Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Good Rockin’ Tonight

Written and first recorded (as “Good Rocking Tonight”) by Roy Brown (R&B #13 1947).
Other hit versions by Wynonie Harris (R&B #1 1948), The Honeydrippers (US #25 1984).
Also recorded by Elvis Presley (1954).

From the wiki: “”Good Rocking Tonight” was originally a jump blues song first recorded and released in 1947 by its writer, Roy Brown, and has been covered by many other recording artists.

“The song anticipated elements of rock and roll music (it includes the memorable refrain, ‘Well I heard the news, there’s good rocking tonight!’ . Brown had first offered his song to Wynonie Harris, who turned it down. He then approached Cecil Gant later that night who, after hearing Brown sing it to him, made a 2 a.m. phone call to Jules Braun, the president of DeLuxe Records. Brown sang his song over the phone for Braun who then asked Brown to sing it a second time. Braun then told Gant, ‘Give him fifty dollars and don’t let him out of your sight.’

“Five weeks later, Brown recorded the song for DeLuxe Records. Only after Brown’s record had gained traction in New Orleans did Harris change his mind and decide to cover it. Harris’s version was even more energetic than Brown’s original version, featuring black gospel style hand-clapping. This may have contributed to the composition’s greater success on the national R&B chart. Brown’s original recording hit #13 of the Billboard R&B chart while Harris’ record became a #1 R&B hit and remained on the chart for half a year.

“The song is a primer of sorts on the popular black music of the era, making lyrical reference to Sweet Lorraine, Sioux City Sue, Sweet Georgia Brown, Caledonia, Elder Brown, and Deacon Jones. All of these characters had figured prominently in previous hit songs.

“The song has also been credited with being the most successful record up to that point to use the word ‘rock’ not as a euphemism for sex, but as a descriptive for the musical style – a connection which would become even clearer in 1954 when a Sun Records production of ‘Good Rockin’ Tonight’ became Elvis Presley’s second-ever single.

“In 1954, “Good Rockin’ Tonight” was the second Sun Records release by Elvis Presley, with ‘I Don’t Care if the Sun Don’t Shine’ on the flip side. Presley and his bandmates’ version is an almost word-for-word cover of Harris’ version but omitted the lyrics’ by-then-dated roster of song titles in favor of a simpler, more energetic ‘We’re gonna rock, rock, rock!’ Unlike Presley’s first Sun single, ‘That’s All Right’, which charted nationally (#38 on Country Singles chart), both sides of this second Sun single stiffed.

“When Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant recorded an EP with some friends in 1984, calling the band the Honeydrippers, he was focused on a “roots of rock” sound. Retitling ‘Good Rockin’ Tonight’ as ‘Good Rockin’ at Midnight’, it was the Honeydrippers’first single, with a strong boogie woogie feel, and peaked at #25 on the Billboard Hot 100.”

Wynonie Harris, “Good Rockin’ Tonight” (1947):

Elvis Presley, “Good Rockin’ Tonight” (1954):

The Honeydrippers, “Good Rockin’ at Midnight” (1984):

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