Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Mule Skinner Blues (aka Blue Yodel #8)

written and first recorded (as “Blue Yodel #8”) by Jimmie Rodgers (1930).
Hit versions by Bill Monroe (1940), The Fendermen (US #5/UK #32/CND #2 1960).
Also recorded by Woody Guthrie (1944), Odetta (1956).

From the wiki: “‘Mule Skinner Blues’ is a classic country song written by Jimmie Rodgers. The song was first recorded by Rodgers in 1930 and has been recorded by many artists since then, acquiring the de facto title ‘Mule Skinner Blues’ although Rodgers had originally titled it ‘Blue Yodel #8’.

“In 1927, Rodgers recruited a group from Bristol, Tennessee called the Tenneva Ramblers and secured a weekly slot on the station listed as ‘The Jimmie Rodgers Entertainers’.

“In late July 1927, Rodgers’ band mates learned that Ralph Peer, a representative of the Victor Talking Machine Company, was coming to Bristol to hold an audition for local musicians. Rodgers and the group arrived in Bristol and auditioned for Peer in an empty warehouse. Peer agreed to record them the next day. That night, as the band discussed how they would be billed on the record, an argument ensued, the band broke up, and Rodgers arrived at the recording session the next morning alone. On August 4, Jimmie Rodgers completed his first session for Victor. It lasted from 2:00 p.m. to 4:20 p.m. and yielded two songs: ‘The Soldier’s Sweetheart'” and ‘Sleep, Baby, Sleep’. For the test recordings, Rodgers received $100.

“In November, Rodgers, determined more than ever to make it in entertainment, headed to New York City in an effort to arrange another session with Peer. Peer agreed to record him again, and the two met in Philadelphia before traveling to Camden, New Jersey, to the Victor studios. Four songs made it out of this session, including ‘Blue Yodel’, better known as ‘T for Texas’ and the first in a series of ‘Blue Yodel’-titled songs (including ‘Blue Yodel #8’, and ‘Blue Yodel #9’ recorded with Louis Armstrong and Lil Hardin Armstrong). In the next two years, ‘Blue Yodel’ sold nearly half a million copies, rocketing Rodgers into stardom.

“‘Mule Skinner Blues’ was Bill Monroe’s first solo studio recording. He had first performed in October 1939 for his debut on the Grand Ole Opry radio program; the response was so sensational that his performance generated the first demand for an encore of a song ever on the broadcast show. One year later, Monroe recorded ‘Mule Skinner Blues’ for RCA Victor (the first of four total studio recordings of the song he made). Monroe’s recording became a hit and one of his signature tunes. Woody Guthrie recorded the song in 1944. Odetta included the song on her 1956 album Odetta Sings Ballads and Blues.

“The Fendermen, John Sundquist and Phil Humphrey, met as students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in the late 1950s. The group recorded ‘Mule Skinner Blues’ in 1960 for release on the Cuca Records label. The recording was picked up for national distribution by Soma Records. The song hit #5 on the Hot 100, #32 in the UK Singles Chart in September 1960, and was #2 hit in Canada.”

Jimmie Rodgers, Louis Armstrong & Lil Hardin Armstrong, “Blue Yodel #9” (1930):

Bill Monroe, “Mule Skinner Blues” (1940):

Woody Guthrie, “Muleskinner Blues” (1944):

Odetta, “Mule Skinner Blues” (1956):

The Fendermen, “Mule Skinner Blues” (1960):

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