Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Elvis Presley

Moody Blue

Written and first recorded by Mark James (1975).
Hit version by Elvis Presley (US #32/C&W #1 1976).

From the wiki: “‘Moody Blue’, made famous by Elvis Presley, was written and first recorded by Mark James who also penned Elvis’ ‘Suspicious Minds‘. ‘Moody Blue’ was Presley’s last #1 hit in his lifetime, topping the Billboard magazine Hot Country Singles chart in February 1977.

“Presley recorded his version in February 1976, in the Jungle Room of his Graceland home. The only time Elvis performed the song in its entirety was on February 21, 1977 at a concert in Charlotte, North Carolina. He had attempted to perform the song February 20 at the same venue but revealed to the crowd that he had completely forgotten the lyrics; he returned on February 21, lead sheet in hand, and performed the song with his eyes glued to the lyrics.”

What Now My Love

First recorded by Jane Morgan (1961).
Hit versions by Shirley Bassey (UK #5 1962), Sonny & Cher (US #14/UK #12 1966), Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass (US #24/MOR #2 1966), Mitch Ryder (US #30 1967).
Also performed by Elvis Presley (1974).

From the wiki: “‘What Now, My Love?’ is the English title of a popular song whose original French version, ‘Et maintenant’ (English: ‘And Now’) was written in 1961 by composer Gilbert Bécaud (co-writer, ‘September Morn‘) and lyricist Pierre Delanoë. Bécaud’s original version of this song topped French chart in 1961. English lyrics and the title were written by Carl Sigman, and were first recorded in 1961 by Jane Morgan. The English-language covers use the melody of Bécaud but with a different lyrical imagery (e.g., ‘there’s the sky where the sea should be’), which are different from the more deeply dark French original.

“Elvis Presley performed the song before a live audience of 1 billion people, as part of his satellite show, Aloha from Hawaii, which was beamed to 43 countries via INTELSAT in 1974.”

Softly, As I Leave You

First recorded (as “Piano”) by Mina (1960).
Hit versions by Matt Munro (US #18/UK #10 1961), Frank Sinatra (US #27/MOR #4 1964), Elvis Presley (C&W #8 1978).

From the wiki: “‘Softly, as I Leave You’ was first composed in Italian by Giorgio Calabrese and Tony De Vita, with English lyrics added later by Hal Shaper. It was originally performed (as ‘Piano’) (translated into English as ‘Softly’) by Mina at the 1960 Sanremo Music Festival, and first published as a recording by Mina in 1960. English songwriter Hal Shaper noticed the song and in November 1961 wrote English-language lyrics to the melody, titling it ‘Softly, as I Leave You’. The best-known versions are those by Matt Munro (#10 on the British charts in 1962) and Frank Sinatra (#27 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #4 on the MOR chart in 1964). The Sinatra family announced Frank’s death on May 14, 1998 by placing an announcement on their website that was accompanied by a recording of the Sinatra’s version of the song.

Frankie and Johnny

First recorded by Ted Lewis & His Band (US #9 1927).
Also recorded by Mae West (1933).
Other hit versions by Brook Benton (US #20/MOR #6/R&B #14 1961), Mr. Acker Bilk (UK #42 1962), Sam Cooke (US #14/MOR #2/R&B #4/UK #30 1963), Elvis Presley (US #25/UK #21 1966).

From the wiki: “The song ‘Frankie and Johnny’ (sometimes spelled ‘Frankie and Johnnie’; also known as ‘Frankie and Albert’ or just ‘Frankie’) was inspired by one or more actual murders. One took place in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1899 when Frankie Baker, a 22-year-old woman, shot her 17-year-old lover Allen (also known as ‘Albert’) Britt in the abdomen. The song has also been linked to Frances ‘Frankie’ Stewart Silver, convicted in 1832 of murdering her husband Charles Silver in Burke County, North Carolina. Popular St Louis balladeer Bill Dooley composed ‘Frankie Killed Allen’ shortly after the Baker murder case. The first published version of the music to ‘Frankie and Johnny’ appeared in 1904, credited to and copyrighted by Hughie Cannon, the composer of ‘Won’t You Come Home Bill Bailey’.

“At least 256 different recordings of “Frankie and Johnny” have been made since the early 20th century. Ted Lewis & His Band recorded the first popular rendition in 1927. Mae West inserted her ballad in her successful Broadway play Diamond Lil. West sang the ballad again in her 1933 Paramount film She Done Him Wrong, which takes its title from the refrain, substituting genders. A flurry of recordings in the 1960s made the Pop music charts, including recordings by Sam Cooke (1963) and Elvis Presley (1966).”

A Little Less Conversation

First recorded by Elvis Presley (US #95 1968).
Other hit version by Elvis Presley vs. JXL (US #50/UK #1/IRE #1/AUS #1/NZ #1/SWE #1 2002).
Also recorded by Mac Davis, co-writer (1973).

From the wiki: “‘A Little Less Conversation’ was written by Mac Davis and Billy Strange, and first performed by Elvis Presley in the 1968 film Live a Little, Love a Little. Davis has stated he’d written the song for Aretha Franklin to record, but that came to naught. ‘Conversation’ became a minor 1968 hit in the US for Presley when released as a single. Presley re-recorded the song in June 1968 for the soundtrack of his ’68 Comeback Special, with the intent of performing it during the program. Ultimately, it was decided not to use the recording and the song was dropped from the planned special. A 2002 remix by Junkie XL of the later re-recording of the song by Presley became a worldwide hit, topping the singles charts in nine countries and was awarded certifications in ten countries by 2003.”

Until It’s Time For You to Go

Written and first recorded by Buffy St. Marie (1965).
Hit versions by The Four Pennies (UK #19 1965), Neil Diamond (US #53/MOR #11 1970), Elvis Presley (US#40/MOR #9/UK #5 1972), The New Birth (US #97/R&B #21 1973).

From the wiki: “‘Until It’s Time for You to Go’ was written by Canadian First Nations singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie for her 1965 album Many a Mile. It was a UK Top 20 hit for British group The Four Pennies in 1965, a US Hot 100 single for Neil Diamond in 1970, an MOR and Top 5 UK for Elvis Presley in 1972, and a modest R&B hit in 1973 for The New Birth featuring future Supremes member Susaye Greene.”

(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear

First recorded (as a demo) by Otis Blackwell (1957).
Hit version by Elvis Presley (US #1/C&W #1 1957).

From the wiki: “‘(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear’ was written by Kal Mann and Bernie Lowe, and first recorded as a demo – at Mann and Lowe’s request – by Otis Blackwell (‘Fever‘, ‘Handy Man‘, ‘All Shook Up‘). Written for Elvis Presley’s second feature film, the semi-biographical Loving You, the song was a #1 hit for Presley during the summer of 1957, staying at #1 for 7 weeks, and was the third of four #1 songs Presley would have that year.

All Shook Up

First recorded (as “I’m All Shook Up”) by Dave Hill (1957).
Hit version by Elvis Presley (US #1/C&W #3/R&B #1/UK #1 1957).
Also recorded by Otis Blackwell, writer (1978).

From the wiki: “Otis Blackwell wrote the song at the offices of Shalimar Music in 1956 after Al Stanton, one of Shalimar’s owners, shaking a bottle of Pepsi at the time, suggested Otis write a song based around the phrase ‘all shook up’.

Guitar Man

First recorded by Jerry Reed (C&W #53 1967).
Hit version by Elvis Presley (US #43/C&W #1/UK #19 1968 |US #28/C&W #1 1981).

From the wiki: “‘Guitar Man’ is a 1967 song written by Jerry Reed and first recorded by him the same year. Soon after Reed’s single appeared, Elvis Presley recorded the song[1] with Reed playing the guitar part. According to Peter Guralnick, in his two-volume biography of Presley, the singer had been trying unsuccessfully to record the tune but wasn’t happy with the groove. Presley said something to the effect of: ‘Get me that redneck picker who’s on the original [recording],’ and his staff brought Reed into the studio – who nailed it on the first take. Presley’s single charted in the both the US and UK, and spent a week at #1 on the US Country singles chart.

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‘).”

Blue Christmas

First recorded by Doye O’Dell (1948).
Hit versions by Ernest Tubb (C&W #1 1949), Hugo Winterhalter & His Orchestra with Choir (US #9 1949), Russ Morgan & His Orchestra (US #11 1949), Hugo Winterhalter & Billy Eckstine (US #20 1950), Elvis Presley (1957/UK #11 1964), Beach Boys (US #3 1964), Harry Connick Jr. (MOR #21 2004).

From the wiki: “‘Blue Christmas’ song was first recorded by Doye O’Dell in 1948. It was popularized the following year in three separate recordings: one by Country artist Ernest Tubb; one by instrumental bandleader Hugo Winterhalter and his orchestra; and one by bandleader Russ Morgan and his orchestra (the latter featuring lead vocals by Morgan and backing vocals by singers credited as the Morganaires). In 1950 Hugo Winterhalter released a new version, this time sung by Billy Eckstine, with shortened lyrics in a variation close to what is now the common standard for this song.

Lawdy Miss Clawdy

First recorded by Lloyd Price (R&B #1 1952).
Other hit versions by Elvis Presley (UK #15 1957), Gary Stites (US #47 1960), The Buckinghams (US #41 1967), Mickey Gilley (C&W #3 1976).

From the wiki: “‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’ was an R&B song written by New Orleans singer/songwriter Lloyd Price (‘Personality’) that ‘grandly introduced The New Orleans Sound’. It was first recorded by Price in 1952, along with Dave Bartholomew and Fats Domino during Price’s first session for Specialty Records. In 1952, Art Rupe, founder of Specialty Records in Los Angeles, came to New Orleans in search of new talent. Local recording studio owner Cosimo Matassa introduced him to Dave Bartholomew, who had co-written and produced many of Fats Domino’s early hit records. Bartholomew invited nineteen year-old Lloyd Price to audition for Rupe at Matassa’s J&M Studio. The accounts differ on what happened next.

“According to Rupe, Price spent too much time rehearsing and Rupe threatened to leave if he did not get it together; Rupe then relented and Price turned out an emotional performance of ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’, prompting Rupe to cancel his return flight and to arrange for a full recording session.

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.’

Baby Let’s Play House

Written and first recorded by Arthur Gunter (1954).
Hit version by Elvis Presley (C&W #5 1955).
Also recorded (as a demo) by Buddy Holly 1955.

From the wiki: “‘Baby Let’s Play House’ is a song written by Arthur Gunter and recorded by him in 1954, and covered by Elvis Presley the following year on Sun Records – the fourth issue of a Presley record by Sun … and the first recording by Elvis to appear on a national chart, when it made #5 on the Billboard Country singles chart in July 1955.

(I Can’t Help) Falling in Love

Recorded as (“Plaisir d’Amour”) by Emilio De Gogorza (1902).
Also recorded (as “Plaisir d’Amour”) by Joan Baez (1961).
Hit versions (in English) by Elvis Presley (US #2/UK #1 1961), Andy Williams (UK #3 1970), The Softones (R&B #53 1973), The Stylistics (R&B #52/UK #4 1976), UB40 (US #1/UK #1/IRE #1/AUS #1 1993).
Also recorded (as “I Want to Live”) by Aphrodite’s Child (NETH #1 1969).

Note: Not Emilio De Gogorza. This recording is by French cabaret tenor Tino Rossi, recorded in 1955:

From the wiki: “‘(I Can’t Help) Falling in Love’ was written by Hugo Peretti, Luigi Creatore and George Weiss (‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight‘, ‘What a Wonderful World’) based on a popular romance melody by Jean Pierre Claris de Florian, ‘Plaisir d’Amour’, first performed in 1784 and first recorded in 1902 by Emilio De Gogorza. English-language lyrics were written by Weiss, who claimed that neither the movie producers nor Elvis’ associates liked the song demo. But, nonetheless, Elvis insisted on recording the song for the movie Blue Hawaii.

The Wonder of You

First recorded by Ray Peterson (US #25/UK #23 1959).
Other hit versions by Ronnie Hilton (UK #22 1959), Elvis Presley (US #9/C&W #37/UK #1 1970).
Also recorded by The Platters (1968).

From the wiki: “‘The Wonder of You’ was written by Baker Knight for Perry Como. It was, instead, given to Ray Peterson (‘Tell Laura I Love Her’) who recorded released ‘The Wonder of You’ in 1959 as a single. It became his first Top 40 hit, peaking at #25 on the Billboard Hot 100. That same year it was also recorded by Ronnie Hilton in the United Kingdom; his version reached #22 on the UK Singles Chart.

(Marie’s the Name) His Latest Flame

Written and first recorded (as “His Latest Flame”) by Del Shannon (1961).
Hit version by Elvis Presley (US #4/UK #1 1961).

From the wiki: “‘(Marie’s the Name) His Latest Flame’ was written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman and originally recorded by Del Shannon for the album Runaway With Del Shannon, released in June 1961. The more famous and more successful recording by Elvis Presley was released in August 1961.”

Early Morning Rain

First released by Ian & Sylvia (1965).
Hit versions by Peter, Paul & Mary (US #91/MOR #13 1965), George Hamilton IV (C&W #9 1966), Oliver (MOR #38 1971), Paul Weller (UK #40 2005).
Also recorded by The Grateful Dead (1965), Gordon Lightfoot, author (1966), Elvis Presley (1972).

From the wiki: “‘Early Morning Rain’ (sometimes ‘Early Mornin’ Rain’) was composed by Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot, perhaps as early as 1964. The song appears on his 1966 debut album Lightfoot! but is thought to have been recorded in 1964 or 1965. Husband and wife duo Ian & Sylvia were the first to release ‘Early Morning Rain’; Peter, Paul & Mary’s version, also recorded in 1965, was the first to chart on the Billboard Hot 100. There was over a year’s time lag between the PP&M recording and Lightfoot’s recording and its release. The Grateful Dead also recorded the song in 1965.”

Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues

Written and first recorded (as a demo) by Danny O’Keefe (1967, released 1972).
First released by The Bards (1968).
Also recorded by Danny O’Keefe (1971), Elvis Presley (1973).
Hit versions by Danny O’Keefe (US #9/MOR #5/C&W #63 1972), Red Steagall (C&W #41 1979), Leon Russell (C&W #63 1984).

From the wiki: “‘Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues’ was written by Danny O’Keefe (‘The Road‘) and first recorded by him in 1967 for the Jerden record label, owned by Jerry Denton who didn’t release the record but claimed the credits. It was covered by a Seattle band, The Bards, and released in 1968 as the B-side to the song ‘Tunesmith’ on Parrot Records. Luckily for O’Keefe, his contract was bought by Atlantic boss Ahmed Ertegun, who returned him half of the publishing credit without obligation. That’s when Danny re-recorded ‘Goodtime Charlie’ under better conditions for Cotillion Records, in 1971, produced by Ahmed. One year later, the song was recut for the Signpost label under the supervision of Arif Mardin and released on the album O’Keefe. When that version hit, Denton released the original demo version on the semi-bootleg The Seattle Tapes.”

C.C. Rider (See See Rider)

First recorded (as ‘See See Rider Blues’) by Ma Rainey (US #12 1925).
Popular versions by Wee Bea Booze (R&B #1 1943), Chuck Willis (US #12/R&B #1 1957), LaVern Baker (US #34/R&B #9 1963), Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels (US #10 1965), The Animals (US #10/CAN #1/AUS #8 1966).
Also recorded by The Orioles (1952), Elvis Presley (1970 |1973).

From the wiki: “The song is generally regarded as being traditional in origin. Ma Rainey’s version (recorded as ‘See See Rider Blues’) became popular during 1925, telling the story of an unfaithful lover, commonly called ‘easy riders’ (‘See See rider, see what you have done’), making a play on the word ‘see’ and the sound of ‘easy’. The song has since become one of the most famous of all Blues songs, with well over 100 versions.

Girls! Girls! Girls!

First recorded by The Coasters (US #96 1961).
Hit versions by Elvis Presley (1962), The Fourmost (UK #33 1968).

From the wiki: “Changing popular tastes and a couple of line-up changes contributed to a lack of hits in the 1960s for The Coasters (‘Yakety Yak’, ‘Poison Ivy’). In 1961, the group barely made it into the Billboard Hot 100 with the Lieber-Stoller-composed ‘Girls! Girls! Girls!’ (not be confused with the Motley Crue hit). The song found wider popular when repurposed as the lead song and title for the 1962 Elvis Presley movie Girls! Girls! Girls!, but was not issued as a single. In 1968, the group The Fourmost released the song and charted on the UK Singles Chart.”

Are You Lonesome Tonight?

First released by Charles Hart (1927).
Also recorded by Vaughn DeLeath (1927), Henry Burr (1927), The Carter Family (1936), Al Jolson (1950).
Hit versions by Blue Barron Orchestra (US #19 1950), Jaye P. Morgan (US #65 1959), Elvis Presley (US #1/C&W #22/R&B #3 1960).

From the wiki: “‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’ was written by Lou Handman and Roy Turk in 1926, and first published in 1927. A number of artists first recorded the song in 1927, most notably by Ned Jakobs on May 8 but the first released recording belongs to Charles Hart whose production was released on May 9, 1927. (Jakobs’ version was released on May 17.) Vaughn De Leath (also known as ‘The Original Radio Girl’) recorded two versions of the song in 1927, the second as vocalist for The Colonial Club Orchestra. Another version was released later that year by famed tenor Henry Burr. The Carter Family also recorded a version in 1936 but with a different melody.

Heartbreak Hotel

Inspired by “Dreaming Blues” Roy Brown (1950).
First recorded (as a demo) by Glenn Reeves (1955).
Hit version by Elvis Presley (US #1/C&W #1/UK #2 1956).

From the wiki: “‘Heartbreak Hotel’ was written in 1955 by Mae Boren Axton, a high school teacher with a background in musical promotion, and Jacksonville based singer–songwriter Tommy Durden. The lyrics were based on a report in The Miami Herald about a man who had destroyed all his identity papers and jumped to his death from a hotel window, leaving a suicide note with the single line, ‘I walk a lonely street.’ Axton and Durden give different accounts of how the song was written: Durden’s account is that he had already written the song and performed it with his band the Swing Billys before he presented it to Axton; Axton’s account is that Durden had only penned a few lines of the song, and asked her to help him finish it.

Mystery Train

Written by Junior Parker and first recorded by Little Junior’s Blue Flames (1953).
Hit version (as a B-side) by Elvis Presley (C&W #10 1955).
Also recorded by Junior Wells (1967), The Band (1973), Neil Young (1983).

From the wiki: “The original recording of ‘Mystery Train’ was written by Herman ‘Junior’ Parker and recorded by him (billed as Little Junior’s Blue Flames) at Sun Studios in 1953. And, of the many groundbreaking songs recorded by Elvis Presley during his storied career, ‘Mystery Train’ has come to be regarded key to understanding his unique place in the Rock and Roll canon, with Sam Phillips, as producer of both the Parker and Presley recordings, serving as mid-wife.

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