Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

Will the Circle be Unbroken?

Early recording by The Silver Leaf Quartet of Norfolk (1930).
Popular versions by The Carter Family (1935), Johnny Cash & June Carter (1968), Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (1972).

From the wiki: “‘Will the Circle Be Unbroken?’ is a popular Christian hymn written in 1907 by Ada R. Habershon with music by Charles H. Gabriel. The song is often now recorded unattributed and, because of its age, has lapsed into the public domain. One of the earliest recordings of the song was made by The Silver Leaf Quartette of Norfolk (Virginia) in 1930. Already in New York City for an extended performance tour, including 21 straight nights at the Metropolitan Baptist Church, the Quartet’s recording was released and distributed by Okeh Records. In 1935, A.P. Carter adapted the original hymn and, with The Carter Family, recorded the song as ‘Can the Circle be Unbroken (By and By)?’. That version (often using the original ‘Will the Circle’ title) has been covered by a large number of artists. Its refrain has also been incorporated into the Carl Perkins song ‘Daddy Sang Bass’ and the Atlanta song ‘Sweet Country Music’.

Voila, An American Dream

Written and first recorded by Rodney Crowell (1978).
Hit version by The Dirt Band (US #13/C&W #58 1980).

From the wiki: “‘An American Dream’ is a song written by Rodney Crowell. He recorded it under the title ‘Voilá, An American Dream’ on his 1978 album Ain’t Living Long Like This with a backing vocal by Emmylou Harris, and released it as the B-side to that album’s single ‘(Now and Then There’s) A Fool Such as I’. It was later recorded by The Dirt Band (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band). It was released in November 1979 as the only single and title track from the album An American Dream. The Dirt Band’s version features a backing vocal from Linda Ronstadt.”

Some of Shelly’s Blues

First recorded by The Monkees (1968, released 1990).
Hit version by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (US #64/CAN #56 1972).
Also recorded by The Stone Poneys (1968), Michael Nesmith (1973).

From the wiki: “‘Some of Shelly’s Blues’ was written by Michael Nesmith, of The Monkees, and first recorded by the group in 1968. The recording went unreleased until the 1990 publishing of Missing Links 2.

“The Stone Poneys (feat. Linda Ronstadt), who had earlier covered ‘Different Drum‘ by Nesmith in 1967, were the first to cover ‘Some of Shelley’s Blues’, in 1968. It was a non-charting single from the group’s third album, Linda Ronstadt, Stone Poneys and Friends, Vol. III.

“The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band charted in 1972 with their cover. Songwriter Nesmith also recorded a version for his 1973 album, Pretty Much Your Standard Ranch Stash.”

Return to Pooh Corner

First recorded (as “House at Pooh Corner”) by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (US #53 1970).
Also recorded (as “House at Pooh Corner”) by Loggins & Messina (1971).
Hit version by Kenny Loggins & Amy Grant (US #25 1994).

From the wiki: “‘House at Pooh Corner’ was written by Kenny Loggins, while still in high school, based on the popular children’s book of the same name. The song was first performed by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band on their 1970 album Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy and then performed by Loggins and Messina on their 1971 album Sittin’ In. In 1994, after the birth of his third child, Loggins (with Amy Grant) re-recorded the song, adding an additional verse, as ‘Return to Pooh Corner’.”

These Days

First recorded by Nico (1967).
Covered by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (1968), Tom Rush (1970), Jennifer Warnes (1972), Ian Matthews (1973), Jackson Browne (1973), Gregg Allman (1973), Paul Westerberg (2003) and Glen Campbell (2008).

From the wiki: “‘These Days’ was written by Jackson Browne c. 1964, when he was 16-years old. German model, chanteuse and Warhol Superstar Nico was the first to record ‘These Days’ for release, on her October 1967 album Chelsea Girl. The elaborate production featured a fairly fast finger-picking electric guitar part by Browne. The use of that instrument was suggested by Andy Warhol.

Mr. Bojangles

Written and first released by Jerry Jeff Walker (1968).
Hit version by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (US #9 1970).
Also recorded by David Bromberg (1973).

From the wiki: “Jerry Jeff Walker has said he was inspired to write the song after an encounter with a street performer in a New Orleans jail and that the song does not refer to the famous stage and movie personality Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson. Rather, Walker said while in jail for public intoxication in 1965 he met a homeless white man who called himself ‘Mr. Bojangles’ to conceal his true identity from the police. The two men and others in the cell chatted about all manner of things, but when Mr. Bojangles told a story about his dog, the mood in the room turned heavy. Someone else in the cell asked for something to lighten the mood, and Mr. Bojangles obliged with a tap dance.”

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