin and Kris Kristofferson (although Kristofferson was a bit embarrassed with this co-credit; recalls he merely shared the same room while Marijohn wrote it, perhaps helping out with a lyric line one or two). It has been recorded by over 200 artists and has reached #1 in several countries.

“The song was first recorded by Country singer Marilyn Sellars in 1974 and released as a single to modest success. Irish singer Gloria Sherry recorded ‘One Day at a Time’, releasing it as a single in August 1977. Her recording remained on the Irish charts for the rest of the year, throughout 1978 and well into 1979 – peaking at #1 (over a year after it had first entered the chart) and spent 90 weeks in the Top 30 – the longest run by any song in Irish Chart history. Lena Martell’s 1979 recording topped the UK singles chart.

“But, ‘One Day at a Time’ became best-known among Country music fans when recorded by American country gospel singer Cristy Lane in 1980. At first, United Artists Records balked at releasing the song, despite its previous track record of success, but Lane’s husband-manager, Lee Stoller, predicted the song would be successful, and UA relented. For co-songwriter Kristofferson, ‘One Day at a Time’ became his sixth #1 hit as a songwriter.”

Guitar Man

First recorded by Jerry Reed (C&W #53 1967).
Hit version by Elvis Presley (US #43/C&W #1/UK #19 1968 |US #28/C&W #1 1981).

From the wiki: “‘Guitar Man’ is a 1967 song written by Jerry Reed and first recorded by him the same year. Soon after Reed’s single appeared, Elvis Presley recorded the song[1] with Reed playing the guitar part. According to Peter Guralnick, in his two-volume biography of Presley, the singer had been trying unsuccessfully to record the tune but wasn’t happy with the groove. Presley said something to the effect of: ‘Get me that redneck picker who’s on the original [recording],’ and his staff brought Reed into the studio – who nailed it on the first take. Presley’s single charted in the both the US and UK, and spent a week at #1 on the US Country singles chart.

Jambalaya (On the Bayou)

Based on “Gran Prairie” by Happy Fats & His Rayne-Bo Ramblers (1940).
Hit versions by Hank Williams (US #20/C&W #1 1952), Jo Stafford (US #3 1952), Fats Domino (US #30 1961), Blue Ridge Rangers (#16 1973), The Carpenters (UK #12 1974).

From the wiki: “The melody of ‘Jambalaya’ is based on the Cajun song ‘Gran Prairie’, first recorded in 1940 by Happy Fats & His Rayne-Bo Ramblers. While ‘Gran Prairie’ is a song about a lost love, the lyrics written by Hank Williams for ‘Jambalaya’ are about life, parties and stereotypical Cajun foods. Released in July 1952, crediting Williams as the sole author (there is some dispute, whether the lyrics were co-written with Moon Mullican), it reached #1 on the US Country music charts and stayed there for 14 non-consecutive weeks. Jo Stafford’s cover peaked at #3 on the Pop music charts, further popularizing the song. Other popular recordings were later charted by Fats Domino, and Blue Ridge Rangers (John Fogerty). The Carpenters released their 1974 recording of ‘Jambalaya’ as an overseas single, with chart success in the UK, Japan, Mexico, Holland and Germany.”

Broken Hearted Me

First recorded by England Dan & John Ford Coley (1978).
Hit version by Anne Murray (US #12/C&W #1/CAN #15 1979).

From the wiki: “‘Broken Hearted Me’ was written by Randy Goodrum (‘You Needed Me’, ‘It’s Sad to Belong’), and was first recorded in 1978 by England Dan & John Ford Coley for their album Dr. Heckle and Mr. Jive. It was later covered by Anne Murray. ‘Broken Hearted Me’ was Murray’s fourth #1 single on the US Country chart, and her seventh overall appearance on the Billboard Hot 100.”

Midnight Flyer

First recorded by The Osborne Brothers and Marc Wiseman (1972).
Hit album version by Eagles (1974).

From the wiki: “Even though Eagles were attempting by 1974 to move beyond the Country-Rock label with which they had been tagged, the group were still happy to record this Bluegrass-y tune penned by singer-songwriter Paul Craft and first recorded in 1972 by The Osborne Brothers and Marc Wiseman (‘Dueling Banjos’). Bernie Leadon was one of the top banjo players in the country and his playing is featured throughout the song, along with Glenn Frey’s slide guitar and Randy Meisner’s lead vocals.”

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