Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Rocket 88

Inspired by “Cadillac Boogie” by Jimmy Liggins & His Drops of Joy (1947).
Hit version by Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats (R&B #1 1951).
Also recorded by Bill Haley & His Saddlemen (1951).

From the wiki: “If ‘Rocket 88’ is to be considered the first ‘Rock ‘n Roll’ song (as musicologists do), then ‘Cadillac Boogie’ must be the seed from which sprang the tree. Jackie Brenston admits he modeled his song on the Jimmy Liggins’ ‘Cadillac Boogie’, trading in the Caddy for a 1951 Oldsmobile Rocket Hydramatic 88. And it was about time they did. On their way from Clarksdale, MS, to Sun Studios in Memphis, TN, to record with Sam Phillips, the Delta Cats’ 1940 Ford Town Car was soaked in a downpour, damaging some band equipment including the band’s guitar amplifier.

“As luck would have it, Phillips liked the distortion coming now from the damaged amplifier and kept it in the recording. (Note: Even though ‘The Delta Cats’ were listed on the label, the group did not legally exist per se. Instead, the band was a derivative of then-19-year-old Ike Turner & His Kings of Rhythm band. Brenston was Turner’s saxophone player.)

“Songwriter and musician Jimmy Liggins had tried professional boxing (fighting under the name ‘Kid Zulu’) before becoming the driver for his brother Joe’s band, the Honeydrippers. From there, Liggins started his own recording career as a singer, guitarist, and leader of the Drops of Joy. Liggins became one of the most successful bandleaders in the jump blues period of the late 1940s and early 1950s, and his wild stage presence and manic delivery influenced Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Bill Haley and Elvis Presley.

“Bill Haley’s 1951 cover version is considered to be one of earliest Rockabilly recordings.”

Bill Haley & His Saddlemen, “Rocket 88” (1951):

Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats, “Rocket 88” (1951):

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