Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

Help support this site! Consider clicking an ad from time to time. Thanks!


Hey Joe

Written and first recorded by Billy Roberts (1961).
Popular versions by The Leaves (US #31 1966), The Jimi Hendrix Experience (UK #6 1966), Wilson Pickett (US #59/R&B #29/UK #16 1969), Willy DeVille (SPN #1 1992).
Also recorded by Tim Rose (1966), The Golden Cups (1968), Billy Roberts (ca. 1976).

Billy Roberts, “Hey Joe” re-recording (1976?):

From the wiki: “Diverse credits and claims have led to confusion as to the song’s true authorship and genesis. But, the earliest known commercial recording of the song is the late-1965 single by the Los Angeles garage band The Leaves (on Mira 207).

“The Leaves re-recorded the track (for the third time) in 1966, releasing it as a follow-up single (on Mira 222) which became a hit. While claimed by the late Tim Rose to be a traditional Blues song (or often erroneously attributed to the pen of American musician Dino Valenti aka Chet Powers and Jesse Farrow), and who recorded a cover in 1966 that was released in 1967 on Through Rose Colored Glasses, ‘Hey Joe’ was registered for copyright in the U.S. in 1962 by Billy Roberts. Producer Hal Resner has stated there is a live recording of Roberts performing ‘Hey Joe’, dating from around 1961.

“Roberts was a relatively obscure California-based folk singer, guitarist and harmonica player who performed on the West Coast coffeehouse circuit. After leaving military school for the life of an itinerant musician, Roberts learned to play the 12-string guitar and blues harmonica, on which he claimed to have been tutored by Sonny Terry. Roberts traveled to New York’s Greenwich Village where he busked on the street and played in coffeehouses. It was there, in 1962, that he composed the song ‘Hey, Joe’. Early the same year, after a brief and turbulent marriage, Roberts traveled to Reno, Nevada to obtain a divorce. After that, he went to San Francisco where he again played in coffeehouses. It would become his base of operations for the rest of his career.

“In 1965 Roberts was alerted by a friend to a recording of ‘Hey Joe’ by the Southern California rock band, The Leaves. Roberts knew nothing of the recording and the friend (Hillel Resner, later his producer) offered to ask his father, an attorney in San Francisco, to look into the matter. The attorney discovered that folk singer Dino Valenti (Quicksilver Messenger Service) had claimed authorship of the song and signed a publishing contract with Third Story Music of Los Angeles. This led to negotiations that resulted in Roberts retrieving his author’s rights, but it did not prevent numerous recordings being released that named several other songwriters, in addition to Valenti, as the author.”

“Roberts’ song gained fans in the Los Angeles music scene of the mid-1960s, which led to fast-paced recordings in 1965 and 1966 by The Leaves, The Standells, The Surfaris, Love, The Music Machine, and The Byrds, swiftly making the song a garage rock classic. Both Dino Valenti and The Byrds’ David Crosby have been reported as helping to popularize the song before it was recorded by The Leaves in December 1965. The Leaves’ version is notable for being the only recording of ‘Hey Joe’ to reach the Top 40 of the Billboard chart … although a 1992 recording by Willy DeVille did hit #1 in Spain.

“Folk rock singer Tim Rose’s slower version of the song (recorded in 1966 and claimed by Rose to be an arrangement of a wholly traditional song) inspired the first single by The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Some accounts credit the slower version of ‘Hey Joe’ by the British band The Creation as being the inspiration for Hendrix’s version. Released in December 1966, Hendrix’s recording became a hit in the United Kingdom, entering the Top 10 of the UK Singles Chart in January 1967 and peaking at #6. The single was released in the United States on May 1, 1967 with the B-side ’51st Anniversary’ but failed to chart. Hendrix’s ‘Hey Joe’ is listed as #201 on Rolling Stone magazine’s The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. In 2009 it was named the 22nd greatest hard rock song of all time by VH1.

“The Golden Cups, from Japan, in 1968 also recorded ‘Hey Joe’. The group, who formed in Yokohama, Japan, in 1966, initially called themselves Group & I, and were influenced by the rock and roll music broadcast on the Far East Network (FEN) and, more generally, by contacts made with Americans and others in the port city of Yokohama. They began playing club sets consisting of covers of American pop and rock hits such as ‘Got My Mojo Workin”, ‘I Feel Good’ and ‘Hey Joe’, soon becoming the house band at the Golden Cup discotheque close to the US Army base at Honmoku, Yokohama., where the club’s owner persuaded ‘Group & I’ to change their name to ‘The Golden Cups’. The band also soon won a regular place on the NHK-TV morning show, Young 720, and secured a recording deal with the Capital label owned by Toshiba Records.

“Wilson Pickett recorded a version of ‘Hey Joe’ in 1969, with The Cold Grits and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, that charted in the Billboard Hot 100, the US R&B chart, and UK Singles chart.

“On May 1, 2018, 7,411 guitarists assembled in Wroclaw, Poland and together performed ‘Hey Joe’, setting a new record, according to Guinness World Records, for the largest-ever guitar ensemble.”

The Leaves, “Hey Joe, Where You Gonna Go?” 1st “Mira” version (1965):

The Leaves, “Hey Joe, Where You Gonna Go?” hit single (1966):

The Byrds, “Hey Joe, Where You Gonna Go” (1966):

Tim Rose, “Hey Joe (You Shot Your Woman Down)” (1966):


The Jimi Hendrix Experience, “Hey Joe” album version (1966):

The Jimi Hendrix Experience, “Hey Joe” live performance at the Monterey Pop Festival (1967):

The Golden Cups, “Hey Joe” (1968):

Wilson Pickett, “Hey Joe” (1969):

Willy DeVille, “Hey Joe” (1992):

Largest Guitar Ensemble (Guinness World Record), Wroclaw, Poland, “Hey Joe” (2018):

Comments are closed.