Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Stephen Stills

Uncle Pen

Written and first recorded by Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys (1950).
Also recorded by Manassas (1971, released 2009), Goose Creek Symphony (1971), Michael Nesmith (1973), Phish (1997)
Hit versions by Porter Wagoner (C&W #14 1956), Ricky Skaggs (C&W #1/CAN #1 1984).

From the wiki: “James Pendleton Vandiver was a Kentucky fiddler, born there shortly after the American Civil War. He was uncle to Bluegrass legend Bill Monroe, who immortalized him in a song, ‘Uncle Pen’, first recording in 1950.

“Monroe’s parents had both died by the time he was 16, and he lived part of the time with his Uncle Pen. Monroe used to hear his uncle playing fiddle on the hilltop where he lived, while Monroe put away his mules at night. He later said that Vandiver was ‘the fellow that I learned how to play from.’ Bill Monroe’s biographer, Richard D. Smith writes, ‘Pen gave Bill more: a repertoire of tunes that sank into Bill’s aurally-trained memory and a sense of rhythm that seeped into his bones. Sometimes Bill played guitar behind his uncle, sometimes the mandolin.’

Wooden Ships

First recorded (as demos) by David Crosby (1968), Stephen Stills (1968).
Hit album versions by Crosby, Stills & Nash (1969), Jefferson Airplane (1969).

(Above: David Crosby demo.)

(Above: Stephen Stills demo)

From the wiki: “‘Wooden Ships’ was written by David Crosby, Paul Kantner, and Stephen Stills. ‘The song was composed in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on a boat named ‘Mayan’ owned by Crosby, who composed the music, while Kantner and Stills wrote most of the lyrics. Wooden Ships’ was first recorded as a demo by Crosby in March 1968 with the melody but no lyrics. Stills recorded his own demo the following month with most of the lyrics in place.

“On the original Crosby Stills & Nash release in 1969, Kantner could not be officially credited as one of the joint authors-composer due to legal issues. Crosby later said, ‘Paul called me up and said that he was having this major duke-out with this horrible guy (Matthew Katz) who was managing the band, and [Katz] was freezing everything their names were on. ‘He might injunct the release of your record,’ [Kanter] told me. So we didn’t put Paul’s name on it for a while. In later versions, we made it very certain that he wrote it with us. Of course, we evened things up with him with a whole mess of cash when the record went huge.’

It Don’t Come Easy

First recorded (as a demo) by George Harrison (1970).
Hit version by Ringo Starr (US #4/UK #4/CAN #1 1971).

From the wiki: “‘It Don’t Come Easy’ was first taped on February 18, 1970 during the sessions for Ringo Starr’s first solo album Sentimental Journey. Although Ringo is solely credited on the recording as the composer, he told VH1 Storytellers that ‘It Don’t Come Easy’ was co-written with George Harrison.

“With Beatles producer George Martin initially handling production, George Harrison plays acoustic guitar at the sessions and directed the other musicians – Stephen Stills (keyboards), old Beatles friend Klaus Voormann (bass), and Starr (drums) with backing vocalists, Pete Ham and Tom Evans from Badfinger. After the basic track was completed, George added two electric guitar parts and the song was mixed into stereo on February 19. At this point the song was titled ‘You Gotta Pay Your Dues’.

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