Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Leaving On a Jet Plane

First recorded (as “Babe, I Hate to Go”) by John Denver (1966).
First broadcast (as “Babe, I Hate to Go”) by John Denver on WAVA-FM’s Hootenanny at The Cellar Door (1966).
Hit version by Peter, Paul & Mary (recorded 1967 |US #1/MOR #1/UK #2/CAN #1/IRE #2 1969 single release).
Also recorded by The Mitchell Trio (1967), Spanky & Our Gang (1967), John Denver (1969 |1973).

From the wiki: “Chad Mitchell left his trio in 1965 to embark on a solo singing career. An audition process that followed, and which saw 300 musicians try-out, replaced Mitchell with the young (and unknown) singer-songwriter John Denver. The group retained the well-known ‘Mitchell Trio’ name – with Denver writing some of the group’s songs, including ‘Leaving On A Jet Plane’ (found on The Mitchell Trio’s 1967 album Alive!). The song was first recorded in 1966 by John Denver with the title ‘Babe, I Hate to Go’. He remembers composing the song in 1966 during a layover at Washington airport, ‘Not so much from feeling that way for someone, but from the longing of having someone to love.’

“A year earlier, in 1966, ‘Babe, I Hate to Go’ was among fifteen songs Denver recorded himself and, with his own money, had 250 copies pressed onto vinyl and distributed to friends and family. Later that year, while engaged to perform at The Cellar Door in Washington, D.C., Denver performed the song on a live radio broadcast on WAVA-FM, hosted by disc-jockey Dick Cerri for his program Hootenanny, where Denver was backed by fellow Trio guitarist, Bob Hefferan (and handled a heckler in the audience). It was John’s second time singing the song in public and the first radio broadcast of it.

“Peter, Paul & Mary happened upon a copy of the Mitchell Trio recording, and were so impressed with ‘Leaving On a Jet Plane’ that they chose to record it themselves. It was first released on their 1967 Album 1700. Notably, it didn’t become a hit for them until they released it as a single (their last, as a group) in 1969. Their recording of ‘Leaving’ turned out to be PP&M’s biggest – and final – hit, becoming their only #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It was the penultimate #1 single of the 1960s.

“Denver himself would contribute two more recordings of his song, for his debut solo album in 1969, Rhymes & Reasons, and a re-recording in 1973 for John Denver’s Greatest Hits.”

John Denver, “Babe I Hate to Go” live radio broadcast (1966):

The Mitchell Trio, “Leaving On a Jet Plane” (1967):

Spanky & Our Gang, “Leaving On a Jet Plane” (1967):

Peter, Paul & Mary, “Leaving On a Jet Plane” (1969):

John Denver, “Leaving On a Jet Plane” (1969):

John Denver, “Leaving On a Jet Plane” (1973):

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