Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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He’ll Have to Go

First recorded by Billy Brown (1959).
Hit versions by Jim Reeves (US #2/C&W #1/R&B #13/UK #12/CAN #1/AUS #1/NOR #1 1959), Solomon Burke (US #51/R&B #17 1964).
Also recorded by Elvis Presley (1976).

From the wiki: “‘He’ll Have to Go’ was written by Joe Allison and Audrey Allison.

“Joe first worked in the early 1940s as a commercial artist before embarking on a career in the entertainment industry, first as a disc jockey on a Paris, Texas radio station. In 1945, after a few years on radio, Allison took a job as the emcee for the North American tour of country music singing star Tex Ritter. While working on tour, he offered Ritter a song he had written called ‘When You Leave, Don’t Slam the Door’, which the singer turned into a #1 hit on the Country music charts. This success ultimately led to Allison moving to a radio station in Nashville, Tennessee where he remained until accepting an offer from a radio station in Pasadena, California.

“In 1959, Joe and Audrey co-wrote their most famous song, ‘He’ll Have to Go’, which was initially recorded by Billy Brown. A subsequent version by Jim Reeves become a platinum record, and the song would be recorded successfully by more than one hundred other artists including Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby, Tom Jones, Eddy Arnold, and even big band leader Guy Lombardo. That same year, Allison was hired by Liberty Records to create their Country music department. It was at Liberty that Joe signed Willie Nelson to his first recording contract.

“Reeves recorded the song after listening to Brown’s original version. When Brown’s version attracted little attention, Reeves felt free to record his own. It was released to Country radio as the B-side of ‘In a Mansion Stands My Love’, which some music executives thought considered a stronger song. However, ‘Mansion’ failed to catch on, and disc jockeys began playing the B-side instead. It was not long before ‘He’ll Have to Go’ became a huge Country and Pop hit in the US (several R&B radio stations also played the song) as well as becoming an international hit.

“Reeves’ recording features a small group of musicians: Floyd Cramer on piano, Marvin Hughes on the vibraphone, Bob Moore on bass, Buddy Harman on drums, Hank Garland on guitar, and the Anita Kerr Singers providing the background vocals.

“During his time in the music business, Joe Allison won seven ASCAP awards for record producing and five BMI performance awards. In 1976, he was elected to the Disc Jockey Hall of Fame and two years later was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. An active promoter of the industry, Joe Allison was a founding member of the Country Music Association and served as President of the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI).

“More than one hundred other artists have recorded ‘He’ll Have to Go’, including Solomon Burke, Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby, Tom Jones, Eddy Arnold, and even big band leader Guy Lombardo. Burke’s 1964 recording became one of the earliest of his 17 Top-20 R&B hits. Presley recorded his version of ‘He’ll Have to Go’ in October 1976, at his last known studio recording session; it is believed to be the final song he ever recorded in a studio setting.”

Jim Reeves, “He’ll Have to Go” (1959):

Solomon Burke, “He’ll Have to Go” (1964):

Elvis Presley, “He’ll Have to Go” (1976):

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