Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Hit the Road, Jack

First recorded (as a demo) by Percy Mayfield (1960).
Hit versions by Ray Charles (US #1/R&B #1/UK #6/AUS #3 1961), The Stampeders (US #40/CAN #6 1975).

From the wiki: “‘Hit the Road Jack’ was written by R&B artist Percy Mayfield and was first recorded as an a cappella demo by Mayfield in 1960, before sending it to producer and Specialty Records owner Art Rupe. Rupe passed the song along to one of friends, Ray Charles. It became a worldwide hit after it was recorded by Charles – his sixth R&B #1 hit and second US #1 – with an arrangement featuring Raelettes’ vocalist Margie Hendrix, and would go on to also to win a Grammy award in 1962 for Best Rhythm and Blues Recording.”

“As a youth, Mayfield had a talent for poetry, which led him to songwriting and singing. He began his performing career in Texas and then moved to Los Angeles in 1942. In 1952, at the height of his popularity, Mayfield was severely injured in an automobile crash, when he was returning from a performance in Las Vegas to Los Angeles as the front-seat passenger in a chauffeur-driven car. The vehicle hit the back of an unseen stationary truck, and Mayfield was hit by debris. Though pronounced dead at the scene, he eventually recovered but spent two years convalescing. The accident left him with a facial disfigurement that eventually ended his career as a performer but did not halt his prolific songwriting.

“In 1961, Mayfield’s ‘Hit the Road Jack’ brought him to the attention of Ray Charles, who signed him to his Tangerine Records, primarily as a songwriter, and Charles would go on to record at least 15 of Mayfield’s songs.

“In 1975, Canadian band The Stampeders (‘Sweet City Woman’) released a cover of ‘Hit the Road, Jack’, featuring radio DJ Wolfman Jack, that hit the US Top-40 and landed in the Canadian Top-10.”

Ray Charles, “Hit the Road, Jack” (1961):

The Stampeders, “Hit the Road, Jack” (1975):

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