Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Hey Bartender

Written and first recorded by Floyd Dixon (1954).
Popular versions by Laurel Aitken (1961), The Blues Brothers (1978), Johnny Lee (C&W #2 1983).

From the wiki: “‘Hey Bartender’ was written and first recorded in 1954 by West Coast R&B pianist Floyd Dixon. The self-dubbed ‘Mr. Magnificent’, Dixon signed a recording contract with Modern Records in 1949, specializing in jump blues and sexualized songs like ‘Red Cherries’, ‘Too Much Jelly Roll’ and ‘Baby Let’s Go Down to the Woods’. Both “Dallas Blues” and “Mississippi Blues”, credited to the Floyd Dixon Trio, reached the Billboard R&B chart in 1949.

“Dixon replaced Charles Brown on piano and vocals in the band Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers in 1950, when Brown departed to start a solo career. The group recorded for Aladdin Records and reached the R&B chart with ‘Telephone Blues’ (credited to Floyd Dixon with Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers). He switched to Specialty Records in 1952 and to Cat Records, a subsidiary of Atlantic Records in 1954. ‘Hey Bartender’ was released during this time.

“In the 1970s Dixon left the music industry for a quieter life in Texas, though he did occasional tours in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1984 he was commissioned to write ‘Olympic Blues’ for the 1984 Summer Olympics. In 1993, Dixon received a Pioneer Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation.

“A 1961 ska cover of ‘Hey Bartender’ by Laurel Aitken popularized the song, as did the inclusion of the song on the first Blues Brothers album, Briefcase Full of Blues, in 1978. The only charting version of ‘Hey Bartender’ was recorded in 1983 by Johnny Lee.”

Laurel Aitken, “Hey Bartender” (1961):

The Blues Brothers, “Hey Bartender” (1978):

Johnny Lee, “Hey Bartender” (1983):

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