Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Burl Ives

Pearly Shells (Pupu A ‘O ‘Ewa)

First recorded by The Hawaii Calls Orchestra (1962).
Hit version by Burl Ives (US #60/MOR #12 1964).
Also recorded (as “First Night of the Full Moon”) by Jack Jones (US #59/AUS #8 1964).
Also recorded by Don Ho (1967).

From the wiki: “‘Pearly Shells’ based on the melody of an old Hawaiian song, ‘Pupu A ‘O ‘Ewa’. English lyrics were written by Webley ‘Web’ Edwards, creator of the radio program Hawaii Calls, and Leon Pober, and first recorded in English by The Hawaii Calls Orchestra. In 1928 Edwards relocated from Oregon to Hawaii where he became an auto salesman. It was during this time he developed a keen interest in native Hawaiian musical traditions. In 1935 he became a producer for a radio show which showcased authentic island music. The show, Hawaii Calls, debuted on July 3, 1935 and was broadcast for 37 years. (Edwards was the first radio announcer to broadcast the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. It was he who said on air: ‘Attention. This is no exercise. The Japanese are attacking Pearl Harbor!’ He was also one of only two broadcast journalists aboard the USS Missouri during the surrender ceremony at Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945.)”

Big Rock Candy Mountain

First recorded (as “Big Rock Candy Mountains”) by Harry McClintock (1928).
Popular versions by Burl Ives (1949), Pete Seeger (1957), Dorsey Burnette (B-side US #102 1960).

From the wiki: “‘Big Rock Candy Mountain’, first recorded by Harry McClintock in 1928, is a folk music song about a hobo’s idea of paradise – a place where ‘hens lay soft boiled eggs’ and there are ‘cigarette trees’. McClintock claimed to have written the song in 1895, based on tales from his youth hobo-ing through the United States, but some believe that at least aspects of the song have existed for far longer. McClintock was a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.), and the author of other labor songs as ‘Haywire Mac’, ‘Sam Bass’ and ‘Hallelujah Bum Again’. His original 1928 recording was used on the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack (minus the plural form). The song achieved widespread popularity in 1949 when a sanitized version intended for children was recorded by Burl Ives. A version recorded in 1960 by Dorsey Burnette reached #102 on Billboard’s chart.

The Wild Side of Life

Inspired by “Great Speckled Bird” by Roy Acuff (1936).
First recorded (as “Wild Side of Life”) by Jimmie Heap & The Melody Masters (1951).
Hit versions by Hank Thompson (C&W #1 1952), Burl Ives & Grady Martin & His Slew Foot Five (US #30/C&W #6 1952), Tommy Quickly & The Remo 4 (UK #33 1964), Freddy Fender (C&W #13 1976), Status Quo (UK #9 1976).

From the wiki: “‘The Wild Side of Life’ carries one of the most distinctive melodies of early country music, used in ‘Thrills That I Can’t Forget’ (recorded by Welby Toomey and Edgar Boaz in 1925), ‘I’m Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes’ (by the Carter Family in 1929), and ‘Great Speckled Bird’ (by Roy Acuff in 1936). That, along with the song’s story of a woman shedding her role as domestic provider to follow the night life, combined to become one of the most famous country songs of the early 1950s. According to Country music historian Bill Malone, ‘Wild Side’ co-writer William Warren was inspired to create the song after his experiences with a young woman he met when he was younger — a honky tonk angel, as it were — who ‘found the glitter of the gay night life too hard to resist.’

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