Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Hello Stranger

Written and first recorded by Barbara Lewis (US #3/R&B #1 1963).
Other hit versions by Fire & Rain (US #100 1973), Yvonne Elliman (US #15/R&B #57/MOR #1/UK #26/NETH #20/NZ #12 1977), Carrie Lucas & The Whispers (R&B #20 1985).
Also recorded by Martha & the Vandellas (1963), The Capitols (1966), The Supremes & The Four Tops (1970).

From the wiki: “‘Hello Stranger’ was written by Barbara Lewis herself, who was originally inspired to write the while working gigs in Detroit with her musician father: ‘I would make the circuit with my dad and people would yell out: ‘Hey stranger, hello stranger, it’s been a long time’.’ The song is notable because its title comprises the first two words of the lyrics but is never at any point repeated throughout the remainder of the song.

“Lewis recorded ‘Hello Stranger’ at Chess Studios in Chicago in January 1963. The track’s producer Ollie McLaughlin recruited The Dells to provide the background vocals. The arrangement by Riley Hampton – then working with Etta James – featured a signature organ riff provided by keyboardist John Young. The track was completed after thirteen takes. Lewis would recall that, on hearing the playback of the finished track, Dells member Chuck Barksdale ‘kept jumping up and down and saying, ‘It’s a hit, it’s a hit.’…I didn’t really know. It was all new to me.’

“In 1966, Ollie McLaughlin had the group The Capitols – who he discovered at a local dance headlined by Barbara Lewis – record ‘Hello Stranger’ to be the B-side of their #7 hit ‘Cool Jerk’. Also in 1966, an instrumental version was released as an alternative B-side to Deon Jackson’s US #11/R&B #3 hit ‘Love Makes The World Go Round’.

“‘Hello Stranger’ returned to the charts in 1973 when it became a regional hit for the group Fire & Rain, a folk-rock duo comprising veteran Tucson musician Manny Freiser and Patti McCarron, Freiser’s then-wife, who sang lead; their version, which featured Michael Omartian on keyboards, was arranged by Ben Benay who also played guitar. The single precariously ‘Bubbled under the Hot 100’ on Billboard’s charts: #106 one week, #105 the next, and so on before finally entering the Billboard Hot 100 in June 1973 at #100 where it remained for three weeks and then dropped off the charts. According to Freiser, ‘Although it had sold 70,000+ copies, [it] got played a lot [on radio] but didn’t break.’ Fire & Rain’s ‘Hello Stranger’ thus became Billboard’s lowest-ranked Hot 100 single of 1973, ranking #573 out of the 573 singles that made the Hot 100 that year.

“Other cover versions of the song have been recorded by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, in 1963 for their Heat Wave album, and by The Supremes & The Four Tops, for their 1971 album Dynamite!.

“The most successful cover of ‘Hello Stranger’ since the Lewis original has been the Yvonne Elliman version produced by Freddie Perren for Elliman’s 1977 Love Me album. Elliman’s ‘Hello Stranger’ was released as the follow-up single to Elliman’s #14 hit ‘Love Me’ and was similarly successful on the Pop charts reaching #15. Her single also charted R&B at #57 but was most successful on the Easy Listening chart where it was #1 for four weeks. It also charted Top 20 internationally in New Zealand (#12) and the Netherlands (#20), while also reach #26 on the UK Singles chart.

“In 1985, Carrie Lucas’ remake of “Hello Stranger” – which featured The Whispers (‘And the Beat Goes On’, 1980) – became a Top 20 R&B hit.”

Martha & the Vandellas, “Hello Stranger” (1963):

The Capitols, “Hello Stranger” (1966):

Deon Jackson, “Hello Stranger” (1966):

The Supremes & the Four Tops, “Hello Stranger” (1979):

Fire & Rain, “Hello Stranger” (1973):

Yvonne Elliman, “Hello Stranger” (1977):

Carrie Lucas & The Whispers, “Hello Stranger” (1985):

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