Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Category: Rock ‘n Roll

Action (Where the Action Is)

Based on “Shim Sham Shuffle” by Ricky Lyons (1960).
Hit version by Freddy Cannon (US #13 1965).

From the wiki: “Where the Action Is was created by Dick Clark as a spin-off of American Bandstand. It premiered on the ABC-TV network on June 27, 1965, airing each weekday afternoon. Originally intended as a summer replacement and broadcast at 2 P.M. EDT, the show was successful enough for it to continue throughout the 1965-66 TV season.

“The show’s theme song, ‘Action’, written by Steve Venet and Tommy Boyce (‘I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight’, ‘(Theme from) The Monkees‘, ‘Last Train to Clarksville’), became a hit single for Freddy ‘Boom Boom’ Cannon, peaking on the charts at #13 in September 1965. Venet and Hart based their hit on the previously-released ‘Shim Sham Shuffle’, co-written and recorded by Ricky Lyons.”


First recorded by Tommy Roe & The Satins (1960).
Hit version by Tommy Roe (US #1/UK #3/CAN #1/AUS #1 1962).

From the wiki: “‘Sheila’ was written and recorded by Tommy Roe (‘Dizzy’, 1969) with the help of Robert Bosch. Roe originally conceived the song in 1960 as ‘Frita’, based on a girl from Roe’s high school. Roe auditioned the song for Bosch, a record producer from Judd Records, and while hid response was enthusiastic, Bosch suggested that the name be changed. By coincidence, Roe’s Aunt Sheila was visiting, which inspired the final title of ‘Sheila’. The original version of ‘Sheila’ was recorded by Roe with his then-backing group, The Satins, and a female vocal group, the Flamingos. Released by Judd Records, it had no chart impact.

Not Fade Away

First recorded by The Crickets (B-side 1957).
Hit versions by The Rolling Stones (US #43/UK #3 1964), Rush (CAN #88 1973), Tanya Tucker (US #70 1979).

From the wiki: “‘Not Fade Away’ is credited to Buddy Holly (originally under his first and middle names, Charles Hardin) and Norman Petty, and was first recorded by Holly under the moniker of his band, The Crickets. The group recorded the song in Clovis, New Mexico, on May 27, 1957, the same day the song ‘Everyday’ was recorded. The song’s rhythm pattern is a variant of the Bo Diddley beat; Crickets drummer Jerry Allison pounded out the beat on a cardboard box.

“‘Not Fade Away’ was originally released as the B-side of the hit single ‘Oh, Boy!’ and was included on the album The “Chirping” Crickets (1957). Even though the Crickets’ recording never charted as a single, Rolling Stone ranked ‘Not Fade Away’ at #107 on its list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

“Contrary to the depiction in the 1978 film The Buddy Holly Story, ‘Not Fade Away’ was NOT the last song Holly ever performed before his fatal plane crash. In a 50th anniversary symposium held in Clear Lake, Iowa, where Holly last performed, discussion panel members Tommy Allsup, Carl Bunch, and Bob Hale – the emcee at that final show of February 2, 1959 – all agreed that the final song of the night was Chuck Berry’s ‘Brown Eyed Handsome Man’, performed on-stage together by all of the acts.

Venus in Blue Jeans

First recorded (as a demo) by Barry Mann (1961).
First commercial release by Bruce Bruno (1962).
Hit versions by Jimmy Clanton (US #7 1962), Mark Wynter (UK #4 1962).

From the wiki: “‘Venus In Blue Jeans’ was written by Howard Greenfield and Jack Keller (about actress Eileen Berner, whom Keller was dating at the time). Demo’ed by Barry Mann (co-writer ‘Don’t Know Much‘, ‘Never Gonna Let You Go‘) in 1961, the song had its first commercial release in 1962 by New Rochelle, NY, singer Bruce Bruno with no apparent chart impact.


First recorded by Bert Weedon (UK #24 1960).
Other hit versions by The Shadows (UK #1 1960), Jørgen Ingmann (US #2/R&B #9 1961), Sonny James (US #86 1961), The Sugarhill Gang (R&B #13 1982).
Also recorded by Incredible Bongo Band (1973), Fat Boy Slim (1998).

From the wiki: “‘Apache’ was written by Jerry Lordan. Bill Weedon was the first to record ‘Apache’ (in May 1960) but it went unreleased for several months. According to Weedon:

‘Francis, Day & Hunter sent me the music early in 1960. I immediately liked the tune and so arranged and recorded it for release later on in the year. In February I was contacted by Jerry Lordan who asked me when I was going to release it, and I explained that I would put it out in September because this was when most people bought records. I told him not to worry, that it was done, and it would be out. A few months later I heard that The Shadows had covered it. Nothing wrong with that of course, they were fully entitled to.’

“As happened, The Shadows were on tour in mid-1960 with Lordan as a supporting act. The band discovered ‘Apache’ when Lordan played it for them on a ukulele. Lordan figured the tune would be a better fit for The Shadows; the band agreed, and so did the buying public. By the time the Weedon recording was hurriedly but belatedly released, The Shadows’ version was quickly vaulting to #1 on the UK Singles chart. However, neither the Shadows nor Weedon had any impact on North America.

“In North America, the tune is identified most with Jørgen Ingmann, a Jazz guitarist from Denmark. His 1961 cover version, credited to ‘Jørgen Ingmann and His Guitar’, made it to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #9 on the US R&B chart. A vocal version was later recorded that year by Sonny James. It peaked at #86 on the Hot 100.

Speedy Gonzales

First recorded by Dave Dante (1962).
Hit version by Pat Boone (US #6/UK #2 1962).

From the wiki: “‘Speedy Gonzales’, ‘the fastest mouse in all Mexico,’ was written by Buddy Kaye, Ethel Lee, and David Hess (aka David Hill, ‘All Shook Up’) who first recorded the song under the alias ‘Dave Dante’ in 1962. The song was popularized in the United States as a 1962 single by Pat Boone, doing better in many national charts in Europe where Boone’s recording sold a million copies. The female voice (‘La-la-la…’) on this song was of Robin Ward (‘Wonderful Summer’), and Boone’s cover also incorporated Mel Blanc voicing ‘Speedy Gonzales’ as he did in the Warner Brothers cartoons. (Elton John has stated that the ‘hook’ in his best-selling single ‘Crocodile Rock’ was inspired by his listening to Ward’s vocal on ‘Speedy Gonzales’.)”

Love’s Made a Fool of You

First recorded by Buddy Holly, writer (1958, released UK #39 1964).
Hit versions by The Crickets (UK #26 1959), Bobby Fuller Four (US #26 1966), Cochise (US #96 1971).

From the wiki: “Love’s Made a Fool of You’ was co-written and originally performed by Buddy Holly in 1954. It was first recorded in 1958 by Holly as a demo for The Everly Brothers (who chose not to record it). Holly’s demo would be posthumously released in the UK in 1964 on the Peggy Sue Got Married EP; charting in the UK Top 40. The song would be covered by The Crickets (Holly’s backup band) in 1959, becoming the group’s first single to be released following Holly’s death, but would be more famously covered in 1966 by The Bobby Fuller Four (who also covered The Crickets ‘I Fought the Law‘ the previous year).

Promised Land

Written and first recorded by Chuck Berry (US #41/R&B #16/UK #26 1965).
Other hit versions by Fred Weller (C&W #3 1971), Dave Edmunds (AUS #5 1972), Elvis Presley (US #14/C&W #9/UK #9 1974).
Also recorded by The Grateful Dead (1976).

From the wiki: “‘Promised Land’ was written by Chuck Berry to the melody of ‘Wabash Cannonball’, an American Folk song. It was first recorded in this version by Chuck Berry in 1964 for his album St. Louis to Liverpool. Released in 1965 as a promotional single, it was Berry’s first single issued following the completion of his prison sentence for a Mann Act conviction.

“In the lyrics, the singer (who refers to himself as ‘the poor boy’) tells of his journey from Norfolk, Virginia to the ‘Promised Land’, Los Angeles, California, mentioning various cities of the American Southeast that he encounters along his journey. Berry borrowed an atlas from the prison library to plot the song’s itinerary. Upon arriving in Los Angeles, ‘the poor boy’ calls Norfolk, Virginia (‘Tidewater four, ten-oh-nine’) to tell the folks back home he’s made it to the ‘promised land.’

Shimmy, Shimmy Ko-Ko Bop

First recorded (as “(Shimmy Shimmy) Ko Ko Wop”) by The El Capris (1956).
Hit version by Little Anthony & The Imperials (US #24/R&B #14 1960).

From the wiki: “The El Capris formed in 1954, in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They were neighborhood friends, all of whom were between 13 and 14 years old. They decided to call themselves the ‘Bluebirds’ but with a twist: Believing that the Spanish for ‘bluebird’ was ‘capri’, they settled on the ‘El Capris’ – ignoring the fact that ‘el’ is used grammatically in the singular … and that ‘capri’ does not mean ‘bluebird’. None of this, however, had any relevance to their singing talent which they used to win a contest, at school in 1955. The prize was an audition for Woody Henderling, owner of New York City’s Bullseye label. He liked what he heard, and in late 1955, he put them in a studio at WHOD Radio in Homestead, PA, recording two songs.

“One of the sides they recorded was titled ‘(Shimmy Shimmy) Ko Ko Wop’, written by three of the group’s members, ames Scott, James Ward and Leon Gray. The record was released in March of 1956, but went nowhere.

Baby Let’s Play House

Written and first recorded by Arthur Gunter (1954).
Hit version by Elvis Presley (C&W #5 1955).
Also recorded (as a demo) by Buddy Holly (1955).

From the wiki: “‘Baby Let’s Play House’ was written by Arthur Gunter and recorded by him in 1954. It was covered by Elvis Presley the following year on Sun Records – the fourth issue of a Presley record by Sun … and it became the very first recording by Elvis to appear on a national chart, when it made #5 on the Billboard Country singles chart in July 1955.

“In his youth the songwriter, Gunter, formed the Gunter Brothers Quartet with brothers and cousins. In 1954 Gunter signed with Excello Records and recorded ‘Baby Let’s Play House’ in November 1954. It was released on Excello 2047 and became a local hit. Gunter would later say ‘Elvis got that number and made it famous. But I didn’t get a chance to shake his hand.’ Gunter’s first royalty check, received that same year, was for $6500 (equivalent to $57,000 in 2014).

Rockin’ Pneumonia & the Boogie Woogie Flu

Written and first recorded (as “Tu-Ber-Cu-Lucas and the Sinus Blues”) by Huey “Piano” Smith (1957).
Hit versions by Huey “Piano” Smith & The Clowns (US #52/R&B #5 1957), Johnny Rivers (US #6/AUS #27/NZ #11 1972).
Also recorded by Jerry Lee Lewis (1965), Chris Farlowe (1966), David Lindley (1981).

From the wiki: “In 1955, Huey ‘Piano’ Smith turned 21, and became the piano player with Little Richard’s first band for Specialty Records. The same year Smith also played piano on several studio sessions for other artists such as Lloyd Price; one of the sessions resulted in the Smiley Lewis hit, ‘I Hear You Knocking‘.

“In 1957, Smith formed ‘Huey ‘Piano’ Smith and His Clowns’ and signed a long-term contract with Ace Records. The group hit the Billboard charts with several singles in succession, including ‘Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu’, first recorded as ‘Tu-Ber-Cu-Lucas and the Sinus Blues’ in 1957 and released as the B-side to ‘Dearest Darling’.

Rock and Roll Music

Written and first recorded by Chuck Berry (US #8/R&B #6 1957).
Also recorded by The Beatles (1964).
Other hit versions by Humble Pie (US #105 1975), The Beach Boys (US #5/UK #36 1976).

From the wiki: “‘Rock and Roll Music’ was written and recorded by Rock and Roll icon Chuck Berry. The song has been widely covered and is recognized as one of Berry’s most popular and enduring compositions, and has been recorded by many well-known artists, including Bill Haley & His Comets, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, REO Speedwagon, Mental As Anything, Humble Pie, and Manic Street Preachers.

(Marie’s the Name) His Latest Flame

First recorded (as “His Latest Flame”) by Del Shannon (1961).
Hit version by Elvis Presley (US #4/UK #1 1961).

From the wiki: “‘(Marie’s the Name) His Latest Flame’ was written by the songwriting team of Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman (‘Save the Last Dance for Me’, ‘This Magic Moment‘, ‘Little Sister’, ‘Teenager in Love‘) and was originally recorded by Del Shannon for the album Runaway With Del Shannon, released in June 1961. The more famous and more successful recording by Elvis Presley was released in August 1961.”


Written and first recorded (as a demo) by Roy Orbison (1958).
Hit version by The Everly Brothers (US #30/C&W #15/UK #1 1958).

From the wiki: “‘Claudette’ was written by Roy Orbison and named for his wife. It was the first major songwriting success for the then-unknown Orbison, who at the time was under contract to Sun Records. Orbison’s demo found its way to The Everly Brothers who would record and release their version as the B-side to ‘All I Have to Do Is Dream’ but ‘Claudette’ would also chart in the US and the UK. As a result of the song’s success, Orbison would terminate his contract with Sun and affiliate himself with the Everly’s publisher, Acuff-Rose Music. Orbison would record his own version of ‘Claudette’ in 1965.”

Good Golly Miss Molly

First released by The Valiants (1957).
Hit versions by Little Richard (US #10/R&B #4/UK #8 1958), The Swinging Blue Jeans (US #43/UK #11 1964).
Also recorded by Los Teen Tops (1959).

From the wiki: “‘Good Golly Miss Molly’ was written by John Marascalco and producer Robert ‘Bumps’ Blackwell. Although it was first recorded in 1956 by Little Richard, Blackwell – after leaving Specialty Records (Little Richard’s label) to manage Sam Cooke – produced another version, by The Valiants, that was rush-released to radio and stores only to be quickly eclipsed when Richard’s recording was finally, belatedly released.


First recorded by Buddy Holly (US #82/UK #30 1958).
Hit versions by The England Sisters (UK #33 1960), Showaddywaddy (UK #7 1975), Nick Berry (UK #2 1992).
Also recorded by Herman’s Hermits (1965), The Hollies (1980).

From the wiki: “‘Heartbeat’ is a rockabilly song credited to Bob Montgomery and Norman Petty, and recorded originally by Buddy Holly in 1958. It was the last Buddy Holly single to be released during his lifetime. ‘Heartbeat’ covers would subsequently reach the UK Top Ten twice: In 1975, for Showaddywaddy, and again in 1992 when the version Nick Berry recorded it as the theme to the Heartbeat TV series. Herman’s Hermits — who had originally been named The Heartbeats after the song — recorded the song in 1965. The Hollies, who had named themselves after Buddy Holly, made their only attempt at having a hit remake of a Buddy Holly song with a 1980 single release of ‘Heartbeat’ that failed to chart.”

Hello Little Girl

Written and first recorded by The Beatles (1962).
Hit version by The Fourmost (UK #9 1963).
Also recorded by Gerry & The Pacemakers (1963).

From the wiki: “‘Hello Little Girl’ was the first song ever written by John Lennon. According to Lennon, he drew ‘on an old ’30s or ’40s song’ that his mother sang to him. Written in 1957, ‘Hello Little Girl’ was used as one of the songs at the Beatles unsuccessful Decca audition in 1962. In 1963, the English Merseybeat band The Fourmost made a recording of the song (produced by George Martin) and released it as their debut single. Two weeks later, Gerry & The Pacemakers also recorded a version of the song, but the version by the Fourmost was selected for the issue and reached #9 in the United Kingdom.”

Love of the Loved

Written and first recorded by The Beatles (1962).
Hit version by Cilla Black (UK #35 1963).

From The Beatles Bible: “One of Paul McCartney’s earliest musical compositions, ‘Love Of The Loved’ was recorded by Cilla Black and released as a single in 1963. The song was part of The Quarrymen’s repertoire for a time, and The Beatles often played it at the Cavern Club in Liverpool. It was one of 15 songs performed at their audition for Decca Records on 1 January 1962, but The Beatles’ version of ‘Love Of The Loved’ is the only original composition from the Decca audition not to have been made commercially available.

Hound Dog

First recorded by “Big Mama” Thorton (R&B #1 1953).
Also recorded by Jack Turner & His Granger County Gang (1953), Eddie Hazelwood (1953), Betsy Gay (1953), Tommy Duncan & the Miller Brothers (1953), Freddie Bell & The Bell Boys (1955).
Hit version by Elvis Presley (US #1/C&W #1/R&B #1 1956).

From the wiki: “Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller wrote ‘Hound Dog’ as a 12-bar Blues song. It was first recorded in Los Angeles by Willie Mae ‘Big Mama’ Thornton in August 1952, and became her only hit record. Credited with contributing to the evolution of R&B into Rock and Roll, Thornton’s recording of ‘Hound Dog’ is listed as one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll, and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in February 2013.

The Hippy Hippy Shake

Written and first recorded by Chan Romero (AUS #3 1959).
Also recorded by Little Tony (1959), The Beatles (1963, released 1994).
Hit versions by The Swinging Blue Jeans (US #21/UK #5 1964), Mud (UK #8 1974), The Georgia Satellites (US #45/ROCK #13 1988).

From the wiki: “‘”Hippy Hippy Shake’ was written and recorded by 17-year old Chan Romero in 1959. That same year, it reached #3 in Australia. A cover version by Italian rocker Little Tony appeared in the same year and found moderate success in the UK and Italy.

Rock Around the Clock

First recorded by Sonny Dae & His Knights (1954).
Hit version by Bill Haley & His Comets (B-side US #36 1954 |US #1/R&B #3/UK #1 1955).

From the wiki: “‘Rock Around the Clock’ was written (as ‘We’re Gonna Rock Around the Clock Tonight!’) in 1952 by Max Freedman and James Myers (the latter under the pseudonym ‘Jimmy De Knight’). Although first recorded by Italian-American band Sonny Dae & His Knights in March 1954, the more famous version by Bill Haley & His Comets is not, strictly speaking, a cover version. Co-writer Myers claimed the song had been written specifically for Haley but, for various reasons, Haley was unable to record it himself until April 1954.

“According to the Haley biographies Bill Haley by John Swenson and Rock Around the Clock by Jim Dawson, the song was first offered to Haley in the wake of his first national success ‘Crazy Man, Crazy’ in 1953. Haley and his Comets began performing the song on stage but Dave Miller, his producer, refused to allow Haley to record it for his Essex Records label. Haley himself claimed to have taken the sheet music into the recording studio at least twice, with Miller ripping up the music each time.

Keep on Dancing

First recorded by The Avantis (1963).
Hit versions by The Gentrys (US #4 1965), Bay City Rollers (UK #9 1971).

From the wiki: “‘Keep on Dancing’ was written by written by Allen A. Jones and Willie David Young, and was first recorded in 1963 by The Avantis, a black vocal trio from Memphis, Tennessee, who modeled themselves after the Isley Brothers, and who had toured with, and befriended, the Gentrys. The Gentrys’ 1965 cover is notable for the fact that it is actually one short recording repeated in order to stretch the record out to the length of the typical pop single of its day. The second half of the song, after the false fade, beginning with Gentrys drummer Larry Wall’s drum fill, is the same as the first.

“Don Crews and Chips Moman remembered a song, ‘basically a ballad,’ that Chips had cut with the Avantis and leased to Argo Records. ‘We made two or three takes, trying to get something,’ Don recalled. ‘We left it up to the fellows to come up with something,’ and somewhere along the line the band speeded up the song’s tempo. Chips said, ‘Let’s put it down and see what happens,” Don continued. ‘We made one run to get a level, about half the tune, and then recorded it. It came out at a minute and thirty seconds. I said, ‘That’s too short.’ So we just faded it out and spliced the first verse on again.'” – Memphis Boys: The Story of American Studios, by Roben Jones, 2010


First recorded by Elvis Presley (1962 |UK #9 1976).
Hit version by Terry Stafford (US #2/UK #31 1964).

From the wiki: “‘Suspicion’ is a song written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, one of 25 songs Pomus and Shuman wrote for Elvis Presley.

Hanky Panky

Originally recorded by The Raindrops (1963).
First released (as a B-side) by The Summits (1963).
Hit version by Tommy James & The Shondells in (1964|US #1 1966)
Also recorded by Neil Diamond (US #51/AUS #55 1968).

From the wiki: “Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich (‘Do Wah Diddy Diddy‘, ‘Be My Baby’, ‘Da Doo Ron Ron’) authored the song in 1963 and were the first to record it. They were in the middle of a recording session for their group The Raindrops, and realized they needed a B-side to a single, ‘That Boy John’. The duo then went into the hall and penned the song in 20 minutes. The Summits (a group produced by The Tokens), however, were first to release a ‘Hanky Panky,’ also as a B-Side (to ‘He’s An Angel’), in October 1963. The Raindrops’ recording was released in November 1963.

“Although only a B-side (and one that the two composers were not terribly impressed with), ‘Hanky Panky’ became popular with garage rock bands. Tommy James heard it being performed by one such group in a club in South Bend, Indiana. ‘I really only remembered a few lines from the song,’ James to an interviewer. ‘So, when we went to record it, I had to make up the rest of the song.’ James’ version was recorded at a local radio station, WNIL in Niles, Michigan, and released on the local Snap Records label, selling well in the tri-state area of Michigan, Indiana and Illinois. However, lacking national distribution, the single quickly disappeared. James moved on, breaking up The Shondells, and finishing high school.

“In 1965, an unemployed James was contacted by Pittsburgh disc jockey “Mad Mike” Metro. Metro had begun playing The Shondells’ version of “Hanky Panky” and the single had become popular in that area. James then decided to re-release the song, traveling to Pittsburgh where he hired the first decent local band he ran into, The Raconteurs, to be the new Shondells (the original members having declined to re-form).

“After appearances on TV and in clubs in the city, James took a copy of the original Snap Records recording of ‘Hanky Panky’ to New York, where he sold it to Roulette Records. ‘The amazing thing is we did not re-record the song,’ James recalls. ‘I don’t think anybody can record a song that bad and make it sound good. It had to sound amateurish like that.’ It was released promptly and took the top position of the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks in July 1966.

“Neil Diamond recorded a version of ‘Hanky Panky’ and it was released as the B-side to ‘New Orleans’ in 1968 when the A-side peaked at #51 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #55 in Australia. His recording begins with Diamond complaining to the producer ‘No, I’m not gonna sing this song. DO IT DO IT. I don’t care who wrote it. YA. Alright.'”

The Summits, “Hanky Panky” (1963):

Tommy James & The Shondells, “Hanky Panky” (1964 rereleased 1966):

Neil Diamond, “Hanky Panky” (1968):

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