Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: “Big” Joe Turner

Beale Street Blues

First recorded by Prince’s Band (1917).
Popular versions by W.C. Handy (1917), Marion Harris (1921), Jelly Roll Morton (1926), Fats Waller & Alberta Hunter (1927), “Big” Joe Turner (1940), Louis Armstrong (1954), Ella Fitzgerald (1958).

From the wiki: “‘Beale Street Blues’ was written in 1917 by American composer and lyricist W.C. Handy. The title refers to Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, the main entertainment district for the city’s African American population in the early part of the twentieth century, and a place closely associated with the development of the Blues. ‘Beale Street Blues’ was first popularized for a mass audience when sung on Broadway by Gilda Gray in the 1919 musical revue Schubert’s Gaieties.
“Like many of Handy’s songs, Beale Street Blues is a hybrid of the blues style with the popular ballad style of the day, the opening lyrics following a line pattern typical of Tin Pan Alley songs and the later stanzas giving way to the traditional three-line pattern characteristic of the Blues. The song itself is now in the public domain in the United States, due to expiration of the copyright, though most of the recordings of it are still covered by their own copyrights.”

Shake, Rattle and Roll

Originally recorded by “Big” Joe Turner & His Blues Kings (US #22/R&B #1 1954).
Other hit version by Bill Haley & The Comets (US #7 1954).

From the wiki: “In early 1954, Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records suggested to Jesse Stone (writing under his assumed name ‘Charles E. Calhoun’) that he write an up-tempo blues for ‘Big’ Joe Turner, a blues shouter whose career had begun in Kansas City before World War II. Stone played around with various phrases before coming up with ‘shake, rattle and roll’. The shouting chorus on Turner’s version consisted of Stone, Ertegun and Atlantic’s other label executive, Jerry Wexler.

“The song, in its original incarnation, is highly sexual. [Among other salacious lyrics,] Stone stated that the line about ‘a one-eyed cat peepin’ in a seafood store’ was suggested to him by Atlantic session drummer Sam ‘Baby’ Lovett as an on-the-sly sexual reference. Turner’s recording was released in April 1954, reached #1 on the US Billboard R&B chart on June 12 and did not move for three weeks. It peaked at #22, nearly at the same time, on the Billboard Hot 100.

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