Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Muskrat Love

Written and originally recorded (as “Muskrat Candlelight”) by Willis Alan Ramsey (1972).
Also recorded (as “Sun Down”) by Lani Hall (1972).
Hit versions by America (US #67/MOR #11 1973), Captain & Tennille (US #4/MOR #1 1976).

From the wiki: “‘Muskrat Love’ is a pop song by written by Willis Alan Ramsey depicting a romantic liaison between two anthropomorphic muskrats named Susie and Sam. The song was first recorded by Ramsey on the critically acclaimed album Willis Alan Ramsey (1972) on which the song was titled ‘Muskrat Candlelight’. Ramsey is an American singer-songwriter, a cult legend among fans of Americana and Texas country.

“America recorded ‘Muskrat Love’ for their 1973 album Hat Trick, marking the second time the band had recorded a song not written by a member of America. David Dickey, bassist for the group, brought ‘Muskrat Candlelight’ to the group’s attention. According to Beckley ‘to us it sounded like a very bluesy, quirky tune. We just felt it was quirky and commercial, and we worked it up.’ Dan Peek would recall that America’s label Warner Bros. ‘hated’ the track and ‘begged us not to release it as a single…We were stupid to press the issue but we liked the song for its easy, acoustic, harmonic beauty not realizing that perhaps it was badly cast for us in order to retain the fairly hip image we had eked out’. In a 2012 interview Gerry Beckley said of ‘Muskrat Love’: ‘It’s a polarizing little number. After concerts, some people tell us they can’t believe we didn’t play it, while others go out of their way to thank us for not performing it.’

“Captain & Tennille recorded ‘Muskrat Love’ for their 1976 album Song of Joy. According to Toni Tennille, the duo had added the song to their nightclub set list a few years earlier after hearing the America single on their car radio. Toni said to Daryl: ‘This song is hysterical; why don’t we add it to our club-act?’ Being short one track for Song of Joy, Captain & Tennille made an impromptu decision to record ‘Muskrat Love’, including the synthesizer generated sound effects which Dragon had created for the song’s performance in their nightclub act. A&M Records decided to issue ‘Muskrat Love’ as a single after WISM, a Madison WI radio station which had been airing the album cut reported phenomenal listener response to the song in September 1976.

“Gerry Beckley of America cited ‘Muskrat Love’ as ‘a fine example of where the closer you go back to the original seed, the nicer it is. Ours was once removed, and the Captain & Tennille’s was even more removed.’

“The first cover version of ‘Muskrat Candlelight’ was an abridged version entitled ‘Sun Down’ recorded by Lani Hall for her 1972 album Sun Down Lady, with composition credit to Willis Alan Ramsey and ‘additional lyrics’ by Lani Hall and her husband Herb Alpert. ‘Sun Down’ recasts Ramsey’s original song as a straightforward romantic ballad omitting Ramsey’s motif of muskrats courting.”

America, “Muskrat Love” (1972):

Lani Hall, “Sun Down” (1972):

Captain & Tennille, “Muskrat Love” (1976):

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