Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Roy Brown

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.

Good Rockin’ Tonight

Written and first recorded (as “Good Rocking Tonight”) by Roy Brown (R&B #13 1947).
Other hit versions by Wynonie Harris (R&B #1 1948), Elvis Presley (1954).

From the wiki: “”Good Rocking Tonight” was originally a jump blues song first recorded and released in 1947 by its writer, Roy Brown, and was covered by many other recording artists. The song includes the memorable refrain, ‘Well I heard the news, there’s good rocking tonight!’ The song anticipated elements of rock and roll music. Brown had first offered his song to Wynonie Harris, who turned it down. He then approached Cecil Gant later that night, but after hearing Brown sing, Gant made a 2 a.m. phone call to Jules Braun, the president of DeLuxe Records. After Roy Brown sang his song over the phone, Braun asked Brown to sing it a second time. Braun then told Gant, ‘Give him fifty dollars and don’t let him out of your sight.’

“Five weeks later, Brown recorded the song for DeLuxe Records. Only after Brown’s record had gained traction in New Orleans did Harris change his mind and decide to cover it. Harris’s version was even more energetic than Brown’s original version, featuring black gospel style handclapping. This may have contributed to the composition’s greater success on the national R&B chart. Brown’s original recording hit #13 of the Billboard R&B chart while Harris’ record became a #1 R&B hit and remained on the chart for half a year.

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