Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Matchbox

Written and first recorded (as “Match Box Blues”) by Blind Lemon Jefferson (1927).
Also recorded by The Shelton Brothers (1947), Carl Perkins (1956).
Hit version by The Beatles (US #17 1964).

From the wiki: “It was Carl Perkins’s father, Buck, who suggested that Carl record ‘Match Box Blues’. Buck knew only a few lines from the song, either from the 1927 recording by Blind Lemon Jefferson, or from a version recorded by Country musicians The Shelton Brothers. As Perkins began singing the few words his father had suggested, Jerry Lee Lewis, who was at that time a session piano player at Sun Studios, began a restrained boogie-woogie riff. Carl picked out a melody on the guitar to the riff and improvised more lyrics. Perkins’ recording was released in February 1957 with no apparent chart impact.

“It on December 4, 1956 that Perkins recorded ‘Matchbox’. Later that same day Perkins and Lewis found themselves in the company of Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash together in the Sun studio with Sam Phillips. The impromptu group formed at the jam session that followed became known as the ‘Million Dollar Quartet’.

“The Beatles were fans of Perkins and began performing the song circa 1961. Their then-drummer, Pete Best, performed the lead vocals. In 1962, after Best had been replaced, John Lennon sang the song during a performance at the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany; a recording of this exists and was included on Live! at the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany (1962). The following year, the Beatles began performing ‘Matchbox” with Ringo Starr on lead vocals for their BBC Radio show. This version would later be included on the Live at the BBC album.

“Starr also sang lead vocals when ‘Matchbox’ was recorded at the Abbey Road studios in June 1964. Carl Perkins was at this session, The Beatles having first met their Rockabilly idol the night before at a party. In a letter Perkins wrote before he died, he mentioned that he and The Beatles (at their request) played a few of his songs together on this date, but these jams were not taped. The original first line in the Perkins’ song is ‘Sittin’ here wonderin’ will a matchbox hold my clothes,’ a reference to being poor. But, Ringo sang both that line and ‘Sittin’ here watchin’, matchbox hole in my clothes,’ which are erroneously assumed by many to be the real lyrics. There are also verses present which do not exist in Perkins’ original, suggesting The Beatles had heard other interpretations.

“Paul McCartney recalled for Guitar Player magazine in 1990 that ‘Carl [had] lovely stories about how he was taught by an old black gentleman [John Westbrook], and he speaks of him with great reverence. It’s very nice to hear. He said, ‘You know, Paul, I used to pick cotton in the field, and when we had a break, we’d sit down and this old black gentleman would show me some of his licks.” It was very exciting for us kids. We’d grown up in a kind of urban world, and we didn’t really know about that stuff. He’s still an idol.'”

Carl Perkins, “Matchbox” (1956):

The Beatles, “Matchbox” at the Hamburg Star Club (1962):

The Beatles, “Matchbox” (1964):

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