Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Chuck Berry

Merry Christmas, Baby

Co-written and first recorded by Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers (R&B #3 1947).
Other popular versions by Chuck Berry (1958), Elvis Presley (1971), Bruce Springsteen (1987), Bonnie Raitt & Charles Brown (1992), Cee Lo Green & Rod Stewart (2012).

From the wiki: “‘Merry Christmas Baby’ is an R&B Christmas standard written by Lou Baxter and Johnny Moore. The original 1947 version by Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers is the definitive version of this song. Notable cover versions include those by Chuck Berry on his 1958 single and Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band recorded live at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York, and included on the Christmas album A Very Special Christmas, released in 1987. Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers was one of the hottest Blues attractions on the West Coast when their recording of ‘Merry Christmas Baby’ reached position #3 on Billboard’s R & B Juke Box chart during the Christmas of 1947. Guitarist Johnny Moore commandeered an impressive lineup of players for the recording session, including bassist Eddie Williams, guitarist Oscar Moore (then of the King Cole Trio) and, notably, singer/pianist Charles Brown (‘Please Come Home for Christmas‘).”

Come Together

Inspired by “You Can’t Catch Me” by Chuck Berry (1956).
Hit version by The Beatles (US #1/UK #4 1969).

From the wiki: “In 1969, Lennon composed the song ‘Come Together’ for The Beatles’ album Abbey Road but its history began when Lennon was inspired by Timothy Leary’s campaign for governor of California against Ronald Reagan, which promptly ended when Leary was sent to prison for possession of marijuana. Lennon recalled, ‘The thing was created in the studio. It’s gobbledygook; ‘Come Together’ was an expression that Leary had come up with for his attempt at being president or whatever he wanted to be, and he asked me to write a campaign song. I tried and tried, but I couldn’t come up with one. But I came up with this, Come Together, which would’ve been no good to him – you couldn’t have a campaign song like that, right?’

Surfin’ USA

Inspired by “Route 90” by Clarence Garlow (as a B-side 1952) and “Sweet Little Sixteen” by Chuck Berry (US #2/R&B #1/UK #16 1958).
Hit version by The Beach Boys (US #3/R&B #20/UK #34 1962).

From the wiki: “‘Route 90’, co-written and first recorded in 1952 by Louisiana stomper Clarence Garlow, served as the basis for two hit songs: Chuck Berry’s ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’ (1958) and ‘Surfin’ Safari’ (1962) by The Beach Boys. Somewhat ironically, it would be Berry – not Garlow (who passed away in 1986) – who would sue The Beach Boys for copyright infringement. Garlow’s only hit song recording was ‘Bon Ton Roula’, which peaked at #7 on the R&B chart in 1950.

Promised Land

Written and first recorded by Chuck Berry (US #41/R&B #16/UK #26 1965).
Other hit versions by Fred Weller (C&W #3 1971), Rockpile (AUS #5 1972), Elvis Presley (US #14/C&W #9/UK #9 1974).
Also recorded by The Grateful Dead (1976).

From the wiki: “‘Promised Land’ was written by Chuck Berry to the melody of ‘Wabash Cannonball’, an American Folk song. It was first recorded in this version by Chuck Berry in 1964 for his album St. Louis to Liverpool. Released in 1965, it was Berry’s first single issued following his prison term for a Mann Act conviction. In the lyrics, the singer (who refers to himself as ‘the poor boy’) tells of his journey from Norfolk, Virginia to the ‘Promised Land’, Los Angeles, California, mentioning various cities of the American Southeast that he encounters along his journey. Berry borrowed an atlas from the prison library to plot the song’s itinerary. Upon arriving in Los Angeles, ‘the poor boy’ calls Norfolk, Virginia (‘Tidewater four, ten-oh-nine’) to tell the folks back home he’s made it to the ‘promised land.’

Rock and Roll Music

Written and first recorded by Chuck Berry (US #8/R&B #6 1957).
Also recorded by The Beatles (1964).
Other hit versions by Humble Pie (US #105 1975), The Beach Boys (US #5/UK #36 1976).

From the wiki: “‘Rock and Roll Music’ was written and recorded by Rock and Roll icon Chuck Berry. The song has been widely covered and is recognized as one of Berry’s most popular and enduring compositions, and has been recorded by many well-known artists, including Bill Haley & His Comets, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, REO Speedwagon, Mental As Anything, Humble Pie, and Manic Street Preachers.

I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock ‘n Roll)

Inspired by “You Never Can Tell”, Chuck Berry (1964).
Hit version by Dave Edmunds (UK #26/AUS #32 1977).
Also recorded by Nick Lowe’s Last Chicken in the Shop (1978), Nick Lowe & His Cowboy Outfit (1985).

From the wiki: “Nick Lowe has indicated ‘You Never Can Tell’ was the source of inspiration for his own song ‘I Knew The Bride (When She Used To Rock’n’Roll)’, first recorded and made popular in 1977 by Dave Edmunds. Lowe, the song’s writer, also recorded it as part of the 1978 Live Stiffs Live concert compilation (as ‘Nick Lowe’s Last Chicken in the Shop’) and, again, in the studio in 1985. Status Quo recorded a version in 1999, releasing it as the B-side to ‘Little White Lies’.

My Ding-a-Ling

Written and first recorded by Dave Bartholomew (1952).
Hit version by Chuck Berry (US #1/&B #42/UK #1 1972).

From the wiki: “‘My Ding-a-Ling’ was originally recorded by Dave Bartholomew in 1952 for King Records. When Bartholomew moved to Imperial Records, he re-recorded the song under the new title, ‘Little Girl Sing Ding-a-Ling.’ (In 1954, The Bees also released a version on Imperial titled ‘Toy Bell.’) Bartholomew’s partnership with Fats Domino on Imperial Records produced some of his greatest successes. In the mid 1950s they co-wrote more than forty hits, including two songs that reached #1 on the Billboard R&B chart, ‘Goin’ Home’ and ‘Ain’t That a Shame’, along with ‘I’m Walkin”, ‘I Hear You Knocking‘ and ‘One Night‘. Bartholomew is a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and The Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.

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