Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Guitar Man

First recorded by Jerry Reed (C&W #53 1967).
Hit versions by Elvis Presley (US #43/C&W #1/UK #19 1968), Elvis Presley (re-recording US #28/C&W #1 1981).

From the wiki: “‘Guitar Man’ is a 1967 song written by Jerry Reed and first recorded by him the same year. Soon after Reed’s single appeared, Elvis Presley recorded the song with Reed playing the guitar part.

“According to Peter Guralnick, in volume two of his biography of Presley, Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley, the singer had been trying unsuccessfully to record the tune but wasn’t happy with the groove. Presley said something to the effect of: ‘Get me that redneck picker who’s on the original [recording],’ and his staff brought Reed into the studio – who nailed it on the first take.

“Reed remembers (also from the same Presley biography), ‘It was just a jamming session. I thought I was going to be so damn nervous I could play, but it was right the opposite. I got pumped, and then Elvis got pumped, and the more he got pumped, the I did – it was like a snowball effect … And once Elvis got the spirit, things really began to happen. When the guitars and the rhythm sounded right, I guess the guitar lick kind of reminded him of [Ray Charles’] ‘What’d I Say’, and he just sort of started testifying at the end. That was how it happened – one of those rare moments in your life you never forget.’

“Presley’s single charted in the both the US and UK, and spent a week at #1 on the US Country singles chart.’

“Thirteen years later, ‘Guitar Man’ was re-recorded in a new electronic arrangement, with Presley’s original vocal left intact, and it became the last of his eleven #1 Country hits. The new arrangement also peaked at #28 on the Billboard Hot 100.”

Elvis Presley, “Guitar Man” (1968):

Elvis Presley, “Guitar Man” (re-recording 1981):

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