Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Category: Novelty

Music to Watch Girls Go By

Co-written and first recorded by Sid Ramin (1965).
Hit versions by The Bob Crewe Generation (US #15/MOR #2 1966), Andy Williams (US #34/UK #33 1967 |UK#9 1999), Al Hirt (US #119/MOR #31 1967).
Also recorded (as “Music to Watch Space Girls Go By”) by Leonard Nimoy (1967).

From the wiki: “‘Music to Watch Girls Go By’ was composed by Tony Velona and Sidney ‘Sid’ Ramin, and was first recorded as a commercial jingle demo for Diet Pepsi, where producer Bob Crewe first heard the song. Crewe, using his own name, then recorded the song under his nom de plume ‘The Bob Crewe Generation’. Crewe’s ‘big-band, horn driven’ recording went to #15 on the Pop chart and #2 on the Easy Listening chart.

“A vocal recording by Andy Williams, featuring lyrics by original co-writer Velona, went to #34 in the United States and #33 in the UK but, after it was used in a Fiat ad in the UK in 1999, the re-released single reached the UK Top-10. The version by Al Hirt in 1967 reached #31 on the MOR chart and bubbled-under the Billboard Hot 100. In 1967, an instrumental version, renamed ‘Music to Watch Space Girls By’, appeared on Leonard Nimoy’s debut album Leonard Nimoy Presents Mr. Spock’s Music from Outer Space.”

Yakety Sax

Written and first recorded by “Boots” Randolph (1958).
Hit versions by “Boots” Randolph (US #35 1963).
Also recorded as “Yakety Axe” by Chet Atkins (C&W #4 1965).

From the wiki: “‘Yakety Sax’ was jointly composed by James Q. ‘Spider’ Rich and Homer ‘Boots’ Randolph III. The selection, which includes pieces of assorted fiddle tunes, was originally composed by Rich for a performance at a venue called The Armory in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Randolph’s recording was inspired by a sax solo in the Leiber and Stoller song ‘Yakety Yak’, recorded in 1958 by The Coasters. Randolph first recorded ‘Yakety Sax’ that year for RCA Victor, but it did not become a hit until after his 1963 re-recording for Monument Records.

The “Tonight Show” Theme (“Johnny’s Theme”)

First recorded (as “Toot Tweet (It’s Really Love)”) by Tutti’s Trumpets (1959).
Also recorded (“It’s Really Love”) by Annette Funicello (1960).
Best-known recording by The Tonight Show Band (1962).

From the wiki: “‘Johnny’s Theme’, performed as the theme song of ‘The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson’ for 30 years, began life as ‘Toot Sweet’, a pop instrumental composed in 1959 by Paul Anka and recorded that same year by Tutti’s Trumpets as the B-side to The Camarata Strings’ single ‘Lost In a Fog’ released on Disney’s Buena Vista label. Salvatore ‘Tutti’ Camarata, bandleader of the Camarata Strings, was Annette Funicello’s producer at the time. He asked Anka to contribute some songs for Funicello’s first album to follow her work on The Mickey Mouse Club. Anka added lyrics to ‘Toot Sweet’ and published them under the title ‘It’s Really Love’.

On Top of Spaghetti

Based on “On Top of Old Smoky” by The Weavers (US #2 1951).
Hit version by Tom Glazer & the Do-Re-Mi Children’s Chorus (1963).

From the wiki: “‘On Top of Spaghetti’ is a ballad and children’s song with the most known performance by folk singer Tom Glazer with the Do-Re-Mi Children’s Chorus in 1963. The song is sung to the tune of ‘On Top of Old Smoky’, first recorded in 1925 by George Reneau and made popular in 1951 by The Weavers. It is the tale of a meatball falling off of a pile of spaghetti and rolling away ‘after somebody sneezed.'”

Colonel Bogey March

First recorded by The Band of HM Royal Marines, Plymouth Division (1914).
Most popular versions by Malcolm Arnold (as “The River Kwai March Theme” 1957), Mitch Miller (as “The River Kwai March/Colonel Bogey March” US #20 1957).

From the wiki: “The ‘Colonel Bogey March’ is a popular march written in 1914 by Lieutenant F. J. Ricketts (under the pseudonym ‘Kenneth Alford’), a British Army bandmaster who later became the director of music for the Royal Marines at Plymouth. The first recording of the march was made in 1914 by the Second Batallion Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders. The tune was inspired by a military man and golfer who whistled a characteristic two-note phrase instead of shouting ‘Fore!’. The name ‘Colonel Bogey’ began in the later 19th century as the imaginary ‘standard opponent’ of the Colonel Bogey scoring system and, by Edwardian times, the ‘Colonel’ had been adopted by the golfing world as the presiding spirit of the golf course. ‘Bogey’ is now a golfing term meaning ‘one over par’. At the start of World War II, the ‘Colonel Bogey March’ became part of British way of life when the tune was set to popular lyrics, ‘Hitler Has Only Got One Ball’, with the tune becoming an unofficial national anthem to rudeness.

I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Cocoanuts

First recorded by Primo Scala & His Banjo and Accordian Band with The Keynotes (1949).
Also recorded by Billy Cotton Bandshow (1949).
Hit versions by Merv Griffth (US #8 1949), Danny Kaye (US #26 1950).

From the wiki: “‘I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts’ is a novelty song composed in 1944 (as “I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Cocoanuts”) by English songwriter Fred Heatherton, and first recorded in 1949 by Primo Scala & His Banjo and Accordian Band. (Harry Bidgood recorded under a variety of different names. Over the course of 20 years he would frequently broadcast on the BBC.) In 1949, ‘Coconuts’ became a US Top 10 hit for Freddy Martin & His Orchestra, with vocalist Merv Griffin; the following year, it was a hit for Danny Kaye. It was a staple song of the Billy Cotton Band Show on British radio and television. The song is still played over the public address at Cambridge United football matches after home wins.”

Jeepers Creepers

First performed by Louis Armstrong (1938).
First recorded by Ethel Waters (1938).
Hit versions by Al Donahue & His Orchestra (US #1 1938), Larry Clinton & His Orchestra (US #12 1938), Louis Armstrong (US #12 1939).

From the wiki: “‘Jeepers Creepers’ was written by Harry Warren, with lyrics by Johnny Mercer (Mercer claims to have first heard the expression from Henry Fonda), for the 1938 Warner Brothers movie Going Places. Louis Armstrong appears in the part of Gabriel, the trainer of a race horse named Jeepers Creepers. Jeepers Creepers is a very wild horse and can only be soothed enough to let someone ride him when Gabriel plays the song ‘Jeepers Creepers’ on his trumpet or sings it to him. Warren and Mercer would share an Academy Award nomination for Best Song in 1939.

Sukiyaki

First recorded (as “Ue no Muite Arukou”) by Kyu Sakamoto (JPN #1 1961 |US #1/R&B #18 May 1963 |UK #6 Jun 1963).
Also recorded by Clyde Beavers (1963), The Fabulous Echoes (1965), Jewel Akens (as “My First Lonely Night”) (1966), Selena (1990).
Other hit versions by Kenny Ball & His Jazzmen (UK #10 Jan 1963), A Taste of Honey (US #3/R&B #1 1981), 4 P.M. (US #8/R&B #75/UK #152 1994).

From the wiki: “‘Ue o Muite Arukō’, ‘I Look Up As I Walk’) is a Japanese-language song first recorded in 1963 by Japanese crooner Kyu Sakamoto, and composed by Hachidai Nakamura (music) and Rokusuke Ei (lyrics). Ei wrote the lyrics while returning home from a protest against the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan, feeling dejected about the failure of the protest movement. But, Ei purposely rendered the lyrical content generic so that the lines might refer to any lost love. In Anglophone countries ‘Ue o Muite Arukō’ is best known under the alternative title ‘Sukiyaki’ (a term with no relevance to the song’s lyrics). The English-language title – for a Japanese hot pot dish – actually has nothing to do with the lyrics or the meaning of the song. A Newsweek magazine columnist noted that the re-titling was like issuing ‘Moon River’ in Japan under the title ‘Beef Stew’.

Lady Godiva

Originally recorded by Paul Jones (1966).
Hit versions by Peter & Gordon (US #6/UK #16 1966), Alex Day (UK #15 2012).

From the wiki: “Peter & Gordon’s producer John Burgess brought the duo ‘Lady Godiva’, which Burgess had recently produced for the Paul Jones album My Way. Peter Asher recalls that he [Asher] objected to recording the song. The duo’s other half, Gordon Waller, responded ‘It’ll be funny [so] shut up’. The P&G single was recorded at Abbey Road Studios and reunited Peter & Gordon with Geoff Love who, after arranging and conducting the duo’s first six singles, had sat out their last three A-sides. ‘Lady Godiva’ would become the duo’s first Top Ten hit since ‘I Go to Pieces’ in 1965; in fact, becoming Peter and Gordon’s highest-ranking US hit.

American Patrol

First recorded by John Phillip Sousa’s Band (1901).
Hit version by Glenn Miller & His Orchestra (US #15 1941).

From the wiki: “‘American Patrol’ is a popular march written by Frank White (F.W.) Meacham in 1885, incorporating both original musical themes by Meacham and melodies from American patriotic songs of the era such as ‘Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean’ and ‘Dixie’. Jerry Gray arranged a swing version of the march for Glenn Miller’s orchestra in 1941. The ‘patrol’ format was popular in the second half of the 19th century, and other compositions bear titles such as ‘Turkish Patrol’, ‘Ethiopian Patrol’, ‘Owl’s Patrol’, ‘Welsh Patrol’ and ‘Arab Patrol’. The format was intended to represent a military band approaching, passing, and fading into the distance.”

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