Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Category: Rock ‘n Roll

Ballad of a Teenage Queen

Written and first recorded by Jack Clement (1957).
Hit version by Johnny Cash (US #14/C&W #1/AUS #15 1958).
Also recorded by Johnny Cash, Rosanne Cash & the Everly Brothers (1987).

From the wiki: “‘Ballad of a Teenage Queen’ was written in 1957 by Jack Clement. Clement was, at the time, a producer and engineer for Sam Phillips at Sun Records. Subsequently, Clement worked with future stars such as Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash. (Most notably, he discovered and recorded Jerry Lee Lewis while Phillips was away on a trip to Florida.)

“The song of ‘… Teenage Queen’ is that of a small-town girl (‘the prettiest we’ve ever seen’) who loved the boy next door, who is employed at the candy store. She was taken to Hollywood by a movie scout where she became famous, leaving the boy. Eventually she sold all her fame to go back to the boy from the candy store because amid it all she was unhappy without him.

“First recorded by Clement, ‘Ballad of a Teenage Queen’ would be covered by Johnny Cash for his 1958 album, Sings the Songs That Made Him Famous, with background vocals by The Tennessee Two. Cash’s recording hit #1 on the US Country charts and peaked at #14 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Too Much

First recorded by Bernard Hardison (1954).
Also recorded by Frankie Castro (1956).
Hit version by Elvis Presley (US #1/C&W #3/R&B #3 1957).

From the wiki: “Written by Lee Rosenberg and Bernard Weinman, ‘Too Much’ was built around a teen catchphrase (‘Aw, man, that’s too much!’). First recorded by Bernard Hardison (‘with band’) in 1954, it had no chart impact – possibly due to its lyrics being considered ‘too suggestive’:

I need your lovin’ too much
Want the thrill of your touch

“Recorded again two years later by Frankie Castro for Mercury Records, it again failed to chart – but did garner a ‘rave’ review in Billboard:

‘A personality-packed side with a subtle r&r back-up. For junior hipsters.’ – Billboard, May 19, 1956

“But, covered (with lyrics ‘sanitized’) by Elvis Presley, in 1957, ‘Too Much’ topped the Billboard Hot 100. It also went Top-5 on both the Country and R&B music charts.”

Hey Little Girl

Inspired by “Hambone” by The Red Saunders Orchestra with The Hambone Kids (1952).
First released by Thurston Harris (1958).
Hit version by Dee Clark (US #20/R&B #2 August 1959).

From the wiki: “Dee Clark was born Delecta Clark (or Delectus Clark, Jr.), in Blytheville, Arkansas, in 1938 and moved to Chicago in 1941. His mother, Essie Mae Clark, was a Gospel singer and encouraged her son to pursue his love of music.

“Clark made his first recordings in 1952 as one of the original members of The Hambone Kids, who enjoyed some success recording with The Red Saunders Orchestra for the OKeh record label. Clark embarked on a solo career in 1957, initially following the styles of Clyde McPhatter and Little Richard. When Little Richard temporarily abandoned his music career in 1957 to study theology, Clark fulfilled Richard’s remaining live dates and made his first recordings with Richard’s backing band, The Upsetters.

“First released in 1958 by Thurston Harris (‘Little Bitty Pretty One‘, 1957), with no apparent chart impact, ‘Hey Little Girl’ would be reach the Billboard Hot 100 Top-20 in 1959 with Clark’s cover. Written by Otis Blackwell and Bobby Stevenson, ‘Hey Little Girl’ surely felt a bit familiar to Clark. It was loosely based on ‘Hambone’, a song Clark had recorded with the Hambone Kids seven years earlier under his birth name, Delecta Clark. A Jo Stafford-Frankie Laine cover of ‘Hambone’ charted as high as #6 on the Billboard chart. Bo Diddley would also derive his ‘Bo Diddley beat’ from ‘Hambone’.”


First recorded by The Regents (US #13/R&B #7 1961).
Also recorded by Jan & Dean (1962).
Other hit version by The Beach Boys (US #2/UK #3 1966).

From the wiki: “‘Barbara Ann’ was written by Fred Fassert and was first recorded by The Regents as ‘Barbara-Ann’. Their version was released in 1961. It reached #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and crossed-over, too, as a Top 10 R&B hit. The Beach Boys recorded their version on September 23, 1965 (five days after actress and model Barbara Anne Feldon coincidentally made her first television appearance on Get Smart). Dean Torrence is featured on lead vocals with Brian Wilson. Torrence was not credited on the album jacket but ‘Thanks, Dean’ is spoken by Carl Wilson at the end of the track.

“By late January 1966, ‘Barbara Ann’ was in position to replace ‘We Can Work It Out’ by The Beatles as the next #1 song. However, ‘My Love’, by Petula Clark, unexpectedly vaulted into the #1 position the week ending February 5, 1966. Consequently, ‘Barbara Ann’ peaked at #2 in the US Billboard Hot 100.”

One After 909

First recorded by The Quarrymen (1958).
Also recorded by The “Beatals” (1960), The Beatles (1962), The Beatles (1963).
First released by Terry Manning (1968).
Hit album version by The Beatles (1969).

From the wiki: “‘One After 909’ is the oldest known Beatles song.

“It was written as early as 1957, one of the first Lennon-McCartney compositions (‘[‘One After 909′] was something I wrote when I was about seventeen,’ John Lennon explained in his 1980 Playboy magazine interview), and was first recorded c. 1958 by The Quarrymen according to Mike McCartney.

“The then-named ‘Beatals’ also recorded ‘One After 909’ sometime between January-August 1960, after Stu Sutcliffe had joined as the bass player but before the addition of Pete Best on drums. The Beatles, sans Sutcliffe but with Best on drums, also recorded the song during rehearsals in 1962 at The Cavern Club, Liverpool. The group first recorded ‘One After 909’ in a studio during the 1962 sessions for the group’s third single, ‘From Me to You’, with Ringo Starr on drums, but that recording was unreleased until Anthology I in 1995.

Dizzy Miss Lizzy

Written and first recorded by Larry Williams (US #69 1958).
Also recorded by Ronnie Hawkins & the Hawks (1959), The Fabulous Echoes (1965), The Plastic Ono Band (1969).
Hit album version by The Beatles (1965).

From the wiki: “‘Dizzy Miss Lizzy’ was composed and first recorded by Larry Williams (‘Nobody‘) in 1958, sharing some similarities with the Little Richard-composed hit ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’. Williams’ original recording peaked at #69 on the Billboard Hot 100 but failed to chart R&B.

“The song has been covered many times, including, and most notably by, the Beatles on the 1965 Help! album. (The recording was initially intended for the 1965 American album Beatles VI, along with the Larry Williams cover, ‘Bad Boy’, recorded by the group on the same day.) Paul McCartney has stated that he believes ‘Dizzy Miss Lizzy’ to be one of the Beatles’ best recordings.

Pony Time

Co-written and first recorded by Don Covay & the Goodtimers (1960).
Hit version by Chubby Checker (US #1/R&B #1 1960).

From the wiki: “‘Pony Time’ was written by Don Covay and John Berry (a member of Covay’s earlier vocal group, the Rainbows), and originally recorded in 1960 by Covay with his group the Goodtimers. The song achieved greater success later that same year when it was recorded by Chubby Checker the following year, becoming his second US #1 (after his 1960 single ‘The Twist.’). It also topped the US R&B chart. ‘Pony Time’ does bear a resemblance to ‘The Twist‘, first recorded in 1959 by Hank Ballard & the Midnighters.”

Little Honda

First recorded by The Beach Boys (US #65 1964).
Other hit version by The Hondells (US #9 1964).

From the wiki: “‘Little Honda’ was written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love for The Beach Boys. It was released on the group’s 1964 album All Summer Long, and was also featured on the EP Four by The Beach Boys but was not released as a single until after The Hondells’ version had charted and peaked. The song pays tribute to small Honda motorcycles, specifically the Honda Super Cub. Carl Wilson recalls:

[Brian Wilson] does exactly what he wants to do. I remember [sits back and laughs] — this is so funny — when we did ‘Little Honda’, Brian wanted me to get this real distorted guitar sound, real fuzzy. ‘This guitar sounds like shit,’ I said. ‘Brian, I hate this.’ And he goes, ‘Would you fucking do it? Just do it.’ When I heard it, I felt like an asshole. It sounded really hot. That was before fuzz became a big deal.

“It was during the recording sessions of ‘Little Honda’ (and ‘I Get Around’) when Brian relieved his father, Murry Wilson, of his managerial duties after three years. An attempt at reconciliation on Murry’s part, much of it captured on the tapes for the 1965 recording sessions of ‘Help Me, Rhonda’, cemented the break.

A Little Less Conversation

First recorded by Elvis Presley (US #95 1968).
Other hit version by Elvis Presley vs. JXL (US #50/UK #1/IRE #1/AUS #1/NZ #1/SWE #1 2002).
Also recorded by Mac Davis, co-writer (1973).

From the wiki: “‘A Little Less Conversation’ was written by Mac Davis and Billy Strange, and first performed by Elvis Presley in the 1968 film Live a Little, Love a Little. Davis has stated he’d written the song for Aretha Franklin to record, but that came to naught. ‘Conversation’ became a minor 1968 hit in the US for Presley when released as a single. Presley re-recorded the song in June 1968 for the soundtrack of his ’68 Comeback Special, with the intent of performing it during the program. Ultimately, it was decided not to use the recording and the song was dropped from the planned special. A 2002 remix by Junkie XL of the later re-recording of the song by Presley became a worldwide hit, topping the singles charts in nine countries and was awarded certifications in ten countries by 2003.”

Ooby Dooby

First recorded (as a demo) by The Wink Westerners (1955).
First released by The Teen Kings (1955).
Hit version by Roy Orbison & The Teen Kings (US #59 1956).

From the wiki: “‘Ooby Dooby’ was written by Dick Penner and Wade Moore. The song was first recorded in early 1955 by The Wink Westerners, a group that Roy Orbison had formed in high school, as a demo for Columbia Records which failed to ignite any interest. Later, after forming The Teen Kings during his first semester of junior college, Orbison would re-record ‘Ooby Dooby’ in late 1955. The song was released as the B-side to ‘Trying To Get To You’ by Norman Petty’s Odessa, Texas, Je-Wel records label with no apparent chart impact.

“In 1955, while Johnny Cash toured the Odessa area and played on the same local radio show bill as the Teen Kings, Cash suggested to Orbison that he approach Sam Phillips at Sun Records, home of rockabilly stars including Cash, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Phillips was persuaded to listen to the Teen Kings’ recording. Impressed, Phillips and offered the group a contract in 1956.

The Bristol Stomp

Based on “Every Day of the Week” by The Students (1958).
First recorded (as “The Bristol Stomp”) by Terry & the Applejacks (1961).
Hit version by The Dovells (US #2 1961).

From the wiki: “‘Bristol Stomp’ was written in 1961 by Kal Mann and Dave Appell, two executives with the Cameo-Parkway record label, for The Dovells, an a cappella singing group from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who recorded the song for Cameo-Parkway late that year. ‘The Bristol Stomp’ was originally recorded by a group from Bristol, Pennsylvania, Terry and the Applejacks (Terry was the son of co-writer Dave Appell); the song was based on the earlier ‘Every Day of the Week’ recorded in 1958 by the Cincinnati, Ohio, Doo-wop group, The Students.”

Stray Cat Strut

Inspired by “Lonely Travelin'” by Lonesome Lee (1956)
and “Icky Poo” by The Nomads (c. 1960).
Hit version by Stray Cats (US #3/UK #11 1981).

From the wiki: “Head cat of the Stray Cat pack, Brian Setzer, has always been quite open and honest in his self-confessed pillaging of old rock ‘n’ roll songs, something which he equates to the widespread practice of rearranging old-time country and blues tunes into popular music.

“Such is the case of ‘Stray Cat Strut’, which had not one but two antecedents: ‘Lonely Travelin’, by Chicago bluesman Lonesome Lee and, more especially, ‘Icky Poo’ by The Nomads, an obscure San Diego white doo-wop band.

Quarter to Three

Based on “A Night with Daddy G – Part 1” by The Church Street Five (1961).
Hit version by Gary “U.S.” Bonds (US #1/R&B #3/UK #7 1962).
Also performed by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band (1975).

From the wiki: “‘Quarter to Three’ was adapted and expanded from ‘A Night with Daddy ‘G’ – Part 1′, a 1961 instrumental recording by the Church Street Five and written by written by Gene Barge, Frank Guida (‘If You Wanna Be Happy‘), and Joseph Royster. ‘Daddy G’ was saxophone player Gene Barge, who would go on to be featured on all Gary ‘U.S.’ Bonds’ hits. Barge’s group, The Church Street Five, scored a bubbling-under hit with ‘A Night With Daddy ‘G” before Bonds would compose a vocal arrangement for the song (listed under his birth name, Gary Anderson). It was co-writer Guida who discovered and named Bonds, and the recording of ‘Quarter to Three’ took place during a party celebrating Bond’s first hit ‘New Orleans’.

Words of Love

Written and first recorded by Buddy Holly (1957).
Hit version by The Diamonds (US #13/R&B #12/CAN #47 1957).
Also recorded by The Beatles (1964).

From the wiki: “‘Words of Love’ was written by Buddy Holly and recorded by him on April 8, 1957. Holly sang all the harmonies, with producer Norman Petty double-tracking each part and combining them. The song was not a notable hit for Holly, although it is regarded as one of his most important recordings.

“However, the cover version by the Canadian quartet The Diamonds (‘Little Darlin”, ‘Silhouettes‘), released in May 1957, reached #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July, making the song Holly’s first hit, though as a composer not performer. (The Crickets’ ‘That’ll Be the Day’ wouldn’t peak on the Billboard charts until Sept. 27, 1957. The Diamonds’ ‘Words of Love’ peaked in July, 1957.)

“‘Words of Love’ was also covered by The Beatles on the album Beatles for Sale. Their association with the song dates back to the group’s earliest days playing The Cavern in 1961 and 1962. Both John Lennon and Paul McCartney were big Buddy Holly fans; it would be Holly’s songs that first inspired and compelled them to become songwriters.”

At the Hop (Do the Bop)

First recorded (as “Do the Bop”) by Johnny Madara & the Juvenaires (1957).
Hit version by Danny & the Juniors (US #1/R&B #1 1958).
Also performed by Sha Na Na (1969).

From the wiki: “Johnny Madara (aka Madora, aka Medora) had a minor 1957 hit (‘Be My Girl’) and Capitol Records was interested in a follow up. He had befriended a young vocal group called the Juvenaires and co-wrote for them ‘Do The Bop’ along with member Dave White. They recorded ‘At the Bop’ but Capitol passed on it.

American Bandstand host Dick Clark heard the recording and suggested a change of lyric – substituting the outdated ‘bop’ with ‘hop’, to reflect the popularity at the time of record hops. White had the Juvenaires re-do the recording, with member Danny Rapp on lead vocal (and without Madara in the group, entirely). The group acquired a new name – Danny & The Juniors – and the group scored their one and only #1 hit in 1958.”

(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear

First recorded (as a demo) by Otis Blackwell (1957).
Hit version by Elvis Presley (US #1/C&W #1 1957).

From the wiki: “‘(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear’ was written by Kal Mann and Bernie Lowe, and first recorded as a demo – at Mann and Lowe’s request – by Otis Blackwell (‘Fever‘, ‘Handy Man‘, ‘All Shook Up‘). Written for Elvis Presley’s second feature film, the semi-biographical Loving You, the song was a #1 hit for Presley during the summer of 1957, staying at #1 for 7 weeks, and was the third of four #1 songs Presley would have that year.

Oh Boy!

Co-written and first recorded (as “All My Love (Oh Boy)”) by Sonny West (1957).
Hit versions by Buddy Holly (US #10/R&B #13/UK #3 1957), Mud (UK #1 1970).

From the wiki: “‘Oh Boy!’ was written by Sonny West, Bill Tilghman and Norman Petty, and was originally recorded by West in 1957 but failed to achieve any commercial success. It was recorded again later in 1957 by Buddy Holly & The Crickets, with Holly singing lead vocals, and achieved success on both the Pop and R&B charts in the US and the UK Singles chart. British band Mud charted the song to UK #1 with their 1970 cover recording.”

Last Kiss

Written and first recorded by Wayne Cochran (1961).
Hit versions by J. Frank Wilson & The Cavaliers (US #2 1964), Wednesday (US #34/CAN #2 1975), Pearl Jam (US Rock #2/UK #42 1999).

From the wiki: “‘Last Kiss’ was written and recorded by Wayne Cochran in 1961 for the Gala record label. It failed to do well on the charts. Cochran subsequently re-recorded his song for the King label in 1963; again, with no chart impact. ‘Last Kiss’ was later revived, in 1964, by J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers; Canadian group Wednesday, in 1974; and Pearl Jam, in 1999.


First recorded by The Velvets (B-side JPN #1 1961).
Other hit version by co-writer Roy Orbison (UK #15/AUS #4/IRE #4/BEL #1 1966).

From the wiki: “‘The Velvets didn’t conform to any of doo-wop’s norms.’ writes sleeve note author Bill Millar. The group hailed not from New York but from Odessa, Texas, where the panhandle meets the rest of the state. The quintet was formed in 1959 by Virgil Johnson, a high-school English teacher, with four of his students.

“Performing locally at sock-hops and campus functions, The Velvets were heard by Roy Orbison who was so impressed with them that he recommended the group to Fred Foster at Monument Records. Like their mentor, Orbison, The Velvets sang songs which straddled that increasingly invisible line between Country and Pop. The Velvets and Roy Orbison both shared the same producer, Fred Foster, and used the same Nashville ‘A-Team’ session musicians. The Velvets’ second release, ‘Tonight’, became their highest-charting single, taking into the Billboard Hot 100 at #26 (UK chart at #50) and, as Millar says, was as perfect as Black pop music would get. However, the follow-up, ‘Laugh’, barely dented the American charts. But, its B-side, ‘Lana’, went to #1 in Japan!


Written and originally recorded by The Chords (US #9/R&B #2 1954).
Other hit version by The Crew Cuts (US #1/UK #12/AUS #1 1954).

From the wiki: “‘Sh-Boom’ was written by James Keyes, Claude Feaster, Carl Feaster, Floyd F. McRae, and James Edwards, all members of the R&B vocal group The Chords, and was first recorded on Atlantic Records’ subsidiary label Cat Records by The Chords on March 15, 1954 . It would be their only hit song.

All Shook Up

First recorded (as “I’m All Shook Up”) by Dave Hill (1957).
Hit version by Elvis Presley (US #1/C&W #1/R&B #1/UK #1 1957).
Also recorded by Otis Blackwell, writer (1978).

From the wiki: “Otis Blackwell wrote the song at the offices of Shalimar Music in 1956 after Al Stanton, one of Shalimar’s owners, after dropping a bottle of Pepsi-Cola on the floor, challenged his songwriter Blackwell to write a song based on the fizzing soda contents.

Ne-Ne Na-Na Na-Na Nu-Nu

First recorded by Dickey Doo & the Dont’s (1958).
Hit version by Bad Manners (UK #28 1980).

From the “Dickey Doo & the Dont’s started out as a joke with a purpose. Gerry Granahan, a producer, songwriter, and performer needed an alias under which he could release his newest record without getting into legal trouble with another record label to which he was already under contract and the alias turned into a successful recording act. Signed to Sunbeam Records in 1957, he had a hit in mid-1958 with ‘No Chemise Please’, a novelty song charted in the Top 30 of the Billboard Hot 100.

“Granahan’s next four singles stiffed, but then he found himself with a song that seemed like a certain hit, ‘Click Clack’, and a label – Swan Records of Philadelphia – that wanted to release it; moreover, with Swan behind it, the label’s silent partner, Dick Clark, would give it a boost on the local version of his daily music showcase, American Bandstand, thus ensuring it had every chance to become a hit. Thus were born Dickey Doo & the Dont’s, a mythical act whose name, it was suggested, was an ‘in’ joke that obliquely referred to Clark’s secret involvement with Swan Records.

It’s So Easy!

First recorded by The Crickets (1958).
Also recorded by Bobby Vee (1963), The Trashmen (1963), Waylon Jennings (1969).
Hit version by Linda Ronstadt (US #5/UK #11/CAN #9 1977).

From the wiki: “‘It’s So Easy!'” was written by Buddy Holly and Norman Petty, and first released as a single by Holly under the moniker of his band, The Crickets. The single did not chart.

“Bobby Vee, The Trashmen (‘Surfin’ Bird’), and Waylon Jennings were among the several performers who recorded cover versions of ‘It’s So Easy!’ in the decade after its original release, before Linda Ronstadt’s Peter Asher-produced Top-5 single was released in 1977 to promote Ronstadt’s Simple Dreams album.”

Come Together

Inspired by “You Can’t Catch Me” by Chuck Berry (1956).
Hit version by The Beatles (US #1/UK #4 1969).

From the wiki: “In 1969, Lennon composed the song ‘Come Together’ for The Beatles’ album Abbey Road but its history began when Lennon was inspired by Timothy Leary’s campaign for governor of California against Ronald Reagan, which promptly ended when Leary was sent to prison for possession of marijuana. Lennon recalled, ‘The thing was created in the studio. It’s gobbledygook; ‘Come Together’ was an expression that Leary had come up with for his attempt at being president or whatever he wanted to be, and he asked me to write a campaign song. I tried and tried, but I couldn’t come up with one. But I came up with this, Come Together, which would’ve been no good to him – you couldn’t have a campaign song like that, right?’