Written by Sonny Curtis and first recorded by The Crickets (1959).
First covered by Paul Stefan & the Royal Lancers (1962), Bobby Fuller (1964).
Hit versions by The Bobby Fuller Four (US #9/UK #33/CAN #11 1965), The Clash (recorded 1979 |UK #29 1988).
From the wiki: “Sonny Curtis (‘More Than I Can Say‘, ‘Theme to The Mary Tyler Moore Show‘) joined The Crickets as lead vocalist and guitarist after Buddy Holly’s death in 1959. The Crickets recorded Curtis’ ‘I Fought the Law’ shortly thereafter, releasing it on the 1960 album In Style With The Crickets. (Had Holly had lived, there’s a good chance it would have been a huge hit for him with The Crickets.)
“A cover was recorded in 1962 by a Milwaukee, Wisconsin band, Paul Stefan & the Royal Lancers, and released on Citation Records. While the single was successful locally – it topped sales charts in Milwaukee in August and September 1962 – and was named a ‘Regional Breakout’ by Billboard (and was picked up for distribution in the UK by London Records), the Royal Lancers’ arrangement did not chart nationally.
“Bobby Fuller”s first attempt at recording ‘I Fought the Law’, in 1964 on Exeter Records, also became a regional success, this time in New Mexico and West Texas – his biggest local hit. In 1965, Fuller re-recorded by song (using the same group of musicians) for Del-Fi Records label and, with national promotional support, scored a Top 10 hit, peaking at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“The Clash recorded ‘I Fought the Law’ in 1979 after they heard Fuller’s version on a jukebox, and included it the Clash EP, The Cost Of Living (1979). But, it was not until 1988 that CBS Records issued an actual single of the song. It peaked at #29 on the UK Singles chart.
“The Bobby Fuller Four version of ‘I Fought the Law’ was ranked #175 on the Rolling Stone list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in 2004, and the same year was named one of the 500 Songs that Shaped Rock by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. ‘I Fought the Law’ has been covered in the studio or in concert by many other artists including The Dead Kennedys, Bryan Adams, John Cougar Mellencamp, Razors Edge, Bruce Springsteen, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, Social Distortion, Mike Ness, Hank Williams Jr, Waylon Jennings, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band,The Hoodoo Rhythm Devils, Green Day, The Ramones, Grateful Dead, Stray Cats, Mary’s Danish, Mano Negra, the Big Dirty Band, Lolita No. 18, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Attaque 77, Die Toten Hosen, Status Quo, Nanci Griffith, and The Men They Couldn’t Hang. John Mellencamp’s ‘Authority Song’ was also inspired by ‘I Fought the Law’.
“Sonny Curtis was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by special committee as a member of the Crickets, aimed at correcting the mistake of not including the Crickets with Buddy Holly when Holly was first inducted in 1986.”
Paul Stefan & the Royal Lancers, “I Fought the Law” (1962):
Bobby Fuller, “I Fought the Law” Exeter recording (1964):
The Bobby Fuller Four, “I Fought the Law” Mustang/Del-Fi re-recording (1965):
The Clash, “I Fought the Law” (1979):