Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Bill Haley & His Comets

Dipsy Doodle

First recorded by Tommy Dorsey feat. Edythe Wright (#1 1937).
Other hit versions by Russ Morgan and His Orchestra (US #2 1937), Johnny Maddox & the Rhythmasters (US #15 1953).
Also recorded by Larry Clinton & His Orchestra feat. Bea Wain (1937), Ella Fitzgerald & the Chick Webb Orchestra (1937), Bill Haley & His Comets (1957).

“Larry Clinton was an arranger for the Dorsey Brothers big band at the he came up with ‘Dipsy Doodle’, hanging out at the Onyx Club, a jazz club on 52nd Street in New York City, where the back of the menus were printed with blank music scores. One evening Clinton wrote the melody on a menu. It wasn’t until baseball season rolled around that he came up with the lyrics.

“He was a baseball fanatic and Clinton got the idea [for lyrics] from New York Giants left-handed pitcher Carl Hubbell. Hubbell had a screwball pitch that had been dubbed ‘dipsy doo’ for the crazy way it dipped over the plate and befuddled the batters.

“Clinton originally wrote ‘Dipsy Doodle’ for Tommy Dorsey [whose 1937 recording featuring vocalist Edythe Wright topped the Hit Parade ahead of the Russ Moran Orchestra cover version]. Dorsey then made Clinton so well known that Clinton was able to start a band of his own with the financial backing of Dorsey. Then Clinton’s own band further popularized ‘Dipsy Doodle’ by using it as its theme song.

Ain’t Misbehavin’

First released by The Charleston Chasers (1929).
Hit versions by Leo Reisman & His Orchestra (US #2 1929), Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five (US #7 1929), Bill “Bojangles” Robinson (US #8 1929), Fats Waller (US #17 1929 |1943), The Teddy Wilson Quartet (US #6 1937), Dinah Washington (R&B #6 1948), Johnnie Ray (UK #17 1956), Tommy Bruce & the Bruisers (UK #3 1960), Hank Williams, Jr. (C&W #1 1986).
Also recorded by King Cole Trio & Anita O’Day (1945), Bill Haley & His Comets (1957), Sam Cooke (1958), Leon Redbone (1975).

From the wiki: “With lyrics by Andy Razaf and score by Thomas ‘Fats’ Waller and Harry Brooks, ‘An’t Misbehavin” was created specifically as a theme song for the Razaf/Waller/Brooks Broadway musical comedy Connie’s Hot Chocolates. In a 1941 interview with Eddie ‘Rochester’ Anderson, of The Jack Benny Show fame, Fats said the song was written while ‘lodging’ in alimony prison, and that is why he was not ‘misbehavin’.’

“The song was first performed at the premiere of Connie’s Hot Chocolates at Connie’s Inn in Harlem as an opening number by Margaret Simms and Paul Bass, and repeated later in the musical by Russell Wooding’s Hallelujah Singers. Connie’s Hot Chocolates transferred to the Hudson Theatre on Broadway in June 1929, where it was renamed to Hot Chocolates and where Louis Armstrong took over as orchestra director. The script also required Armstrong to play ‘Ain’t Misbehavin” in a trumpet solo, and although this was initially slated to only be a reprise of the opening song, Armstrong’s performance was so well received that the trumpeter was asked to climb out of the orchestra pit and play the piece on stage.

When the Saints Go Marching In

First recorded by The Paramount Jubilee Singers (1923).
Hit versions by Louis Armstrong (US #10 1939), The Weavers (US #27 1951), Percy Faith & His Singers (US #29 1951), Fats Domino (US #50 1959).
Also recorded (as “The Saints Rock ‘n Roll”) by Bill Haley & His Comets (US #18/UK #5 1956), The Million Dollar Quartet (1956), Tony Sheridan & The Beat Brothers (1961).

From the wiki: “‘When the Saints Go Marching In’, often referred to as ‘The Saints’, is an American gospel hymn. According to jazz critic Al Rose this tune was first published as a Baptist hymn in 1916 and credited to Edward Boatner, the man behind religious-classic ‘He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands’. Though it originated as a Christian hymn, it is often played by jazz bands. This song was famously recorded on May 13, 1938 by Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra.

“The first known recorded version was in 1923 by the Paramount Jubilee Singers on Paramount 12073. Although the title given on the label is ‘When All the Saints Come Marching In’, the group sings the modern lyrics beginning with “When the saints go marching in”. No author is shown on the label. The earliest versions were slow and stately, but as time passed the recordings became more rhythmic. Louis Armstrong was one of the first to make the tune into a nationally known Pop tune in the 1930s. (Armstrong wrote that his sister told him she thought the secular performance style of the traditional church tune was inappropriate and irreligious.)

Rock the Joint

First recorded by Jimmy Preston & His Prestonians (R&B #6 1949).
Also recorded by Bill Haley & His Saddlemen (1952).
Other hit version by Bill Haley & His Comets (UK #20 1957).

From the wiki: “‘Rock the Joint’, also known as ‘We’re Gonna Rock This Joint Tonight’, is a boogie song first recorded by various proto-Rock and roll singers, most notably by Jimmy Preston and Bill Haley. Preston’s original 1949 version has been cited as a contender for being ‘the first Rock and roll record’; Haley’s 1952 recording is widely considered to be one of the first Rockabilly records (along with Haley’s cover of ‘Rocket 88‘).

“The song’s authorship is credited to Harry Crafton, Wendell ‘Don’ Keane, and Harry ‘Doc’ Bagby (who were musicians contracted to the Gotham label in New York, owned by Ivin Ballen). The song was influenced by earlier R&B recordings such as Wynonie Harris’ 1948 R&B hit ‘Good Rockin’ Tonight‘. Label owner Ballen passed the song on to Jimmy Preston, fresh off a hit with ‘Hucklebuck Daddy’ in 1949, who, with his Prestonians, recorded ‘Rock the Joint’ in Philadelphia in May 1949. Preston’s recording charted R&B Top 10 in 1949.

Rock Around the Clock

First recorded by Sonny Dae & His Knights (1954).
Hit version by Bill Haley & His Comets (B-side US #36 1954 |US #1/R&B #3/UK #1 1955).

From the wiki: “‘Rock Around the Clock’ was written (as ‘We’re Gonna Rock Around the Clock Tonight!’) in 1952 by Max Freedman and James Myers. Although first recorded by Italian-American band Sonny Dae & His Knights in March 1954, the more famous version by Bill Haley & His Comets is not, strictly speaking, a cover version. Co-writer Myers claimed the song had been written specifically for Haley but, for various reasons, Haley was unable to record it himself until April 1954.

“According to the Haley biographies Bill Haley by John Swenson and Rock Around the Clock by Jim Dawson, the song was first offered to Haley in the wake of his first national success ‘Crazy Man, Crazy’ in 1953. Haley and his Comets began performing the song on stage but Dave Miller, his producer, refused to allow Haley to record it for his Essex Records label. Haley himself claimed to have taken the sheet music into the recording studio at least twice, with Miller ripping up the music each time.

I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter

First recorded by Fats Waller & His Rhythm (US #5 1935).
Other hit versions by The Boswell Sisters (US #3 1936), Billy Williams (US #3 1957), Willie Nelson (C&W #26/CAN #25 1981).
Also recorded by Frank Sinatra (1954 & 1962), Bing Crosby with Bob Scobey’s Frisco Jazz Band (1957), Bill Haley & His Comets (1957).

From the wiki: “‘I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter’ was composed in 1935 by Fred E. Ahlert and Joe Young, and has become a standard of the Great American Songbook. The first recording on the song was by Fats Waller & His Rhythm, in a Victor Records recording session on May 8, 1935. It was covered the following year by The Boswell Sisters, reaching #3 on US popular music charts. (Connee Boswell would record a solo version in 1952.)

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.

See You Later, Alligator

Written and originally recorded (as “Later Alligator”) by Bobby Charles (1955).
Inspired by “Later For You Baby” by Guitar Slim (1954).
Also recorded by Roy Hall (1955).
Hit version by Bill Haley & His Comets (US #6/R&B #7/UK #7 1956), Dr. Feelgood (UK #93 1986).

From the wiki: “Originally titled ‘Later Alligator’, the song was written by Louisiana songwriter Robert Charles Guidry and first recorded by him under his professional name ‘Bobby Charles’ in 1955. Guidry, a Cajun musician, adopted a New Orleans-influenced blues style to the song, intending it to be recorded by fellow NOLA musician Fats Domino. (Guidry also wrote ‘Walking to New Orleans’, which was recorded by Domino.) The melody for ‘Alligator’ was borrowed from bluesman Guitar Slim’s ‘Later for You Baby’ which was recorded in 1954.

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