Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Category: Doo wop

Only You (And You Alone)

First recorded by The Platters (1954).
Hit versions by The Hilltoppers (US#8/UK #3 1955), The Platters (US #5/R&B #1 1955 |UK #18 1957), Ringo Starr (US #6/MOR #1/UK #28 1975), Reba McEntire (C&W #13 1982).

From the wiki: “‘Only You (And You Alone)’ (often shortened to ‘Only You’) was composed by Buck Ram. The first recording of the song by The Platters, for Federal Records, turned out poorly in 1954. But, after a re-recording the song scored a major hit when it was re-released in 1955. Platters bass singer Herb Reed later recalled how the group hit upon its successful version: ‘We tried it so many times, and it was terrible. One time we were rehearsing in the car … and the car jerked. Tony went ‘O-oHHHH-nly you.’ We laughed at first, but when he sang that song—that was the sign we had hit on something.’ ‘Only You’ was the only Platter’s recording on which songwriter and Platter’s manager Ram played the piano. The Platters’ re-release beat out a rival cover version by The Hilltoppers (‘Marianne‘).

Sh-Boom

Written and originally recorded by The Chords (US #9/R&B #2 1954).
Other hit version by The Crew Cuts (US #1/UK #12/AUS #1 1954).

From the wiki: “‘Sh-Boom’ was written by James Keyes, Claude Feaster, Carl Feaster, Floyd F. McRae, and James Edwards, all members of the R&B vocal group The Chords, and was first recorded on Atlantic Records’ subsidiary label Cat Records by The Chords on March 15, 1954 . It would be their only hit song.

Church Bells May Ring

First recorded by The Willows (US #62/R&B #11 1956).
Other hit version by The Diamonds (US #14 1956).

From the wiki: “After two flops as ‘The Five Willows’ in 1954, the group hit as The Willows in 1956 with ‘Church Bells May Ring’ (which featured an uncredited Neil Sedaka playing the chimes). The recording blasted to #11 R&B but died at #62 pop due to the Diamonds’ #14 Pop cover.”

Come Go With Me

First recorded by The Dell-Vikings (1956).
Hit versions by The Del-Vikings (re-recording US #4/R&B #2 1957), Dion (US #48 1962), The Beach Boys (US #18 1981).

From the wiki: “‘Come Go with Me’ was written by C. E. Quick (aka Clarence Quick), an original member of the Doo-wop vocal group The Del-Vikings (also spelled ‘Dell-Vikings’ on Dot records releases, with no dash). The song was originally recorded by The Del-Vikings in 1956 and was released by them on Fee Bee Records with Quick as the lead vocalist. The 1957 re-recording released on Dot Records featured Norman Wright as the lead vocalist.

Come Back My Love (The Darts)

First recorded by The Wrens (1955).
Also recorded by Cardinals (1955).
Hit version by Darts (UK #2 1978).

From the wiki: “The Wrens were an American doo-wop vocal group from The Bronx, New York City, and were best-known for their song ‘Come Back My Love’ which achieved some local popularity in New York City early in 1955 and put the Wrens on the map for R&B vocal fans. ‘Come Back My Love’ became their signature song despite competition from a cover version done by the Cardinals on Atlantic that same year. Neither recording charted nationally. In 1998, The Wrens were inducted into the United In Group Harmony Association’s Hall of Fame.

“Darts (‘The Girl Can’t Help It‘) were a nine-piece British Doo-wop revival band that achieved chart success in the late 1970s and early 1980s, including three successive #2 hits with revivals of early US Rock ‘n roll and R&B songs – among them ‘Come Back My Love’.”

Surfin’ Bird

Based on “Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow” (US #48 1962) and “The Bird is the Word” (US #52/R&B #27 1963) by The Rivingtons.
Hit version by The Trashmen (US #4 1963 |UK #50 2009).

From the wiki: “‘Surfin’ Bird’ has two musical foundations: ‘Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow’ and ‘The Bird Is The Word’, both written and recorded first by from The Rivingtons before The Trashmen mixed both songs together … without giving proper credits, leaving the opportunity wide open for The Rivingtons to sue (successfully). The Rivingtons had been known as the Sharps, and they had already had success in the charts with Thurston Harris’s ‘Little Bitty Pretty One‘, in 1957, after which they appeared on several Duane Eddy recordings when any extraneous sounds of rebel yells were required (e.g. Eddy’s 1958 hit ‘Rebel Rouser’). The group also recorded for Warner Brothers Records as The Crenshaws in 1961.

Silhouettes

First recorded by The Rays (US #3/R&B #3 1957).
Other hit versions by The Diamonds (US #10/R&B #6 1957), Herman’s Hermits (US #5/UK #3 1965), Cliff Richard (UK #10 1990).
Also recorded by Bob Crewe (1960), Frankie Lymon (1960), Paul Anka (1961), The Four Seasons (1964).

From the wiki: “In May 1957, songwriter-producer Bob Crewe (‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore)‘, ‘Lady Marmalade‘, ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’, ‘Silence is Golden‘) saw a couple embracing through a window shade as he passed-by on a train. He quickly set about turning the image into a song. Frank Slay, who owned the small Philadelphia record label XYZ with Crewe, added lyrics, and they soon had a complete song ready to record.

“The Rays’ original recording received a break when popular Philadelphia disc-jockey Hy Lit fell asleep at home listening to a stack of newly-released records on his record player. ‘Silhouettes’ happened to be the last record to play, and so it repeated until he woke up. Lit began to playing the song on his show and it became popular enough that Cameo-Parkway picked it up for national distribution. The Rays’ ‘Silhouettes’ eventually reached #3 on Billboard Hot 100, while also hitting the Top-5 on both the sales and airplay charts. It became the group’s only Top 40 hit.

Earth Angel

First recorded by The Penguins (R&B #1 1954).
Other hit versions by The Crew Cuts (US #3/UK #4 1955), Gloria Mann (US #18 1955), New Edition (US #21/R&B #3 1985).

From the wiki: “The recording sounds so simple, and it is: four voices and a piano. It first aired on the radio before the records were even pressed, and the immediate and massive reaction it received forced the group to release the recording “as-is” without the additional embellishment and orchestration that had been originally planned. ‘Earth Angel’ became one of the blueprints for Doo-wop; the second such recording to hit the Top 10 (after The Chords’ ‘Sh-Boom’). The Penguins were four high school students from Fremont High in Los Angeles, and they recorded ‘Earth Angel’ in a garage and released it on a small black-owned label called Dootone Records. The recording became the first independent label release to appear on Billboard’s national pop charts.

I’m Leaving It (All) Up to You

Written and first recorded (as “Leavin’ It All Up to You”) by Don & Dewey (1957).
Hit versions by Dale & Grace (US #1 1963), Donny & Marie (US #4 1974).
Also recorded by Linda Ronstadt (1970).

From the wiki: “‘I’m Leaving It All Up to You’ was written and first recorded by the Rock ‘n’ roll and Doo-wop duo Don & Dewey in 1957. Don & Dewey were Don ‘Sugarcane’ Harris and Dewey Terry, both of Pasadena, California. Both Don and Dewey played guitar, with Dewey often doubling on keyboards. When not playing guitar or bass, Don occasionally played the electric violin, a skill for which he subsequently became well known under the name of ‘Sugarcane’ Harris. ‘Wrecking Crew’ drummer Earl Palmer played frequently on their sessions. (In 1970, Harris re-emerged from semi-retirement to a wider rock audience, playing violin on the Hot Rats solo album by Frank Zappa, with Captain Beefheart (vocals) on ‘Willie The Pimp’ and on the lengthy instrumental jam, ‘The Gumbo Variations’. Harris went on to play on many more solo Zappa, and The Mothers of Invention albums.

“Although Don & Dewey did not have any hits of their own, several of the songs that they wrote and/or recorded would appear on the charts later, performed by other artists. Most famously, ‘I’m Leaving It Up to You’ became a #1 hit for Dale & Grace in 1963. It was the #1 song when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, in November 1963. Dale & Grace were in Dallas on the day of the assassination and were scheduled to perform that night as part of Dick Clark’s ‘Caravan of Stars’ (with Bobby Rydell, Jimmy Clanton, and Brian Hyland), and just moments before the assassination had waved to the president’s passing motorcade from a vantage point near their hotel.”

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