Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Three Dog Night

Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues)

First recorded by Sylvester & the Hot Band (1973).
Hit version by Three Dog Night (US #33 1974).
Also recorded by Frankie Miller (1974), Little Feat (1974, released 2000), Levon Helm (1978).

From the wiki: “‘Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues)’ was written by Allen Toussaint, and first recorded in 1973 by Sylvester & the Hot Band for the album Bazaar. In 1974, Toussaint would produced an album by Frankie Miller, High Life, that include ‘Play Something Sweet’ among six other Toussaint-penned songs featured.

“Miller’s version was was among several others recorded in 1974, including arrangements by B.J. Thomas and Maria Muldaur. Miller’s recording attracted the immediate interest of Three Dog Night whose 1974 recording would became the only release to crack the US Top-40. Another version of the song was also recorded in 1974 by Little Feat, during the course of the Feats Don’t Fail Me Now recording sessions. This version was not released until 2000, when it was included in the retrospective compilation Hotcakes & Outtakes: 30 Years of Little Feat.

“Levon Helm would record ‘Play Something Sweet’ for his second album independent of The Band, Levon Helm, in 1978.”

The Show Must Go On

Co-written and first recorded by Leo Sayer (UK #2/IRE #3 1973).
Other hit version by Three Dog Night (US #4 1974).

From the wiki: “‘The Show Must Go On’ was written by Leo Sayer and David Courtney and first recorded by Sayer in 1973, becoming his first hit recording and was included on Sayer’s debut album Silverbird. The song uses a circus theme as a metaphor for dealing with the difficulties and wrong choices of life. Early in Sayer’s career, he performed it dressed and made up as a pierrot clown. The song was covered by Three Dog Night, whose version was released in 1974, and became the group’s final Top 10 US recording. In Sayer’s version, the last line of the chorus is ‘I won’t let the show go on’. Three Dog Night sang it as ‘I must let the show go on’, which Sayer was reportedly not happy about.”

Nobody

First recorded by Larry Williams & Johnny Watson with The Kaleidescope (1967).
Bubblin’-Under Hit version by Three Dog Night (US #116 1968).

From the wiki: “The Kaleidoscope (featuring Chris Darrow, Earl Palmer and future Jackson Browne/Warren Zevon sideman David Lindley). Kaleidoscope returned briefly for studio work to back Larry Williams and Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson on their 1967 single ‘Nobody’. (The group would later back Leonard Cohen on ‘So Long Marianne’ and ‘Teachers’ on Cohen’s first album.) ‘Nobody’ would be covered in 1968 by Three Dog Night and released as that group’s very first single.

“Larry Williams was making comeback in the mid-1960s while, at the same time, luring Little Richard back into secular music. Williams produced two Little Richard albums for Okeh Records in 1966 and 1967, returning Little Richard to the Billboard album chart for the first time in ten years. Williams also acted as the music director for the Little Richard’s live performances at the Okeh Club. Bookings for Little Richard during this period skyrocketed. Williams also recorded and released material of his own and with Watson, with some moderate chart success.

Celebrate

Co-written and first recorded by Garry Bonner (1969).
Also recorded by Spice (1969).
Hit version by Three Dog Night (US #15/CAN #8 1970).

http://youtu.be/Y4aufvlZfCY

From the wiki: “‘Celebrate’ was cowritten by Garry Bonner with Alan Gordon, who also cowrote The Turtles’ ‘Happy Together’ and ‘She’d Rather Be With Me’, and first recorded by Bonner in 1969. It was covered in 1969 by Spice, the immediate precursor to the English band Uriah Heep, but went unreleased until 1994’s The Lansdowne Tapes compilation. In 1970, Three Dog Night recorded ‘Celebrate’ for their Suitable for Framing, and released it as the album’s third single.”

Joy to the World

Written and first recorded by Hoyt Axton (1971).
Hit version by Three Dog Night (US #1 1971).

From the wiki: “‘Joy to the World’ was originally intended for use in The Happy Song, an animated film for children. The film never materialized. The story is told that while recording material for his first album with Capitol Records, the song’s writer, Hoyt Axton, had to convince the label to let him record ‘Joy to the World’. He had the tune, he said, but not all of the lyrics. Axton was encouraged by the engineers to sing nonsensical lyrics so that an arrangement could be built around the tune and he could later record ‘real’ lyrics. Axton recalls ”Jeremiah’ was an expedient of the time. I’d had the chorus for three months [but nothing else]. I took a drink of wine, leaned on the speaker, and said ‘Jeremiah was a bullfrog.’ It was meaningless. It was a temporary lyric.’ (A member of Three Dog Night said that the original lyric to the song was ‘Jeremiah was a prophet’ but ‘no one liked that.’)

Sure As I’m Sittin’ Here

Written and first recorded by John Hiatt (1974).
Hit version by Three Dog Night (US #16 1974).

From the wiki: “John Hiatt was working as a songwriter for Tree International, a record label in Nashville, when his song ‘Sure As I’m Sittin’ Here’ was covered in 1974 by Three Dog Night. The song became a Top 40 hit, earning Hiatt a recording contract with Epic Records. Since then he has released twenty-one studio albums, two compilation albums and one live album, and his songs have been covered by a variety of artists in multiple genres, including Joe Cocker (‘Have a Little Faith in Me‘), Bonnie Raitt (‘Thing Called Love’), The Jeff Healy Band (‘Angel Eyes’), Bob Dylan, The Searchers, Willy DeVille, Ry Cooder, Linda Ronstadt, Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Joe Bonamassa, Willie Nelson, Buddy Guy, Jimmy Buffett, Nick Lowe, Chaka Khan, and many others.”

Pieces of April

Written and first recorded by Dave Loggins (1971).
Hit version by Three Dog Night (US #19 1972).

From the wiki: “‘Pieces of April’ was written by Dave Loggins (‘Please Come to Boston’) and first recorded by him in 1971 for inclusion on the album Personal Belongings, released in February 1972. The song was recorded that same year by Three Dog Night and released as a single in November 1972. Loggins would later re-record his song in 1979, with a more lush arrangement, for the album David Loggins.”

Try a Little Tenderness

First recorded by Roy Noble Orchestra (1932).
Hit versions by Ruth Etting (US #16 1933), Ted Lewis & His Band (US #6 1933), Aretha Franklin (US #100 1962), Otis Redding (US #25/R&B #4/UK #26 1966), Three Dog Night (US #29 1969).
Also recorded by Little Miss Cornshucks (1951), Sam Cooke (1964).
Also performed by Tom Jones (1969), Paul Giamatti & Andre Braugher (2000).

From the wiki: “‘Try a Little Tenderness’ is a song written by Jimmy Campbell and Reg Connelly, a British songwriting team who often collaborated with a third composer – in this case the American, Harry Woods. The song was first recorded on December 8, 1932 by the Ray Noble Orchestra (with vocals by Val Rosing) followed in early 1933 by Ruth Etting’s first charting version. The song quickly became a standard. Subsequent productions were recorded by Frank Sinatra, Mel TormĂ©, Frankie Laine, Earl Grant, Nina Simone, Etta James and others – including a discovery by Atlantic Records founder, Ahmet Ertegun: Little Miss Cornshucks.

Easy to be Hard

First recorded by the Original Off-Broadway Cast of Hair (1967).
Also recorded by Jennifer Warnes (US #128 1969).
Hit version by Three Dog Night (US #4/CAN #2 1969).

From the wiki: “‘Easy to Be Hard’ was written by Galt MacDermot, James Rado, and Gerome Ragni, and was first performed by in the original Off-Broadway stage production of Hair in 1967. In 1968, Jennifer Warnes (performing as ‘Jennifer Warren’) portrayed the female lead in the Los Angeles production of Hair. Coincidental to that, she recorded a version of ‘Easy to be Hard’ in 1969 for release in the UK (along with another song property from Hair, ‘Let the Sunshine In’). The American label Parrot licensed the recording for distribution in the US.

“Three Dog Night also released ‘Easy to be Hard’ in 1969, with their recording reaching the US Top 5.”

Black and White

First recorded by Pete Seeger (1956).
Also recorded by Sammy Davis Jr. (1957), Earl Robinson (1957), The (UK) Spinners (1969), Maytones (1970).
Hit versions by Greyhound (UK #6/NETH #2 1971), Three Dog Night (US #1/CAN #1/AST #8/GER #24 1972).

From the wiki: “‘Black and White’ was written in 1954 by David I. Arkin (father of actor Alan Arkin) and Earl Robinson, inspired by the 1954 United States Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education that outlawed racial segregation in US public schools. ‘Black and White’ was first recorded by Pete Seeger in 1956, followed by Sammy Davis Jr. in 1957 (for a limited-edition Anti-Defamation League EP) and a version recorded by song co-writer Earl Robinson. The original Folk song lyrics (not used in either Greyhound’s or Three Dog Night’s versions) include the line ‘Their robes were black, their heads were white’, referring to the Supreme Court justices.

An Old Fashioned Love Song

Written and first recorded by Paul Williams (1971).
Hit version by Three Dog Night (US #4/MOR #1/CAN #2 1971).

From the wiki: “‘An Old Fashioned Love Song’ was written by the noted songwriter Paul Williams, who originally intended the song for The Carpenters, and it was first recorded by Williams for his album Just an Old Fashioned Love Song. Although this was the first song Williams had written specifically for the Carpenters, Richard Carpenter rejected it, and so Williams offered the song to Three Dog Night. The Carpenters never recorded the song, but did perform it live on television with Carol Burnett a few months later.”

One

Written and first recorded by Nilsson (1967).
Also recorded by Al Kooper (1968).
Hit versions by Three Dog Night (US #5/CAN #4 1969), Johnny Farnham (AUS #1 1969).

From the wiki: “‘One’ was written by Harry Nilsson and recorded in 1967. It appeared initially on Nilsson’s third album, Aerial Ballet, released in 1968. Nilsson wrote the song after calling someone and getting a busy signal. He stayed on the line listening to the ‘beep, beep, beep, beep…’ tone, writing the song. The busy signal was expressed musically to become the opening notes of the song.

Shambala

First single release by B.W. Stevenson (US #66 1973).
Other hit version by Three Dog Night (US #3/CAN #4 1973).

From the wiki: “‘Shambala’ was written by Daniel Moore and made famous by two almost-simultaneous releases in 1973: the lesser-known but first-released version by Moore’s songwriting partner, Texas singer-songwriter B.W. Stevenson (‘My Maria’), and the better-known but slightly later-released version by Three Dog Night. The Three Dog Night arrangement was the first to be recorded, in December 1972, and was released on May 19, 1973; Stevenson’s recording, completed in February 1973, however, was the first to be released as a single – on May 12, 1973.

Mama Told Me Not to Come

Originally recorded by Eric Burdon & The Animals (1966).
Also recorded by Randy Newman (1970).
Hit versions (titled “Mama Told Me (Not to Come)”) by Three Dog Night (US #1 1970), Tom Jones & Stereophonics (UK #4 2000).

From the wiki: “‘Mama Told Me (Not to Come)’ is a song by Randy Newman written for Eric Burdon’s first solo album in 1966. A scheduled single-release of September 1966 was withdrawn, but the song was eventually included on the US-only 1967 album Eric Is Here (billed as ‘Eric Burdon & The Animals’ although the actual band with Burdon is the Horace Ott Orchestra).

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