Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Category: R&B

Take Me to the River

First recorded by Al Green (1974).
Hit versions by Syl Johnson (US #48/R&B #7 1975), Talking Heads (US #26 1979).
Also recorded by Foghat (1976), Levon Helm (1978), Brian Ferry (1978).

From the wiki: “‘Take Me to the River’ was written by singer Al Green and guitarist Mabon ‘Teenie’ Hodges, and first recorded by Green in 1974 for the album Al Green Explores Your Mind. Green’s original recording was ranked #117 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. According to producer Willie Mitchell, Green and Mabon Hodges wrote the song while staying in a rented house at Lake Hamilton, Arkansas, for three days in 1973 in order to come up with new material. Green dedicated his performance on the record to ‘…Little Junior Parker, a cousin of mine, he’s gone on but we’d like to kinda carry on in his name.’ According to one critic, ‘Green’s song squares the singer’s early religious convictions with more earthly interests,’ but when Green became a pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle Church in 1976, the singer dropped the song from his repertoire.

Over You

First recorded by Aaron Neville (US #111/R&B #21 1960).
Other hit version by Paul Revere & The Raiders (US #133 1964).

Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues)

First recorded by Sylvester & the Hot Band (1973).
Hit version by Three Dog Night (US #33 1974).
Also recorded by Frankie Miller (1974), Little Feat (1974, released 2000), Levon Helm (1978).

From the wiki: “‘Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues)’ was written by Allen Toussaint, and was first recorded in 1973 by Sylvester & the Hot Band for the album Bazaar. In 1974, Toussaint would also produced an album by Frankie Miller, High Life, that included ‘Play Something Sweet’ among six other Toussaint-penned songs featured.

“It was Miller’s version, one among several other productions recorded in 1974, including arrangements by B.J. Thomas and Maria Muldaur, that attracted the immediate interest of Three Dog Night whose 1974 arrangement would became the only release of ‘Play Something Sweet’ to crack the US Top-40.

“Another recording produced in 1974 was by Little Feat, during the course of the Feats Don’t Fail Me Now recording sessions. This version, however, would not be released until 2000 when it was included in the retrospective compilation Hotcakes & Outtakes: 30 Years of Little Feat.

“Levon Helm would record ‘Play Something Sweet’ for his second album independent of The Band, Levon Helm, in 1978.”

Darling Baby

First recorded (as “Let’s Talk It Over”) by Lamont Anthony (Dozier) (1960).
Hit version by The Elgins (US #72/R&B #4 1966).

From the wiki: “Lamont Dozier (Lamont Anthony) is best known as a member of Holland–Dozier–Holland, the songwriting and production team responsible for much of the Motown sound and numerous hit records by artists such as Martha and the Vandellas, The Supremes, The Four Tops, and The Isley Brothers. But, Dozier recorded a few unsuccessful records for various Detroit labels (including early Motown subsidiary, Anna) before signing on with Motown in 1962. Anna Records was a short-lived record label, known as a forerunner of Motown, founded in Detroit by sisters Anna and Gwen Gordy (who co-wrote ‘Let’s Talk It Over’) and Roquel Billy Davis in 1959. The label signed such acts as David Ruffin, future lead singer of the Temptations; Joe Tex; Johnny Bristol and his partner Jackey Beavers (the original duo behind the Supremes’ ‘Someday We’ll Be Together‘), and future Motown hit-making songwriter-producer Lamont Dozier (who went by the name Lamont Anthony at the time). Anna Records also hired future Motown star Marvin Gaye as drummer for the label.

Gimme Some Lovin’

Based on “(Ain’t That) A Lot of Love” by Homer Banks (1966).
Hit versions by The Spencer Davis Group (US #7/UK #2 1966), Traffic (US #68 1971), The Blues Brothers (US #18 1980).

From the wiki: “Homer Banks was born in Memphis, Tennessee, and, at the age of 16, formed The Soul Consolidators gospel group which toured around the southern states. After military service, Banks returned to Memphis in 1964 where he began a singing career with the small Genie label where he met Isaac Hayes and David Porter. Soon, Stax founder Estelle Axton hired Banks to work at the record shop attached to the company’s Satellite Studios. He stayed for three years, also recording for the Minit label subsidiary of Liberty Records. One of his Minit recordings, ‘(Ain’t That) A Lot of Love’, co-written by Banks and Deanie Parker, provided the basic riff later used by the Spencer Davis Group on their hit ‘Gimme Some Lovin”.

“‘Gimme Some Lovin” was written by Steve Winwood, Spencer Davis and Muff Winwood (although solely credited to ‘Steve Winwood’ on the UK single label). Winwood recalls that the song was conceived, arranged, rehearsed in just half an hour. At the time, the group were under pressure to come up with another hit, following the relatively poor showing of their previous single, ‘When I Come Home’, written by Jamaican-born musician Jackie Edwards, who had also penned their earlier number one hits, ‘Keep On Running‘ and ‘Somebody Help Me’.

“The original UK version, which is the ‘master’ take of the song, differs in several respects from the version subsequently released in the US on the United Artists label, being slower, lacking the ‘response’ backing vocals in the chorus, some percussion, and the ‘live-sounding’ ambience of the US single.

“‘Gimme Some Lovin” would also be covered by Winwood’s next group, Traffic, in 1971. The Blues Brothers included their recording of the song on the The Blues Brothers movie soundtrack.”

Love Is a Wonderful Thing

Based on “Love Is a Wonderful Thing” written and first recorded by The Isley Brothers (US #106 1964).
Hit version by Michael Bolton (US #4/MOR #1/UK #23/CAN #2/NZ #12 1991).

From the wiki: “In 1964, the Isley Brothers recorded a song titled ‘Love Is a Wonderful Thing’. Not included on an Isley Brothers album until years later, the song was first released as a single in 1966 with minimal chart impact.

“Michael Bolton’s song, ‘Love Is a Wonderful Thing’, was found to contain similarities to the Isleys’ song that exceeded the title. In 1994, a jury found songwriters Bolton and Andrew Goldmark liable for copyright infringement due to multiple similarities between the two songs. The pair were ordered to pay the Isleys all profits earned from the Bolton single plus 28% of the album profits.”

All These Things

First recorded by Art Neville (1962).
Also recorded by The Uniques (US #97 1966).
Hit version by Joe Stampley (C&W #1 1976).

From the wiki: “‘All These Things’ was written by Allen Toussaint (under the pseudonym of ‘Naomi Neville’) and first recorded by Art Neville in 1962. The most successful chart hit version was recorded by Joe Stampley in 1976, peaking at #1 on the US Country Singles chart. A decade earlier, in 1966, Stampley had recorded a version of the same song with his band, The Uniques, that barely cracked the Billboard Hot 100.”

Rubber Biscuit

First recorded by The Chips (1956).
Hit version by The Blues Brothers (US #37 1979).

From the wiki: “‘Rubber Biscuit’ is a Doo-wop song by The Chips, first recorded in 1956. It was famously covered by The Blues Brothers (on their debut album, Briefcase Full of Blues). Label credit for writing the song was given to Chips lead singer Charles Johnson and Adam R. Levy. Levy, though, was the son of label owner Morris Levy, who was notorious for adding either his or his son’s names to songwriting credits in order to claim partial, or in some cases all composer royalties on songs they did not write. There is no evidence that Morris or Adam ever wrote any songs. When Josie Records heard the song they signed The Chips and the record was issued in September 1956. Although it did not chart, ‘Rubber Biscuit’ became an instant east coast radio favorite.

Respect

Written and originally recorded by Otis Redding (1965).
Hit version by Aretha Franklin (US #1/UK #10 1967).

From the wiki: “Essentially a ballad, ‘Respect’ was written by Otis Redding for Speedo Sims, who intended to record it with his band, the Singing Demons, but was unable to produce a good version. Redding then decided to sing the song himself, which Speedo agreed to. (Redding also promised to credit Speedo on the liner notes, but this never happened.)

Handy Man

First recorded by Sparks of Rhythm (1956, released 1959).
Hit versions by Jimmy Jones (US #2/R&B #3/UK #3 1960), Del Shannon (US #22/UK #36 1964), James Taylor (US #4/MOR #1 1977).

From the wiki: “‘Handy Man’ was written by singer Jimmy Jones and songwriter Otis Blackwell. Recordings by Del Shannon and also The Sparks Of Rhythm list Charles Merenstein as a co-writer, and The Sparks Of Rhythm version on the Apollo 541 single version released in 1959 credits Andrew Barksdale and Merenstein as writers, entirely omitting Jones and Blackwell. ‘Handy Man’ was originally recorded by The Sparks Of Rhythm, a group Jones had been a member of when he wrote it but wasn’t when ‘Handy Man’ was recorded in February 1956.

“In 1959, Jones recorded the song himself, in an arrangement reworked by co-writer Blackwell who also produced the session. After ‘Handy Man’ starting moving up the music charts, Apollo Records released the Sparks of Rhythm version. Jone’s ‘Handy Man’ went to #3 on the R&B charts and #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1960, becoming a million seller while the Sparks of Rhythm recording was lost in oblivion. ‘Handy Man’ was a hit again in 1964 for Del Shannon and, yet again (as a slow ballad) in 1977, for James Taylor.”

Merry Christmas, Baby

Co-written and first recorded by Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers (R&B #3 1947).
Other popular versions by Chuck Berry (1958), Elvis Presley (1971), Bruce Springsteen (1987), Bonnie Raitt & Charles Brown (1992), Cee Lo Green & Rod Stewart (2012).

From the wiki: “‘Merry Christmas Baby’ is an R&B Christmas standard written by Lou Baxter and Johnny Moore. The original 1947 version by Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers is the definitive version of this song. Notable cover versions include those by Chuck Berry on his 1958 single and Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band recorded live at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York, and included on the Christmas album A Very Special Christmas, released in 1987. Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers was one of the hottest Blues attractions on the West Coast when their recording of ‘Merry Christmas Baby’ reached position #3 on Billboard’s R & B Juke Box chart during the Christmas of 1947. Guitarist Johnny Moore commandeered an impressive lineup of players for the recording session, including bassist Eddie Williams, guitarist Oscar Moore (then of the King Cole Trio) and, notably, singer/pianist Charles Brown (‘Please Come Home for Christmas‘).”

Please Come Home for Christmas

Co-written and originally recorded by Charles Brown (US #76 1960).
Hit version by Eagles (US #18 1978), Bon Jovi (UK #7 1994).

From the wiki: “‘Please Come Home for Christmas’ is a Christmas song, released in 1960, by the American blues singer and pianist Charles Brown. Hitting Billboard’s Hot 100 chart in December 1961, the tune Brown co-wrote with Gene Redd peaked at position #76. It appeared on the Christmas Singles chart for nine seasons, hitting #1 in 1972. In 1978, the rock band Eagles covered and released the song as a holiday single. Their version peaked at #18 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, the first Christmas song to reach the Top 20 on that chart since Roy Orbison’s ‘Pretty Paper’ in 1963.”

Behind the Mask

Written and first recorded by Yellow Magic Orchestra (1979).
Hit versions by Greg Phillinganes (R&B #77/DANCE #4 1985), Eric Clapton (UK #15 1987).
Also recorded by Michael Jackson (1982, released 2010), Ryuichi Sakamoto & Bernard Fowler (1987), The Human League & Yellow Magic Orchestra (1993).

From the wiki: “‘Behind the Mask’ is a Synth-Pop song by electronic band Yellow Magic Orchestra, written by member Ryuichi Sakamoto and first produced as an instrumental in 1978 for a Seiko watch commercial. It was later released in 1979 as part of the band’s Solid State Survivor album with English lyrics added by Chris Mosdell. Sakamoto already had the melody line when he asked poet and lyricist Mosdell to write lyrics, which Mosdell based on the imagery of a Japanese traditional Noh mask, combined with a poem by Irish poet W.B. Yeats called, ‘The Mask’.

Saturday Night Fish Fry

First recorded by Eddie Williams & His Brown Buddies (1949).
Hit version by Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five (US #21/R&B #1 1949).

From the wiki: “‘Saturday Night Fish Fry’ was written by Ellis Walsh and adapted by Louis Jordan (who received co-writing credit), and first recorded in 1949 by Eddie Williams & His Brown Buddies featuring the talk-singing vocals of Walsh. The act had recently had a hit with ‘Broken Hearted’; ‘Saturday Night Fish Fry’ was intended to be the Williams’ band’s followup. However, the acetate for the William/Walsh recording found its way to Louis Jordan’s agent and, as Williams later recalled, ‘They got theirs out there first.’

“Jordan reconfigured the song, taking the song’s ‘hook’ and signing it twice after every other verse. The arrangement was also more propulsive, too; Williams’ shuffle was replaced by a raucous, rowdy jump Boogie-woogie. ‘Saturday Night Fish Fry’ has been called one of the first Rock ‘n roll records. No less than Chuck Berry has said ‘Louis Jordan was the first one that I hear play rock and roll.'”

Something You Got

Written and first recorded by Chris Kenner (1961).
Hit version by Alvin Robinson (US #54/R&B #6 1964).
Also recorded by Moody Blues (1965), Wilson Pickett (1966), Herman Hitson (1966), Bruce Springsteen (1974).

From the wiki: “‘Something You Got’ was written by New Orleans R&B singer and songwriter Chris Kenner (‘Land of 1000 Dances‘, ‘I Like It Like That‘) who released it in 1961 as a single, with ‘Come and See About Me’ on the B-side, and as an album track on the 1966 album Land of 1000 Dances. Covered later with some acclaim by Wilson Pickett (who also covered Kenner’s ‘Land of 1000 Dances’), ‘Something You Got’ charted only with the 1964 version recorded by Alvin Robinson.”

Tweedle-Dee

First recorded by LaVern Baker (US #14/R&B #4 1954).
Other hit versions by Georgia Gibbs (US #2/UK #20 1955), Frankie Vaughn (UK #17 1955), Little Jimmy Osmond (US #59/UK #4 1973).

From the wiki: “‘Tweedlee Dee’ (also ‘Tweedly Dee’ or ‘Tweedle Dee’) is a R&B novelty song with a Latin-influenced riff written by Winfield Scott for LaVern Baker and recorded by her at Atlantic Records’ studio in New York City in 1954. It was her first hit, reaching #4 on Billboard’s R&B chart and #14 on its Pop chart. Although Baker had closely approached a Pop style in this recording, a cover of the song was quickly recorded by Georgia Gibbs on the Mercury Records label. Because a major label like Mercury had a superior distribution system, Atlantic’s independent label could not compete.

“The white cover version used not only the lyrics but closely imitated the style and arrangement of the original and became a Gold Record for Gibbs, thus ruining any chance of Baker’s recording becoming a Top 10 Pop hit. According to Atlantic’s engineer, Tom Dowd, Mercury hired the same arranger, the same musicians and tried to hire the same engineer. Baker attempted to get her congressman to introduce legislation to prevent the copying of arrangements but was unsuccessful.”

Lawdy Miss Clawdy

First recorded by Lloyd Price (R&B #1 1952).
Other hit versions by Elvis Presley (UK #15 1957), Gary Stites (US #47 1960), The Buckinghams (US #41 1967), Mickey Gilley (C&W #3 1976).

From the wiki: “‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’ was an R&B song written by New Orleans singer/songwriter Lloyd Price (‘Personality’) that ‘grandly introduced The New Orleans Sound’. It was first recorded by Price in 1952, along with Dave Bartholomew and Fats Domino during Price’s first session for Specialty Records. In 1952, Art Rupe, founder of Specialty Records in Los Angeles, came to New Orleans in search of new talent. Local recording studio owner Cosimo Matassa introduced him to Dave Bartholomew, who had co-written and produced many of Fats Domino’s early hit records. Bartholomew invited nineteen year-old Lloyd Price to audition for Rupe at Matassa’s J&M Studio. The accounts differ on what happened next.

“According to Rupe, Price spent too much time rehearsing and Rupe threatened to leave if he did not get it together; Rupe then relented and Price turned out an emotional performance of ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’, prompting Rupe to cancel his return flight and to arrange for a full recording session.

Just Because

Written and first recorded (as “A Little Word”) by Shirley & Lee (1956).
Hit version by Lloyd Price (US #29/R&B #3 1956).
Also recorded by John Lennon (1973/1974).

From the wiki: “‘A Little Word’ was written by Leonard Lee, and released as the B-side to Shirley & Lee’s ‘That’s What I’ll Do’ non-charting single released in February 1956 (ahead of their chart-topping ‘Let the Good Times Roll’). Lloyd Price would adapt ‘A Little Word’ into “Just Because’. Price had already recorded one of the biggest-selling songs of the early Rock ‘n roll era, ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’, in 1952, but his career momentum was cut short when he was drafted into the Army in 1954. Upon his discharge, Price found he had been replaced at Specialty Records by Little Richard. Price then decided to start his own label – The Kent Recording Company (KRC). Kent Records began in late 1956 with Price as its only artist. The label’s first release was ‘Just Because’, on which Price played piano and produced the session.

A Lover’s Question

Co-written and first recorded by Brook Benton (1958).
Hit versions by Clyde McPhatter (US #6/R&B #1 1958), Del Reeves (C&W #14 1970), Jacky Ward (C&W #3 1978).
Also recorded by Loggins & Messina (1975).

From the wiki: “‘A Lover’s Question’ was written by Brook Benton (‘Rainy Night in Georgia‘) and Jimmy T. Williams, and first recorded by Benton in 1958. That same year, it was covered by Clyde McPhatter (formerly of The Dominoes and founder of The Drifters) and became his most successful solo Pop or R&B release. Only 39 at the time of his death in 1972, McPhatter struggled for years with alcoholism and depression and was, according to Jay Warner’s On This Day in Music History, ‘broke and despondent over a mismanaged career that made him a legend but hardly a success.’

“McPhatter was the first artist in music history to become a double inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame … first as a member of The Drifters and, later, as a solo artist and, as a result, all subsequent double and/or triple inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame are said to be members of ‘The Clyde McPhatter Club’.

Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It

Based on “He’s the Greatest Dancer” by Sister Sledge (1979).
Hit version by Will Smith (US #1/R&B #6/UK #3 1998).

From the wiki: “The song samples the Sister Sledge song ‘He’s the Greatest Dancer’ and ‘Movin’ On Up’ by Ja’net Dubois. The ‘mama-uh, mama-uh, mama come closer’ line is a reference to the song ‘Soul Makossa’ by Manu Dibango, specifically the version adapted by Michael Jackson in ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin”’s final bridge.”

Who Let the Dogs Out

Based on “Pump Up the Party” by Hassan (1987).
First recorded (as “Who Let the Dogs Out”) by Miami Boom Productions (1992).
Hit versions by Anselm Douglas (1998), Baha Men (US #21/UK #2/AUS #1/NZ #1/IRE #2 2000).

From the wiki: “‘Who Let the Dogs Out’ was based on Stevie B’s ‘Pump Up the Party’, recorded by Hassan in 1987. ‘Party’ opens with the lyric ‘Who’s running this doghouse? Who? Who? Who? Who?’

“The song was then recorded i 1992 – now titled ‘Who Let the Dogs Out’ – by Miami Boom Productions.

“The 1998 Calypsoca recording by Anselm Douglas (it was used for the 1998 Trinidad and Tobago Carnival season), titled ‘Doggie’, came to the attention of producer Steve Greenberg who would then have his group, Baha Men, cover the song for the Rugrats in Paris: The Movie movie and soundtrack album. The Baha Men recording was released it as a single in 2000, and would go on to become the band’s first hit in the US and the UK.”

Hey Bartender

Written and first recorded by Floyd Dixon (1954).
Popular versions by Laurel Aitken (1961), The Blues Brothers (1978), Johnny Lee (C&W #2 1983).

From the wiki: “‘Hey Bartender’ was written and first recorded in 1954 by West Coast R&B pianist Floyd Dixon. A 1961 Ska cover by Laurel Aitken popularized the song, as did the inclusion of it on the first Blues Brothers album in 1978. The only charting version of ‘Hey Bartender’ was recorded in 1983 by Johnny Lee.”

Hey There, Lonely Girl

First recorded (as “Hey There, Lonely Boy”) by Ruby & the Romantics (US #5 1963).
Other hit versions by Eddie Holman (US #2/R&B #4/CAN #1/UK #4 1969), Shaun Cassidy (AUS #5 1977), Robert John (US #31 1980).

From the wiki: “‘Hey There, Lonely Boy’ was written by Leon Carr and Earl Shuman and was first recorded in 1963 by Ruby & The Romantics (‘Our Day Will Come’, ‘Hurting Each Other‘), becoming the group’s second Top-5 single following their #1 hit, ‘Our Day Will Come’. Eddie Holman’s cover was recorded and released in 1969, becoming his highest-charting single.

“Additional charting singles covers were recorded by Shaun Cassidy (1977), and Robert John (1980).”

Rocket 88

Inspired by “Cadillac Boogie” by Jimmy Liggins & His Drops of Joy (1947).
Hit version by Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats (R&B #1 1951).
Also recorded by Bill Haley & His Saddlemen (1951).

From the wiki: “If ‘Rocket 88’ is to be considered the first ‘Rock ‘n Roll’ song (as musicologists do), then ‘Cadillac Boogie’ must be the seed from which sprang the tree. Jackie Brenston admits he modeled his song on the Jimmy Liggins’ ‘Cadillac Boogie’, trading in the Caddy for a 1951 Oldsmobile Rocket Hydramatic 88. And it was about time they did. On their way from Clarksdale, MS, to Sun Studios in Memphis, TN, to record with Sam Phillips, the Delta Cats’ 1940 Ford Town Car was soaked in a downpour, damaging some band equipment including the band’s guitar amplifier.

“As luck would have it, Phillips liked the distortion coming now from the damaged amplifier and kept it in the recording. (Note: Even though ‘The Delta Cats’ were listed on the label, the group did not legally exist per se. Instead, the band was a derivative of then-19-year-old Ike Turner & His Kings of Rhythm band. Brenston was Turner’s saxophone player.)

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