Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Stray Cat Strut

Inspired by “Lonely Travelin'” by Lonesome Lee (1956)
and “Icky Poo” by The Nomads (c. 1960).
Hit version by Stray Cats (US #3/UK #11 1981).

From the wiki: “Head cat of the Stray Cat pack, Brian Setzer, has always been quite open and honest in his self-confessed pillaging of old rock ‘n’ roll songs, something which he equates to the widespread practice of rearranging old-time country and blues tunes into popular music.

“Such is the case of ‘Stray Cat Strut’, which had not one but two antecedents: ‘Lonely Travelin’, by Chicago bluesman Lonesome Lee and, more especially, ‘Icky Poo’ by The Nomads, an obscure San Diego white doo-wop band.

“Jimmie Lee Robinson, also known as ‘Lonesome Lee’, was a Blues musician who was predominantly known for his involvement in the Chicago Blues scene of the 1940s and 1950s. Robinson performed with other blues musicians of the period and worked as a session musician. ‘Lonesome Lee’ performed with local musicians until 1952 when he met Freddie King, who he met outside a welfare center, and the two formed a band called The Every Hour Blues Boys. The band lasted four years, and King would later credit Robinson as one of his earliest and influential teachers.

“The Nomads began as a late ’50s-early ’60s doo-wop and dance band, playing every summer Wednesday night at the La Mesa Youth Center in San Diego, CA, featuringsax player Dwight Bement (formerly of the Fydallions, later of Gary Puckett & the Union Gap, and Flash Cadillac & the Continental Kids, the first band to appear on American Bandstand despite having no record out). The group was known mostly for their single ‘Ooh Poo Pah Doo’, but they released several other 45 rpms on small labels like Prelude Records, including their own songs like ‘Do the Freeze’ and ‘Icky Poo’.

“In June, 1980, three young rockabilly cats named Brian Setzer, James Mc Donnell and Leon Drucker – performing together under the name of the Tomcats – raised enough money to move to London. From that moment things moved very fast. After changing their name to the Stray Cats (thanks to French rock critic Bruno Blum) they soon had all the London Rock ‘n’ roll scene talking (including the Kinks, the Rolling Stones and The Pretenders). In August they met Dave Edmunds and legend has it he begged to produce them (to quote Edmunds) ‘before someone else f**** your sound.’ In September, The Stray Cats signed with Arista Records and almost immediately entered the studio to record their debut album, Stray Cats, produced by Edmunds, and it was released to wide critical and commercial acclaim.

“‘Stray Cat Strut’ was the third single released from the album, charting Top 5 in the US and peaking a #11 on the UK Singles chart. In the October 1998 issue of Guitar World magazine, Brian Setzer’s solo from ‘Stray Cat Strut’ ranked #92 on the Top 100 Guitar Solos of All Time list.”

The Nomads, “Icky Poo” (c. 1960):

The Stray Cats, “Stray Cat Strut” (1981):

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