Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Category: Jazz

Yeh Yeh

First recorded by Mongo Santamaria (1963).
Hit versions by Georgie Fame & the Blue Flames (UK #1 1964/US #21 1965), Matt Bianco (UK #13 1985).
Also recorded by Lambert, Hendricks & Bavan (1963), Hugh Laurie (2013), Diana Krall & Georgie Fame (2015).

From the wiki: “‘Yeh Yeh’ is a Latin Soul tune first composed as an instrumental by Rodgers Grant and Pat Patrick, and first recorded by Mongo Santamaría (‘Watermelon Man‘) on his 1963 album Watermelon Man. Lyrics were written for ‘Yeh Yeh’ shortly thereafter by Jon Hendricks for the vocal group Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, and recorded by them at the 1963 Newport Jazz Festival.

“The vocal arrangement of ‘Yeh Yeh’ was taken to the top of the UK Singles Chart by Georgie Fame & the Blue Flames (‘Peaceful‘), breaking The Beatles’ long-term hold on the #1 spot (five weeks, with ‘I Feel Fine’). A month later, ‘Yeh Yeh’ appeared on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart to peak at #21. (The US single edited out the saxophone solo break.)

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.

Frankie and Johnny

First recorded by Ted Lewis & His Band (US #9 1927).
Also recorded by Mae West (1933).
Other hit versions by Brook Benton (US #20/MOR #6/R&B #14 1961), Mr. Acker Bilk (UK #42 1962), Sam Cooke (US #14/MOR #2/R&B #4/UK #30 1963), Elvis Presley (US #25/UK #21 1966).

From the wiki: “The song ‘Frankie and Johnny’ (sometimes spelled ‘Frankie and Johnnie’; also known as ‘Frankie and Albert’ or just ‘Frankie’) was inspired by one or more actual murders. One took place in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1899 when Frankie Baker, a 22-year-old woman, shot her 17-year-old lover Allen (also known as ‘Albert’) Britt in the abdomen. The song has also been linked to Frances ‘Frankie’ Stewart Silver, convicted in 1832 of murdering her husband Charles Silver in Burke County, North Carolina. Popular St Louis balladeer Bill Dooley composed ‘Frankie Killed Allen’ shortly after the Baker murder case. The first published version of the music to ‘Frankie and Johnny’ appeared in 1904, credited to and copyrighted by Hughie Cannon, the composer of ‘Won’t You Come Home Bill Bailey’.

“At least 256 different recordings of “Frankie and Johnny” have been made since the early 20th century. Ted Lewis & His Band recorded the first popular rendition in 1927. Mae West inserted her ballad in her successful Broadway play Diamond Lil. West sang the ballad again in her 1933 Paramount film She Done Him Wrong, which takes its title from the refrain, substituting genders. A flurry of recordings in the 1960s made the Pop music charts, including recordings by Sam Cooke (1963) and Elvis Presley (1966).”

Petite Fleur (Little Flower)

First recorded by The Sidney Bechet All-Stars (1952).
Hit version by Chris Barber’s Jazz Band (US #5/R&B #28/UK #3 1959).

From the wiki: “‘Petite Fleur’ was written by Sidney Bechet and first recorded by The Sidney Bechet All Stars in January, 1952. The song became an international hit in 1959 as a clarinet solo by Monty Sunshine with Chris Barber’s Jazz Band.”

Whipped Cream

First recorded by The Stokes (1964).
Hit version by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass (US #68/MOR #13 1965).

From the wiki: “‘Whipped Cream’ was written by Allen Toussaint. (Naomi Neville, the credited writer, was one of two pseudonyms used by Toussaint to honor his parents, Clarence and Naomi, who had always been supportive of his music.) In 1964, in the midst of a two-year stint in the military, Toussaint took his army band into the studio and, under the name of The Stokes, recorded ‘Whipped Cream’. Herb Alpert jumped on the melody a year later for the Tijuana Brass, recording it note-for-note, creating a memorable album cover, a hit single (and 1965’s #1 hit album), and the original theme song for the TV sensation The Dating Game.”

Cast Your Fate to the Wind

Written and first recorded by The Vince Guarldi Trio (US #22/MOR #9 1962).
Also recorded by Quincy Jones (1963 |1971).
Other hit versions by Mel Torme (AUS #13 1964), Sounds Orchestral (US #10/MOR #1/UK #5 1964).

From the wiki: “‘Cast Your Fate To The Wind’ is an American Jazz instrumental with music composed, and which was originally recorded, by Vince Guaraldi. It won a Grammy Award for Best Original Jazz Composition in 1963. t was included on the album Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus and, at least some copies of the album, the title on the label contained a printing error: It read ‘Cast Your Faith To The Wind’, an unintentionally comic twist to the sentiment of the song. In Australia, a vocal version by Mel Tormé (with lyrics by Carel Werber) was a hit in 1963. In 1965 the British group Sounds Orchestral redirected the song away from Jazz to more of a ‘nightclub sound’. That version attained #5 in the UK, #10 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and #1 for three weeks in May, 1964 on the US Easy Listening chart.”

Gaucho

Based on “Long As You Know You’re Living Yours” by Keith Jarrett (1974).
Hit album version by Steely Dan (1980).

From the wiki: “During the two-year span during which the album Gaucho was recorded, Steely Dan was plagued by a number of creative, personal and professional problems: MCA, Warner Bros. and Steely Dan had a three-way legal battle over the rights to release the album; during the course of the Gaucho sessions, Becker was hit by a car while walking home late one Saturday night, sustaining multiple fractures in one leg, a sprain in the other leg, as well as other injuries.

“On top of all that, after the album was released, Jazz musician Keith Jarrett threatened the band with legal action for the writing credit to the title song ‘Gaucho’. Jarret won, with his name added to the songwriting credits with the release of the Citizen Steely Dan 1972-1980 box set in 1993.”

Mercy, Mercy, Mercy!

First recorded by The Cannonball Adderley Quintet (US #11 1966).
Other hit versions by Larry Williams & Johnny “Guitar” Watson (US #96/R&B #23 1967), Marlena Shaw (US #58/R&B #33 1967), The Buckinghams (US #5 1967).

From the wiki: “‘Mercy, Mercy, Mercy’ is a song written by Joe Zawinul in 1966 for Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley and his album Mercy, Mercy, Mercy! Live at ‘The Club’. The song is the title track of the album and became a surprise hit, reaching #11 on the Billboard charts in Feb. 1967. The song has been re-recorded numerous times, most notably by The Buckinghams who reached # 5 in August 1967, adding lyrics to the tune.

“The theme of the song on the original recording is performed by Joe Zawinul himself playing it on a Wurlitzer electric piano previously used by Ray Charles. ‘Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” was also recorded by the Mauds in 1967, with lyrics to the original instrumental written by Curtis Mayfield. It is this arrangement that The Buckinghams released in June, 1967 which peaked in the US Top 5 of the Billboard Hot 100. It followed earlier vocal recordings by Larry Williams & Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson (released February, 1967) and Marlena Shaw (released March, 1967).”

Night in Tunisia

First recorded (as “Interlude”) by Sarah Vaughn w/ The Dizzy Gillespie Septet (1944).
Also recorded by The Boyd Raeburn Orchestra (1944).
“Night in Tunisia” first recorded by Dizzy Gillespie (1945), The Charlie Parker Septet (1946), Dizzy Gillespie & Charlie Parker (1949), and Miles Davis (1955).

From the wiki: “Dizzy Gillespie began writing the then-unnamed tune while he was performing with Benny Carter in New York in 1942. During a break in a show, Gillespie composed the basics of the song on piano. According to To Be or Not to Bop: Memoirs of Dizzy Gillespie, Dizzy was sitting at the piano playing chord progressions when he noticed the notes of the chords formed a melody with a Latin/Oriental feel. Adding a Bebop-style rhythm to the melody, Gillespie came up with what would become ‘Night in Tunisia’.

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).”

Since I Fell For You

Written and first recorded by The Buddy Johnson Orchestra with Ella Johnson (1946).
Hit versions by Annie Laurie with Paul Gayten & His Trio (US #20/R&B #3 1947), Lenny Welch (US #4 1963).
Also recorded by Dinah Washington (1947), The Harptones (1953).

From the wiki: “‘Since I Fell for You’ is Blues ballad composed by Buddy Johnson in 1945 and first popularized by his sister, Ella Johnson, with The Buddy Johnson Orchestra. It has since gone on to become a Jazz and Pop standard, becoming a particular favorite of vocalists. Dinah Washington recorded it in 1947, Eartha Kitt in 1950, Julie London in 1964, Shirley Horn in 1987, and Etta Jones in 1998. The 1963 Lenny Welch cover of ‘Since I Fell for You’ reached #4 on Billboard Hot 100, far and away Welch’s biggest career hit.

Spooky

Co-written and first recorded (as an instrumental) by Mike Sharpe (US #57 1967).
Other hit versions by Classics IV (US #3 1967 |UK #46 1968), Atlanta Rhythm Section (US #17 1979).

From the wiki: “‘Spooky’ was originally an instrumental song performed by saxophonist Mike Sharpe (Shapiro), written by Shapiro and Harry Middlebrooks, Jr., which first charted in 1967 hitting #57 on the US pop charts. Its best-known version was created by The Classics IV when guitarist James Cobb and producer Buddy Buie added lyrics centering on a ‘spooky little girl’. Cobb (along with bandmates Robert Nix and Dean Daughtry) later became part of the Atlanta Rhythm Section, re-recording and charting ‘Spooky’ again in 1979.”

Baby It’s Cold Outside

First performed by Esther Williams & Ricardo Montalban and Red Skelton & Betty Garrett (Neptune’s Daughter, 1949).
Hit versions by Dinah Shore & Buddy Clark (US #4 1949), Margaret Whiting & Johnny Mercer (US #4 1949), Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Jordan (US #9 1949), Dean Martin (1959) and Blossom Dearie & Bob Dorough (1979), Dean Martin & Martina McBride (MOR #7/C&W 36 2006).

From the wiki: “Frank Loesser wrote the duet in 1944 and premiered the song with his wife, Lynn Garland, at their Navarro Hotel housewarming party, and performed it toward the end of the evening, signifying to guests that it was nearly time to end the party. Lynn considered it ‘their song’ and was furious when Loesser sold the song to MGM. The movie it appeared in, Neptune’s Daughter, featured two performances of the song: one by Ricardo Montalbán and Esther Williams, and the other by Red Skelton and Betty Garrett, the second of which has the roles of ‘wolf and mouse’ reversed. These performances earned Loesser an Academy Award for Best Original Song.”

Moondance

Inspired by “Midnight Blue” by Kenny Burrell (1963).
Hit version by Van Morrison (1970 |US #92 1977).

From the wiki: “‘Moondance’ was written by Van Morrison and first appeared as the title track on his 1970 album Moondance. According to Morrison, the song started as a Jazz saxophone instrumental. ‘I used to play this sax number over and over, anytime I picked up my horn,’ he said. Inspiration for ‘Moondance’ song could be traced to Kenny Burrell’s 1963 recording, ‘Midnight Blue’. There are a couple of elements that feed this presumption: the bass line, rhythm guitar and even the whole groove of ‘Moondance’ follows Burrell’s instrumental (and, to a lesser degree, Johnny Lytle’s 1966 Jazz recording, ‘Selim’). Morrison did not release ‘Moondance’ as a single until November 1977, seven and a half years after the album was released.

I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die-Rag

Inspired by “Muskrat Ramble” by Louis Armstrong & His Hot Five (1926).
Also recorded (as “Muskrat Ramble”) by Dean Martin (1950).
Popular version by Country Joe & The Fish (1967).

From the wiki: “‘Muskrat Ramble’ was written by Kid Ory and first recorded by Louis Armstrong & His Hot Five (including Ory, on trombone) in 1926. The song served as the B-side to Armstrong’s first solo outing as a recording artist, ‘Heebie Jeebies’. In 2001, the heirs of Kid Ory launched a lawsuit against Country Joe McDonald, claiming that the music of ‘I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag’ constituted plagiarism of ‘Muskrat Ramble’. In 2005, courts ruled in McDonald’s favor primarily because the original 1926 recording had fallen into the public domain.

Killer Joe

First recorded by The Jazztet (1960).
Hit version by Quincy Jones (US #74/MOR #29/R&B #47 1969).

From the wiki: “‘Killer Joe’ was composed by tenor saxophonist Benny Golson, co-founder (with trumpeter Art Farmer) of the Jazz sextet ‘The Jazztet’. The Jazztet was ‘famous for nicely structured, precise yet soulful pieces and a swinging style,’ and benefitted from having a set of strong compositions by Golson including ‘Killer Joe’ (reviewed as being ‘lean and mean, with Farmer’s muted horn in the lead and horns blowing softly over a bridge where the rhythm is suspended’). The Jazztet played at the Newport Jazz Festival in June 1960 and the first Atlantic City jazz festival two days later, and won Down Beat Magazine’s International Critics Poll New Star award in 1960 for Jazz groups.”

Sweet Georgia Brown

First recorded by Ben Bernie & His Hotel Roosevelt Orchestra (US #1 1925).
Also recorded by Ethel Waters (US #6 1925), Isham Jones & His Orchestra (US #5 1925), Red Nichols & His Orchestra (1930).
Best-known recordings by Bing Crosby (US #5 1932), Stéphane Grappelli & Django Reinhardt (1938), Brother Bones & His Shadows (US #10/R&B #9 1948), Tony Sheridan & The Beat Brothers (1962).

From the wiki: “”Sweet Georgia Brown” is a Jazz standard and Pop tune written in 1925 by Ben Bernie, Maceo Pinkard (music) and Kenneth Casey (lyrics). It is believed Ben Bernie came up with the concept for the song’s lyrics – although he is not the accredited lyricist – after meeting Dr. George Thaddeus Brown in New York City: Dr. Brown, a longtime member of the State House of Representatives for Georgia, told Bernie about Dr. Brown’s daughter Georgia Brown and how subsequent to the baby girl’s birth on August 11, 1911 the Georgia General Assembly had issued a declaration that she was to be named Georgia after the state, an anecdote which would be directly referenced by the song’s lyric: ‘Georgia claimed her – Georgia named her.’ The tune was first recorded in March 1925 by Bernie & his Hotel Roosevelt Orchestra, resulting in a five-week run at #1.

‘Round Midnight

First recorded (as “‘Round About Midnight”) by Cootie Williams & His Orchestra (1944).
Also recorded by Dizzy Gillespie & Charlie Parker (1946), Jackie Paris (1949), Thelonious Monk (1947|1957), Sarah Vaughn (1963).
Popular version by Miles Davis (1957).

From the wiki: “By the time Thelonious Monk recorded ”Round Midnight’ as a band leader, in 1947, his composition was already well-known around Jazz circles and was considered a classic. It has since gone on to become the most-recorded Jazz standard composed by a Jazz performer, appearing on more than 1000 recordings. It is thought that Monk originally composed ”Round Midnight” sometime in 1940 or 1941. Historian Harry Colomby, however, claims that Monk could have written an early version of the song around 1936 (at the age of 19) with the title ‘Grand Finale’.

Watermelon Man

Written and first recorded by Herbie Hancock (US #121 1962).
Hit versions by Mongo Santamaria (US #10/R&B #8 1963), Gloria Lynne (US #62/R&B #8 1965), Erroll Garner (US #40 1968).
Also recorded by Manfred Mann (1965).

From the wiki: “‘Watermelon Man’ was written by Herbie Hancock and first released on his debut album, Takin’ Off (1962) in a hard bop arrangement featuring improvisations by trumperter Freddie Hubbard and saxophonist Dexter Gordon. Hancock wrote the piece to help sell his debut album as a leader; the first piece of music he had ever composed with a commercial goal in mind. Even though the popularity of the piece, due primarily to Mongo Santamaría’s 1963 recording, paid Hancock’s bills for five or six years, Hancock did not feel the composition was a sellout. Hancock described that, structurally, the composition was one of his strongest works due to its almost-mathematical balance.”

Walk, Don’t Run

Written and first recorded by Johnny Smith (1954).
Also recorded by Chet Atkins (1957).
Hit versions by The Ventures (US #2/R&B #13/UK #8 1960), The John Barry Seven (UK #11 1960), The Ventures (US #8 1964).

From the wiki: “‘Walk, Don’t Run’ is an instrumental composition written and first recorded by jazz guitarist Johnny Smith in 1954. In 1957, Chet Atkins recorded a version of ‘Walk, Don’t Run’ that appeared on his Hi-Fi in Focus album. It was the Atkins recording the Tacoma-based instrumental rock band The Ventures heard before releasing their own version of the tune as a Surf Rock single in spring 1960 on Dolton Records, which quickly became a hit. The Ventures’ version is believed to be one of the first surfing songs to make the Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at #2. In the UK, the tune was covered by The John Barry Seven (before Barry began scoring movie music for the likes of James Bond, Born Free, and Midnight Cowboy) whose recording peaked at #11 on the UK Singles Chart.”

The “In” Crowd

First recorded by Dobie Gray (US #13/R&B #11/UK #25 1965).
Also recorded by First Gear (1965).
Other hit versions by The Ramsey Lewis Trio (US #5/R&B #2 1965), Bryan Ferry (UK #13 1974).

From the wiki: “‘The ‘In’ Crowd’ is a 1964 song written by Billy Page and arranged by his brother Gene that was originally performed by Dobie Gray on his album Dobie Gray Sings for ‘In’ Crowders That ‘Go Go. Gray’s powerful Motown-like version, complete with brass section, reached #13 in the US and #25 in the UK in 1965. The Ramsey Lewis Trio recorded an instrumental version of the tune later that same year at the suggestion of a coffee shop waitress.

Baby Face

First recorded by The Jan Garber Orchestra (US #1 1926).
Other popular versions by Ipana Troubadours (US #10 1926), Art Mooney (US #3 1948), Little Richard (US #41/R&B #12/UK #2/NOR #1 1958), Bobby Darin (US #42/UK #40 1962), Wing and a Prayer Fife & Drum Corps (US #14/Soul #32 1976).

From the wiki: “‘Baby Face’ was written by Harry Akst, the lyrics by Benny Davis. The song was published in 1926, and first became popular that same year when recorded by the Jan Garber Orchestra. It has since been covered by many recording artists, including Al Jolson, The Revelers, Bobby Darin, and Wing and a Prayer Fife & Drum Corps. Swan Districts, an Australian Rules club in the WAFL since 1934, bases its club song on this tune.

Mack the Knife

First popular English-language recording Louis Armstrong & His All Stars (US #20 1956).
Other hit version by Bobby Darin (US #1/R&B #6/UK #1 1959).

From the wiki: “First composed in German by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Bertolt Brecht for their music drama Die Dreigroschenoper (known in English as The Threepenny Opera), ‘Mack the Knife’ had its original premiere in Berlin in 1928. The play opens with the moritat singer comparing Macheath (unfavorably) with a shark, and then telling tales of his robberies, murders, rapes, and arson. The song was a last minute addition, inserted just before its première in 1928, because Harald Paulsen, the actor who played Macheath, demanded that Brecht and Weill add another number that would more effectively introduce his character.

I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter

First recorded by Fats Waller & His Rhythm (US #5 1935).
Other hit versions by The Boswell Sisters (US #3 1936), Billy Williams (US #3 1957), Willie Nelson (C&W #26/CAN #25 1981).
Also recorded by Frank Sinatra (1954 & 1962), Bing Crosby with Bob Scobey’s Frisco Jazz Band (1957), Bill Haley & His Comets (1957).

From the wiki: “‘I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter’ was composed in 1935 by Fred E. Ahlert and Joe Young, and has become a standard of the Great American Songbook. The first recording on the song was by Fats Waller & His Rhythm, in a Victor Records recording session on May 8, 1935. It was covered the following year by The Boswell Sisters, reaching #3 on US popular music charts. (Connee Boswell would record a solo version in 1952.)

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