Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Blue Moon

First recorded by Glen Gray & The Casa Loma Orchestra (1934).
Based on ‘The Bad in Every Man’ by Shirley Ross (1934).
Also recorded by Coleman Hawkins with the Michel Warlop Orchestra (1935), Elvis Presley (1954), Sam Cooke (1959).
Hit versions by Connee Boswell (US #1 1935), Mel Tormé (US #20 1947), The Marcels (US #1/R&B #1/UK #1 1961).

From the wiki: “The melody to ‘Blue Moon’ goes back further than the first recorded version of the song by The Casa Loma Orchestra. Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart were contracted to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in May 1933. They were soon commissioned to write the songs for Hollywood Party. ‘Prayer (Oh Lord, make me a movie star)’ was written for the movie but never recorded.

“Hart wrote new lyrics for the melody to create a title song for the 1934 film Manhattan Melodrama, but it was cut from the film before release. (Manhattan Melodrama wasn’t so much famous for having left what would become ‘Blue Moon’ on the edit room floor but for being the film John Dillinger went to see in the Chicago movie theater where he was gunned down by police bullets at the exit.) Rodgers still liked the melody so Hart wrote a third lyric, ‘The Bad in Every Man,’ which was sung by Shirley Ross. The song, which was also released as sheet music, was not a hit.

“Jack Robbins, the head of MGM studio’s publishing company, decided that the tune was suited to commercial release but needed more romantic lyrics and a punchier title. Hart was initially reluctant to write yet another lyric but was persuaded and the result was ‘Blue moon/you saw me standing alone/without a dream in my heart/without a love of my own’.”

“Glen Gray had a long musical career that led to the movies, a number of hit recordings and widespread popularity, especially among the college set. He had studied at the American Conservatory of Music after forming his first small group; then, joined Jean Goldkette’s Orange Blossoms band as a saxophone player. In 1929, the Orange Blossoms became the famed Casa Loma band. When Casa Loma was at its peak, it played in virtually every top theater and dance pavilion. (The band was actually a legally entity named ‘The Casa Loma Corporation’, the first such business arrangement in orchestral history.)

“In 1935, Coleman Hawkins recorded a version of ‘Blue Moon’ in Paris with the Michel Warlop Orchestra, including orchestra members Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli.”

“From”Blue Moon’ was one of the songs Presley came up with for his second Sun Records session. Ballads were what he liked the most, where he could best express emotions, intriguing producer and Sun Records owner Sam Phillips, because these emotions kept sentimentality at bay (‘I don’t sound like nobody’, Elvis famously said).

“‘Up till then all versions of ‘Blue Moon’ sounded sentimental; all these crooners from the forties and thirties seemed to sing about another moon. Presley’s moon reflected in the efficient echo of the Sun studio, merely veiled by guitar and bass. All of a sudden ‘Blue Moon’ stopped sounding like an airbrushed second-hand wishing card.’

“Sam Cooke recorded a little-known version of ‘Blue Moon’, on his 1960 album The Wonderful World of Sam Cooke released on the KEEN record label – Cooke’s last record with that label before moving on to RCA Victor.

“By far the best-known and most popular version of ‘Blue Moon’ was recorded by The Marcels, in 1961. From ‘Producer Stu Phillips was ordered by his boss not to waste time on The Marcels and to spend his days devoted to a different artist at Colpix Records. But he didn’t say anything about his nights. Phillips waited until everyone else had gone home and sneaked the band into the studio for a secret session. They recorded this at the last minute when they recorded three songs and needed a fourth. When one of the members said he knew ‘Blue Moon’, Phillips told him to teach the song to the rest of the group in an hour, then they’d record it.

“‘The Marcels recorded ‘Blue Moon’ in two takes. A promotion man asked for and got a copy of the finished tape, which then found its way to legendary radio disc-jockey Murray The K. He promoted it as an ‘exclusive’ and played it 26 times on one show.'”

Shirley Ross, “The Bad in Every Man” from Manhattan Melodrama (1934):

Coleman Hawkins with the Michel Warlop Orchestra, “Blue Moon” (1935):

Connee Boswell, “Blue Moon” (1935):

Mel Tormé, “Blue Moon” (1947):

Elvis Presley, “Blue Moon” (1954):

Sam Cooke, “Blue Moon” (1960):

The Marcels, “Blue Moon” (1961):

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