Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Peter Paul & Mary

Stewball

First recorded by Lead Belly (1940).
Also recorded by Woody Guthrie (1944), Lonnie Donegan (1956), The Weavers (1960), John Herald & The Greenbriar Boys (1961).
Hit version by Peter, Paul & Mary (US #35/MOR #17 1963).

From the wiki: “There are two major but different arrangements of the sporting ballad, generally titled either ‘Skewball’ or ‘Stewball’; the latter spelling is more popular in America. Versions date at least as far back as the 18th century. In most versions of ‘Stewball’ the winning horse triumphs due to the stumbling of the lead horse; ‘Skewball’ wins simply by being the faster horse in the end. The oldest broadside identified with the ballad is dated 1784 and is held by the Harding Collection of the Bodleian Library of the University of Oxford. The song spread to America by 1829 when it was published in a songbook in Hartford. American versions were sung and adapted by slaves in the Southern United States, and have ‘Stewball’ racing in California, Texas, or Kentucky.

If I Had a Hammer

First recorded (as “The Hammer Song”) by The Weavers (1950).
Hit versions by Peter, Paul & Mary (US #10 1962), Trini Lopez (US #3 1963).

From the wiki: “‘If I Had a Hammer (The Hammer Song)’ was written by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays in 1949 in support of the progressive movement, and was first recorded by The Weavers in 1950. It was not particularly successful in commercial terms when it was first released. (The song was first performed publicly by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays on June 3, 1949, at St. Nicholas Arena in New York City at a testimonial dinner for the leaders of the Communist Party of the United States. It was later part of the three songs Seeger played as the warm-up act for Paul Robeson’s September 4, 1949, concert near Peekskill, New York, which subsequently erupted into a riot.)

“‘If I Had a Hammer’ went on to become a Top-10 hit for Peter, Paul and Mary in 1962, and then went to #3 a year later when recorded by Trini Lopez.”

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.”

Blowin’ in the Wind

First recorded by The New World Singers (1962).
Also recorded by Bob Dylan (1962), The Chad Mitchell Trio (1963), Marlene Dietrich (1963).
Hit versions by Peter, Paul & Mary (US #2/UK #13 1963), Stan Getz (US #110 1964), Stevie Wonder (US #9/R&B #1 1966).

From The Originals: “The timeline of recordings of ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’ is a little confusing. Some sources date the New World Singers’ recording to September 1963, four months after Dylan’s was released. That is patently wrong, however. The New World Singers’ version appeared on a compilation of ‘topical songs’ called Broadside Ballads Vol. 1 which apparently was released on 1 January 1963 on Broadside Records, the recording arm of the folk magazine (you guessed it) Broadside, which was founded by Pete Seeger and printed the lyrics of the song in May 1962. The Chad Mitchell Trio, sometimes credited with recording the song first, released the song on their In Action LP in March 1963.

And When I Die

First commercial recording by Peter, Paul & Mary (1966).
Also recorded by Laura Nyro (demo 1966 |1967).
Hit version by Blood, Sweat & Tears (US #2/NZ #1 1969).

From the wiki: “‘And When I Die’ was written by Laura Nyro and first recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary in 1966 after listening to Nyro’s rough demo. Nyro produced a studio recording for her own 1967 debut album More Than a New Discovery. However, the song is probably best known for the recording by Blood, Sweat & Tears, which reached #2 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.

The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face

First recorded by Peggy Seeger (1957).
Also recorded by The Kingston Trio (1962). Performed by Peter, Paul & Mary (1965).
Hit version by Roberta Flack (recorded 1969, US #1/UK #14 1972).

From the wiki: “‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ is a 1957 folk song written by British political singer/songwriter Ewan MacColl for Peggy Seeger, who would later become his wife, to sing. At the time the couple were lovers, although MacColl was married to someone else. Seeger sang the song when the duo performed in folk clubs around Britain. During the 1960s, it was recorded by various folk singers and became a major international hit for Roberta Flack in 1972 (after its original album release, on First Take in 1969) following the song’s inclusion in the 1971 movie Play Misty for Me.

Freight Train

First popular version recorded by The Chas McDevitt Skiffle Group (UK #5, 1956).
Other popular versions by Rusty Draper (US #3, 1957), Elizabeth Cotten, writer (1958), Peter, Paul & Mary (1963).

From the wiki: “In late 1956, whilst recording the song ‘Freight Train’ – written by folk blues singer Elizabeth Cotten (1893-1987) – for Oriole Records, studio owner Bill Varley suggested The Chas McDevitt Skiffle Group should add a female singer. As a result, folk singer Nancy Whiskey was invited to join the group, and they re-recorded the song with her vocals. The record became a hit in the UK in 1957 at the height of the skiffle boom, reaching #5 in the UK Singles Chart.

Leaving On a Jet Plane

First recorded (as “Babe, I Hate to Go”) by John Denver (1966).
Also recorded by The Mitchell Trio (1967), Spanky & Our Gang (1967).
Hit version by Peter, Paul & Mary (recorded 1967/US #1 1969 single release).

From the wiki: “Chad Mitchell left his trio in 1965 to embark on a solo singing career. An audition process that followed replaced him with the young (and unknown) singer-songwriter John Denver. The group retained the well-known ‘Mitchell Trio’ name – with Denver writing some of the group’s songs, including ‘Leaving On A Jet Plane’ (found on The Mitchell Trio’s 1967 album Alive!). The song was first recorded in 1966 by John Denver with the title “Babe, I Hate to Go.” Denver chose this song along with fifteen others and, with his own money, had 250 copies pressed onto vinyl and distributed the copies to friends and family.

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