Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Category: 1930s

Dipsy Doodle

First recorded by Tommy Dorsey feat. Edythe Wright (#1 1937).
Other hit versions by Russ Morgan and His Orchestra (US #2 1937), Johnny Maddox & the Rhythmasters (US #15 1953).
Also recorded by Larry Clinton & His Orchestra feat. Bea Wain (1937), Ella Fitzgerald & the Chick Webb Orchestra (1937), Bill Haley & His Comets (1957).

“Larry Clinton was an arranger for the Dorsey Brothers big band at the he came up with ‘Dipsy Doodle’, hanging out at the Onyx Club, a jazz club on 52nd Street in New York City, where the back of the menus were printed with blank music scores. One evening Clinton wrote the melody on a menu. It wasn’t until baseball season rolled around that he came up with the lyrics.

“He was a baseball fanatic and Clinton got the idea [for lyrics] from New York Giants left-handed pitcher Carl Hubbell. Hubbell had a screwball pitch that had been dubbed ‘dipsy doo’ for the crazy way it dipped over the plate and befuddled the batters.

“Clinton originally wrote ‘Dipsy Doodle’ for Tommy Dorsey [whose 1937 recording featuring vocalist Edythe Wright topped the Hit Parade ahead of the Russ Moran Orchestra cover version]. Dorsey then made Clinton so well known that Clinton was able to start a band of his own with the financial backing of Dorsey. Then Clinton’s own band further popularized ‘Dipsy Doodle’ by using it as its theme song.

Moonglow

First recorded by Joe Venuti & His Orchestra (1933).
Hit versions by Glen Gray & the Casa Loma Orchestra (US #8 1934), Cab Calloway & His Cotton Club Orchestra (US #7 1934), Duke Ellington & His Orchestra (US #2 1934), Benny Goodman & His Orchestra (US #1 1934), The Benny Goodman Quartet (US #8 1936).
Also recorded by Ethel Waters (1934), Bing Crosby (1956), Sarah Vaughn (1962).
Also recorded (as “Moonglow & Theme from Picnic“) by George Cates (US #4 1956), Morris Stoloff (US #1 1956).

From the wiki: “‘Moonglow’ (also known as ‘Moonglow and Love’) was written in 1933 by by Will Hudson and Irving Mills with lyrics by Eddie DeLange. It was first recorded by Joe Venuti & His Orchestra in 1933, with subsequent recordings in the following year by the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Cab Calloway, Glen Gray & the Casa Loma Orchestra, Benny Goodman and his orchestra, Ethel Waters, and Art Tatum. The song has since become a jazz standard, performed and recorded numerous times by a wide array of musical talents.

“In the 1950s a medley of the song and George Duning’s ‘Theme from Picnic‘, orchestrated by Johnny Warrington, became quite popular, especially in instrumental recordings by Morris Stoloff, conductor of the film version by the Columbia Pictures Orchestra. Duning wrote the film’s theme to counterpoint ‘Moonglow’. Stoloff’s ‘Moonglow & Theme from Picnic‘ spent three weeks at #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.

Sweet Leilani

First recorded (as “Leilani”) by Sol Ho’opi’i & His Novelty Quartet (1935).
Hit version by Bing Crosby (US #1 1937).
Also recorded by Harry Owens & His Royal Hawaiians (1938), Andy Williams (1959), Sam Cooke (1960).

From the wiki: “Harry Owens wrote the song in 1934 for his just-born daughter, Leilani. The name has a figurative meaning: Small Hawaiian children were carried on their parents’ shoulders like a lei (garland), so the name took on the meaning ‘heavenly child’.

“‘Leilani’ was first recorded in Hawaii by Sol Ho’opi’i & His Novelty Quartet in 1935, as the B-side of the Brunswick Records’ 78-rpm ‘Hawaiian Honeymoon’. The song was famously featured in the 1937 motion picture, Waikiki Wedding, for which its Bing Crosby recording won the Academy Award for Best Original Song with Crosby’s recording going on to become one of the top hits of 1937. The song made another film appearance in the 1938 comedy Cocoanut Grove (set in Los Angeles; not Hawaii), starring Fred MacMurray, performed by the song’s composer Harry Owens & His Royal Hawaiians.

Winter Wonderland

First recorded by Richard Himber & His Ritz-Carlton Orchestra (1934).
Popular versions by Guy Lomabardo’s Royal Canadians (US #2 1934), Ted Weems & His Orchestra (US #13 1934), Johnny Mercer & The Pied Pipers (US #4 1946), Perry Como & the Satisfiers (US #10 1946), Johnny Mathis (UK #17 1958), Darlene Love (1963), Ramsey Lewis Trio (US #27 1966).

From the wiki: “‘Winter Wonderland’, a winter song, is popularly regarded as a Christmas song even though the holiday itself is never mentioned in the lyrics. It was written in 1934 by Felix Bernard (music) and Richard B. Smith (lyricist). Smith, a native of Honesdale, Pennsylvania, was reportedly inspired to write the song after seeing Honesdale’s Central Park covered in snow. Smith had written the lyrics while in the West Mountain Sanitarium, being treated for tuberculosis.

“The original recording was by Richard Himber and his Hotel Ritz-Carlton Orchestra on RCA Bluebird in 1934. At the end of a recording session with time to spare, it was suggested that this new tune be tried with an arrangement provided by the publisher. This ‘studio’ orchestra included many great New York studio musicians including the legendary Artie Shaw. The biggest chart hit at the time of introduction was Guy Lombardo’s orchestra, a Top-10 hit. Singer-songwriter Johnny Mercer took the song to #4 in Billboard’s airplay chart in 1946. The same season, Perry Como hit the retail top ten. (Como would also record a new version for his 1959 Christmas album, Season’s Greetings.)

“Through the decades it has been recorded by over 200 different artists, among them Johnny Mathis (1958), Darlene Love (1963), and The Ramsey Lewis Trio (1966).”

Mood Indigo

First recorded (as “Dreamy Blues”) by The Harlem Footwarmers (1930).
Also recorded by The Jungle Band (1930), Duke Ellington & His Cotton Club Orchestra (1930), Paul Robeson (1937), Ella Fitzgerald (1957).
Hit version by The Norman Petty Trio (US #14 1954).

From the wiki: “‘Mood Indigo’ was written by Duke Ellington and Barney Bigard. Ellington is said to have claimed ‘I wrote [‘Mood Indigo’] in 15 minutes while I was waiting for my mother to finish cooking dinner.’

“Ellington’s biographer, Terry Teachout, described the song as ‘an imperishable classic, one of a handful of songs that come to mind whenever Ellington’s name is mentioned anywhere in the world.’ The tune was composed for a radio broadcast in October 1930 and was originally titled ‘Dreamy Blues’. It was ‘the first tune I ever wrote specially for microphone transmission,’ Ellington recalled. ‘The next day wads of mail came in raving about the new tune.’ Renamed ‘Mood Indigo’, it went on to became a Jazz standard.

On the Sunny Side of the Street

First recorded by Roger Wolfe Kahn & His Orchestra with Harry Richman (US #13 1930).
Other popular versions by the Ted Lewis Orchestra (US #2 1930), Lionel Hampton (R&B #10 1938), Jo Stafford & the Pied Pipers (US #13 1944), Tommy Dorsey & the Sentimentalists (US #1 1945).
Also recorded by Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong & Jack Teagarden (1938).

From the wiki:”‘On the Sunny Side of the Street’ is to Jimmy McHugh, with lyrics by Dorothy Fields. But, some authors believe that Fats Waller was the composer, selling his rights for the money. (Fats Waller & His Rhythm performed the song live with Louis Armstrong and Jack Teagarden in a radio broadcast from Martin Block’s Make Believe Ballroom in October 1938.) The song was first recorded in 1930, in the Broadway musical Lew Leslie’s International Revue starring Harry Richman and Gertrude Lawrence. Richman first recorded ‘On the Sunny Side of the Street’ in 1930 and a recording by the Ted Lewis Orchestra released the same year came close to topping the Hit Parade.

“Other hit versions were recorded by Lionel Hampton (1938), Jo Stafford & the Pied Pipers (1944), and Tommy Dorsey & the Sentimentalists (1945).”

Back in the Saddle Again

Co-written and first recorded by Ray Whitley (1938).
Hit version by co-writer Gene Autry (US #13/C&W #1 1939).

From the wiki: “‘Back in the Saddle Again’ was co-written by Ray Whitley with Gene Autry and first recorded by Whitley in 1938. A true Georgia born showman, Whitley was one of those guys who did a little bit of everything: He served in the Navy, ventured up to New York where he worked on the Empire State Building construction crew, he could snap the tip of a cigarette off with a bullwhip and, if remembered for nothing else, Whitley designed the guitar that would become a staple of Gibson’s line – the Super Jumbo.

“During the Depression, Whitley began to sing to make some money on the side. He ended up co-hosting a radio program called The Village Barn Dance with another young Western singer, Tex Ritter, and the two eventually made their way to Hollywood.

Summertime

First recorded by Helen Jepson (1936).
Hit versions by Billie Holiday (US #12 1936), Sidney Bechet (1939), Sam Cooke (US #81 1959), Al Martino (UK #49 1960), The Marcels (US #78/UK #46 1961), Billy Stewart (US #10/R&B #7/UK #39 1966), Fun Boy Three (UK #18 1982).
Also recorded by Janis Joplin (1968).

From the wiki: “‘Summertime’ is an aria composed in 1934 by George Gershwin for the 1935 opera Porgy and Bess. The lyrics are by DuBose Heyward, the author of the, Porgy, on which the opera was based, although the song is also co-credited to Ira Gershwin. The song soon became a popular and much recorded jazz standard, described as ‘without doubt … one of the finest songs the composer ever wrote … Gershwin’s highly evocative writing brilliantly mixes elements of jazz and the song styles of blacks in the southeast United States from the early twentieth century.’

“Gershwin began composing the song in December 1933, attempting to create his own spiritual in the style of the African American folk music of the period. Gershwin had completed setting Heyward’s poem to music by February 1934, and spent the next 20 months completing and orchestrating the score of the opera.

The Woodpecker Song

First recorded (as “Reginella campagnola”) by Carlo Buti (1939).
Also recorded by Kate Smith (1940).
Hit versions by The Andrews Sisters (US #7 1940), Glenn Miller & His Orchestra (US #1 1940).

From the wiki: “‘The Woodpecker Song’ (‘Reginella campagnola’) was originally an Italian song, written by Eldo Di Lazzaro, and first recorded by Carlo Buti in 1939. English lyrics were written by Harold Adamson and the song became a US hit in 1940, recorded by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra, The Andrews Sisters, and Kate Smith the same year. The Glenn Miller recording featured Marion Hutton on vocals and reached #1 on the Billboard charts in 1940.”

Guantanamera

First recorded (as “Guajira Guantanamera”) by Joséito Fernández (1940).
Also recorded by Pete Seeger (1963).
Hit versions by The Sandpipers (US #9/MOR #3/UK #7/CAN #10/IRE #3 1966), Los Paraguayos (UK #187 1996), The Fugees & Wyclef Jean (US #62/R&B #23/UK #25 1987).

From the wiki: “‘Guantanamera’ (Spanish: ‘from Guantánamo, feminine’, thus ‘she from Guantánamo’) is perhaps the best-known Cuban song and that country’s most noted patriotic song. The music for the song is sometimes attributed to José Fernández Diaz, known as Joseíto Fernández, who claimed to have written it at various dates (consensus puts 1929 as its year of origin), and who used it regularly in one of his radio programs. After a lengthy copyright dispute, the People’s Supreme Court of Cuba credited Fernández as the sole composer of the music in 1993.

“The version recorded in 1963 by Pete Seeger (‘Turn! Turn! Turn!‘, ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight (Wimoweh)‘), for his We Shall Overcome album, was based on lyrics written by Cuban patriot José Martí and is said to be the definitive recording of ‘Guantanamera’. Seeger combined Martí’s verse with the tune, with the intention that it be used by the peace movement at the time of the Cuban missile crisis. He urged that people sing the song as a symbol of unity between the American and Cuban peoples. The most commercially-successful version of ‘Guantanamera’ in the English-speaking world was recorded by easy listening vocal group The Sandpipers in 1966.”

Will the Circle be Unbroken?

Early recording by The Silver Leaf Quartet of Norfolk (1930).
Popular versions by The Carter Family (1935), Johnny Cash & June Carter (1968), Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (1972).

From the wiki: “‘Will the Circle Be Unbroken?’ is a popular Christian hymn written in 1907 by Ada R. Habershon with music by Charles H. Gabriel. The song is often now recorded unattributed and, because of its age, has lapsed into the public domain. One of the earliest recordings of the song was made by The Silver Leaf Quartette of Norfolk (Virginia) in 1930. Already in New York City for an extended performance tour, including 21 straight nights at the Metropolitan Baptist Church, the Quartet’s recording was released and distributed by Okeh Records. In 1935, A.P. Carter adapted the original hymn and, with The Carter Family, recorded the song as ‘Can the Circle be Unbroken (By and By)?’. That version (often using the original ‘Will the Circle’ title) has been covered by a large number of artists. Its refrain has also been incorporated into the Carl Perkins song ‘Daddy Sang Bass’ and the Atlanta song ‘Sweet Country Music’.

Every Day I Have the Blues

First recorded by “Pinetop” Sparks (1935).
Also recorded by Memphis Slim (1949).
Hit versions by Lowell Fulson (R&B #3 1950), Joe Williams (R&B #8 1952), B.B. King (R&B #8 1955), The Count Basie Orchestra with Joe Williams (R&B #2 1955).

From the wiki: “‘Every Day I Have the Blues’ is a Blues song that has been performed in a variety of styles. An early version of the song is attributed to Pinetop Sparks and his brother Milton (or Marion), and was first performed in the taverns of St. Louis by the Sparks brothers. It was first recorded on July 28, 1935 by Pinetop with Henry Townsend on guitar. After a reworking of the song by Memphis Slim in 1949 (see below), ‘Every Day’ became a Blues standard with renditions recorded by numerous artists. Four different versions of ‘Every Day I Have the Blues’ have reached the R&B Top 10. Two recordings – one by B.B. King, and one by Count Basie with Joe Williams – have received Grammy Hall of Fame Awards. Williams first recorded and charted ‘Every Day’ for Chess in 1952 with the King Kolax Orchestra before re-recording the song again in 1955 with the Basie orchestra, a version that spent twenty-weeks on the R&B chart.

Orange Blossom Special

Written and first recorded by Ervin T. Rouse (1939).
Hit versions by Bill Monroe & His Bluegrass Boys (1942), The Spotnicks (UK #29 1964), Doug Kershaw (CAN #9 1970).
Also recorded by Johnny Cash (1965).

From the wiki: “‘Orange Blossom Special’, written by Ervin T. Rouse in 1938 and first recorded by him in 1939 with his brother, Gordon, is often referred to as ‘the fiddle player’s national anthem’. By the 1950s, it had become a perennial favorite at Bluegrass festivals, popular for its rousing energy. For a long time no fiddle player would be hired for a Bluegrass band unless he could play it. Bill Monroe, regarded by many as ‘the father of Bluegrass music’, recorded the song, with Art Wooten on fiddle, in 1942 and made it a hit. ‘Orange Blossom Special’ was further popularized by Chubby Wise’s weekly performances of it on the nationally-broadcast Grand Ole Opry radio show.

“Swedish instrumental Rock band The Spotnicks recorded ‘Blossom’ for their first album – The Spotnicks in London – Out-a-Space! – and it became a UK Top 30 for them in 1962. Cajun fiddler Doug Kershaw’s 1970 recording went Top 10 in Canada. Johnny Cash titled his 1965 album after the song. While Bluegrass performers tend to play ‘Blossom’ strictly as an instrumental, Cash sang the lyrics and replaced the fiddle parts with two harmonicas and a saxophone – with Cash playing both harmonicas himself.”

Glory of Love

First recorded by Willie Bryant & His Orchestra (1936).
Hit versions by Benny Goodman with Helen Ward (US #1 1936), The Five Keys (R&B #1 1951), Otis Redding (US #60/R&B #19 1967).

From the wiki: “‘The Glory Of Love’ wasg written by Billy Hill, and first recorded by Willie Bryant & His Orchestra in 1936. Bryant was American jazz bandleader, vocalist, and disc jockey who first put together in 1934 a big band which at times included Teddy Wilson, Cozy Cole, Johnny Russell, Benny Carter, Ben Webster, Eddie Durham, Ram Ramirez, and Taft Jordan. The cover recording by Benny Goodman & His Orchestra, with Helen Ward, topped the Pop music charts in 1936. In 1951, R&B vocal group, The Five Keys, had their biggest R&B hit with their version of the song, hitting #1 on the R&B chart. Otis Redding covered ‘Glory of Love’ in 1967, landing his recording in the Billboard Hot 100 and the R&B Top 20.”

Harbor Lights

First recorded by Frances Langford (US #6 1937).
Other hit versions by Swing and Sway with Sammy Kaye (US #1 1950), Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians (US #2 1950), Ray Anthony & His Orchestra (US #4 1950), Bing Crosby (US #8 1950), Dinah Washington (R&B #10 1951), The Platters (US #8/R&B #15/UK #11 1960).

From the wiki: “‘Harbor Lights’ was written by Hugh Williams (pseudonym for Will Grosz) with lyrics by Jimmy Kennedy, and first recorded by Frances Langford (with Sam Koki & His Islanders) in 1937. The most-popular version was recorded in 1950 by Swing & Sway with Sammy Kaye, lasting 25 weeks on the Billboard chart and peaking at #1. Other charting covers in 1950 were recorded by The Guy Lombardo Orchestra, Ray Anthony & His Orchestra, and Bing Crosby. Dinah Washington charted R&B Top 10 in 1951, while The Platters returned ‘Harbor Lights’ to the US Top 40 in 1960.”

Man Smart (Woman Smarter)

Written and first recorded by King Radio (1937).
Hit version by Robert Palmer (US #63 1976).
Also recorded by Harry Belfonte (1956), Robert Mitchum (1957), The Carpenters (1977).

From the wiki: “The Calypso song ‘Man Smart (Woman Smarter)’ was written and first recorded by King Radio (Norman Span) in 1937. Variations of the song have been recorded by many artists including Harry Belafonte, Chubby Checker, Rosanne Cash, Robert Mitchum, and The Carpenters. Robert Palmer charted in the Billboard Hot 100 with his 1976 cover recording. ‘Man Smart (Woman Smarter)’ was also a staple of the live repertoire of the Grateful Dead from 1981 to 1995.”

Harlem Nocturne

First recorded by Ray Anthony & His Orchestra (1939).
Hit versions by Herbie Fields (1953), The Viscounts (US #52 1959 |US #39 1966).
Also recorded by Johnny Otis (1945), Mel Torme (1963), Duke Ellington (c. 1970?).

From the wiki: “‘Harlem Nocturne’ was written by Earle Hagen and Dick Rogers in 1939. The song was adopted by bandleader Randy Brooks the next year as his theme song, but was first recorded in 1939 by Ray Anthony & His Orchestra. Hagen was a trombonist in Ray Noble’s band at the time. He had been inspired by Duke Ellington’s saxophone player Johnny Hodges and wrote ‘Harlem Nocturne’ for Noble’s sax man Jack Dumont, originally titling it ‘Duke’s Soup’. The name change was suggested by the publisher.

Heart and Soul

First recorded by Larry Clinton & His Orchestra with Bea Wain (US #1 February 1938).
Other hit versions by Eddy Duchin (US #12 1939), Al Donahue & His Orchestra (US #16 1939), The Four Aces (US #11 1952), Jan & Dean (US #25 1961), The Cleftones (US #18 1961).

From the wiki: “‘Heart and Soul’ was written by Hoagy Carmichael (‘Stardust‘, ‘Georgia on My Mind‘) with lyrics by Frank Loesser and first recorded in 1938 by Larry Clinton & His Orchestra featuring Bea Wain. In 1939, three versions charted: Larry Clinton (reaching #1 on the chart), Eddy Duchin (reaching #12), and Al Donahue (reaching #16).

“The Four Aces covered and charted ‘Heart and Soul’ in 1952; two different cover versions charted in 1961, with Jan & Dean reaching #25 and The Cleftones reaching #18. The Cleftones’ recording became more widely and popularly known after it was used in the 1972 movie American Graffiti, and was included on the soundtrack album.

Baby, Please Don’t Go

First recorded by Big Joe Williams’ Washboard Blues Singers (1935).
Also recorded by Muddy Waters (1953), Mose Allison (1960), Georgia Fame (1963).
Hit versions by The Orioles (R&B #8 1952), Them (US #102/UK #10 1964).

From the wiki: “‘Baby, Please Don’t Go’ is a Blues song which has been called ‘one of the most played, most arranged, and most rearranged pieces in Blues history’ by music historian Gerard Herzhaft. Delta Blues musician Big Joe Williams popularized it with several versions beginning in 1935. The song’s roots have been traced back to nineteenth-century slave songs, dealing with themes of bondage and imprisonment. In 1952, a Doo-wop version by The Orioles reached the R&B Top 10 (an early 45 rpm issue available only on red vinyl); Muddy Waters’ 1953 recording recast the song as an electric Chicago Blues ensemble piece, influencing many subsequent renditions.

Night and Day

First recorded by Leo Reisman & His Orchestra (1932).
Hit versions by Fred Astaire (US #1 1932), Eddie Duchin (US #2 1933), Frank Sinatra (US #15 1944).

From the wiki: “‘Night and Day’ was written in 1932 by Cole Porter for the 1932 musical play Gay Divorce. It is perhaps Porter’s most popular contribution to the Great American Songbook and has been recorded by dozens of artists. It was Fred Astaire who first introduced ‘Night and Day’ on stage. It would be Leo Reisman & His Orchestra (with an uncredited performance by Astaire) who released the first recording of ‘Night and Day’, on November 22, 1932. Astaire reprised ‘Night and Day’ in the 1934 motion picture production of the show, retitled The Gay Divorcee. Frank Sinatra recorded the song at least five times – it became one of his signature pieces – including his first solo session in 1942 (it was after Harry James heard a then-unknown Sinatra sing ‘Night and Day’, he signed him), in 1944 (Sinatra’s most popular version), with Nelson Riddle in 1956 for A Swingin’ Affair!, with Don Costa in 1961 for Sinatra and Strings, and even a disco version with Joe Beck in 1977.”

Perfidia

First recorded by Lupita Palomera with Lira de San Cristobal (1937).
Hit versions by Xavier Cugat & His Waldorf-Astoria Orchestra (US #3 1941), The Four Aces (US #7 1952), The Ventures (US #15/UK #4 1960).
Also recorded by The Glenn Miller Orchestra (1941), Linda Ronstadt (1992).

From the wiki: “‘Perfidia’ (Spanish for ‘perfidy’, as in faithlessness, treachery or betrayal) was written by Alberto Domínguez about love and betrayal, and first recorded (in Spanish) in 1937 by Lupita Palomera. Other hit versions were recorded by The Four Aces (1952) and The Ventures (1960).

“Linda Ronstadt’s 1992 recording of the song in English with a Spanish introduction was used in the 1992 movie The Mambo Kings. Ronstadt also recorded the song in Spanish for her 1992 album Frenesí. At the 9th Lo Nuestro Awards, in 1993, her español version received a nomination for Tropical Song of the Year.

If You Wanna Be Happy

Based on “Marry an Ugly Woman” by Roaring Lion (1934).
Also recorded (as “From a Logical Point of View”) by Robert Mitchum (1957).
Hit version by Jimmy Soul (US #1/R&B #1 1962 |UK #39 1963).

From the wiki: “‘If You Wanna Be Happy’ is based on the song ‘Marry an Ugly Woman’ by the Calypso artist Roaring Lion, from Trinidad, first recorded in 1934. Robert Mitchum did a cover version of ‘Ugly Woman’ on Calypso — Is Like So…! titled ‘From a Logical Point of View’ (1957).

“Jimmy Soul’s ‘If You Wanna Be Happy’ was adapted by Joseph Royster, Carmella Guida and Frank Guida (‘Quarter to Three’) and recorded by Soul in 1962, topping both the Pop and R&B charts in the US.”

Sloop John B.

First recorded (as “Histe Up the John B.”) by Cleveland Simmons Group (1935).
First popular version recorded (as “The Wreck of the John B.”) by The Weavers (1950).
Also recorded by Blind Blake Higgs (1952), The Kingston Trio (1958), Johnny Cash (1959), Jimmie Rodgers (1960), Dick Dale & His Del-Tones (1962).
Hit version (titled “The Sloop John B.”) by The Beach Boys (US #3/UK #2 1966).

From the wiki: “According to Blind Blake Higgs, the Bahamanian calypso entertainer, the John B had been a sponger boat that one day went under. That’s not so unusual, all thing considered. So, what made this tragedy so special? One possible explanation is the name of the vessel: to illiterate ears, ‘John B’ sounds like ‘Zombie’. So, when said sloop vanished with no one returning, that’s the stuff where legends are made of.

“The popularity of the song triggered interest in the wreck’s whereabouts. The hull was found and rescued from under the sands of Governor’s Harbor in 1926. John T. McCutcheon, philosopher and cartoonist on holiday with his wife in the West Indies at that time, learned the song and brought the song to New York where poet Carl Sandberg collected it for his songbook The American Songbag (1927).

My Girl’s Pussy

Written and first recorded (as “Pussy”) by Harry Roy & His Bat Club Boys (1931).
Also recorded by R. Crumb & His Cheap Suit Serenaders (1978).

From the wiki: “Harry Roy was born Harry Lipman in Stamford Hill, London, England, and began the study of the clarinet and alto saxophone at the age of 16. He and his brother Sidney formed a band which they called The Darnswells, with Harry on saxophone and clarinet and Sidney on piano. During the 1920s they performed in several prestige venues such as the Alhambra and the London Coliseum, under names such as The Original Lyrical Five and The Original Crichton Lyricals. They spent three years at the Café de Paris, and toured South Africa, Australia and Germany.

“By the early 1930s, Harry Roy was fronting the band under his own name, and broadcasting from the Café Anglais and the Mayfair Hotel. In 1931 he wrote and sang ‘My Girl’s Pussy’, which has since been the subject of many cover versions and remakes, including a novelty 78-rpm 10-inch single released in 1980 by R. Crumb & His Cheap Suit Serenaders (after its 1978 appearance on R. Crumb and his Cheap Suit Serenaders No. 3 long-play album).”

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