Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Rings

First recorded (as a demo) by Eddie Reeves & Alex Harvey (1971).
First released by Lonnie Mack (1971).
Hit versions by Cymarron (US #17/MOR #6/CAN #41/AUS #46 1971), Tompall & the Glaser Brothers (C&W #7 1972), Reuben Howell (US #86 1974), Lobo (US #43/CAN #30 1974), Twiggy (UK#35 1977).
Also recorded by Alex Harvey (co-writer 1972), Leo Kottke (1983).

From the wiki: “‘Rings’ was composed by Eddie Reeves, an executive at the West Coast office of United Artists Music, and Alex Harvey, who was contracted as a songwriter to United Artists, and was written for the wedding of a friend of Reeves named Bob Hamilton who – as the song’s lyrics indicate – had experienced an estrangement and reconciliation with his fiancée: the song concludes with the couple ‘hand in hand…upon the sand with the preacher man’ – a reference to Hamilton and his bride’s exchanging vows on the Venice beachfront. The lyric ‘Got James Taylor on the stereo’ was a reference to James Taylor’s ‘Fire and Rain‘ being the couple’s favorite song – while the ‘Tony and Mario’ mentioned in the song were the owners of a Hollywood restaurant the couple frequented.

“Besides Harvey, Eddie Reeves recruited Mac Davis to co-write the song but ultimately Davis was unavailable for the songwriting session.

“Soon afterwards Reeves and Harvey made a recording of the song at the end of a demo recording session booked for Harvey at Quantum Sound Studio in Torrance. Although there was reportedly no original intent other than gifting the newlyweds with the recording, a demo copy was recorded in a session group helmed by Mike Settle and the song’s two writers with Harvey singing lead, the track being credited to Running Bear and Goldstein. Having little faith in the prospects for this version of ‘Rings’, Reeves had no reservations about pitching the song to the producer of Lonnie Mack for whom the song was optioned with Mack recording the ‘Rings’ for his 1971 album Indiana Hills – the first released version of the song.

“At around the time of the Lonnie Mack recording, Bob Hamilton, whose wedding had generated the song, played ‘Rings’ for Memphis Mafioso Marty Lacker through whom the song reached Chips Moman, founder of the legendary Memphis recording studio American Sound. Moman recorded the song with a trio of American Sound session musicians he’d recently signed to record as Cymarron whose lead singer, Richard Mainegra, would recall: ‘We weren’t exactly thrilled with it. The demo was really country-soundin’ and slow and we were writin’ our own stuff and soundin’ a lot more Eagles-ish. But [Moman] told us to go upstairs and work it up the way we’d be happy with it. So we changed a chord or two and livened it up a bit.’

“According to Reeves: ‘The Cymarron record was rush released and received strong immediate airplay, some of which came from major markets radio stations programmed by some of the attendees of Bob [Hamilton’s] wedding. [Also] Bob was in the business of consulting many radio stations and he was not shy about touting the attributes of his ‘wedding song’.’

“The Cymarron’s ‘Rings’ would peak at #17 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August 1971, and #6 on the magazine’s MOR chart, and would serve as the title cut for Cymarron’s sole album, also released in 1971.

“Tompall & the Glaser Brothers covered ‘Rings’ in a June 1971 session in Nashville. Their arrangement, included on the 1972 album release Rings & Things, reached #7 on Billboard’s C&W chart and adjusted the ‘Got James Taylor’ line to the more country-sounding ‘Got Merle Haggard on the radio.’

“In the summer of 1974 a recording of ‘Rings’ by Lobo, taken from his album of remakes Just a Singer, reached #43 on the Billboard Hot 100, besting a concurrent remake on by Reuben Howell – taken from the Motown album release Rings cut at Muscle Shoals – which reached #86. In Canada the Lobo version charted as high as #30. (The Lobo version subbed ‘the Allman Brothers’ for the original’s James Taylor reference, while in Howell’s version it was adjusted to ‘Jim Croce’.)

“Twiggy covered ‘Rings’ for her 1977 album Please Get My Name Right (UK #35), substituting ‘the Doobie Brothers’ for the song’s original ‘James Taylor’ reference.”

Cymarron, “Rings” (1971):

Alex Harvey, co-writer “Rings” (1972):

Tompall & the Glaser Brothers, “Rings” (1972):

Reuben Howell, “Rings” (1974):

Lobo, “Rings” (1974):

Twiggy, “Rings” TV lip-sync performance (1977):

Leo Kottke, “Rings” solo live performance (1984):

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