Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Rhinestone Cowboy

First recorded by Larry Weiss (1974).
Hit version by Glen Campbell (US #1/C&W #1/UK #4/CAN #1 1975).

From the wiki: “”Rhinestone Cowboy” is a song written by Larry Weiss and most famously recorded by singer Glen Campbell. Growing up in Queens, New York City, Weiss started writing songs in his teens, and continued to do so while working in his family’s textile sales business, before working as a freelance songwriter for music publishers Wes Farrell (who also published Gerry Goffin and Carole King). Weiss’ first break came in 1963 when Nat ‘King’ Cole recorded ‘Mr. Wishing Well’, co-written with Lockie Edwards Jr.. Weiss also wrote for R&B acts including Baby Washington, Chuck Jackson, The Shirelles, and American Breed (‘Bend Me, Shape Me‘).

“Weiss wrote and first recorded ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ in 1974 (sounding very much like Neil Diamond), where it appeared on his album Black and Blue Suite. It did not, however, have much of a commercial impact as a single. In late 1974, however, Glen Campbell did hear the song on the radio and, during a tour of Australia, sat down to learn it.

Weiss remembers,

“‘The chorus came from the 1944 movie Buffalo Bill. In the last scene, he rides out on a white horse, in a white outfit, with long white beard and hair, and he thanks everybody for giving him such a great life. There’s another scene where he’s at his lowest point, sat on a stuffed horse in a penny arcade holding his hat in the air. I now realise that it was about trials and tribulations. In a way, I wrote the song about that without even knowing it.

‘I was so disappointed when it wasn’t a hit that I was ready to quit. But Glen told me that when the song was presented to him, he’d already heard it on the car radio and had to pull over to the side of the road. He said: “People told me I was mad to like it, but it just blew me away.” The song had been turned down by everybody from Elvis Presley to Neil Diamond, but it worked better with Glen singing it. If Neil or a pop singer had sung it, it wouldn’t have meant as much.'”

– ‘How We Made Rhinestone Cowboy‘, The Guardian, May 13, 2013

“Several music writers noted that Campbell identified with the subject matter of ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ — survival and making it, particularly when the chips are down — very strongly. Recorded between February and March 1975, and released as a single in May 1975, ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ immediately caught on with both country and pop audiences.

“The song spent that summer climbing both the Billboard magazine Hot Country Singles and Billboard Hot 100 charts before peaking at #1 by season’s end – two consecutive weeks on the Hot 100, three non-consecutive weeks on the Country chart. The week of September 13, ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ topped both the Country and Hot 100 charts simultaneously. This was the first time a song had accomplished the feat since November 1961, when ‘Big Bad John’ by Jimmy Dean turned the trick.

“‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ songwriter Weiss moved to Nashville in 1992, and continues to write songs for other artists as well as developing his idea for a musical based around ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’.”

Glen Campbell, “Rhinestone Cowboy” (1975):

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