Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Elvis Presley

Early Morning Rain

First released by Ian & Sylvia (1965).
Hit versions by Peter, Paul & Mary (US #91/MOR #13 1965), George Hamilton IV (C&W #9 1966), Oliver (MOR #38 1971), Paul Weller (UK #40 2005).
Also recorded by The Grateful Dead (1965, released 2013), Gordon Lightfoot, writer (1966), Elvis Presley (1972).

From the wiki: “‘Early Morning Rain’ (sometimes ‘Early Mornin’ Rain’) was written by Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot. Lightfoot wrote and composed the song in 1964, but its genesis took root during a 1960 sojourn in Westlake, Los Angeles. Lightfoot sometimes became homesick and would go out to LAX on rainy days to watch the approaching aircraft. The imagery of the flights taking off into the overcast sky was still with him when, in 1964, he was caring for his 5-month-old baby son and he thought, ‘I’ll put him over here in his crib, and I’ll write myself a tune.’

Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues

Written and first recorded (as a demo) by Danny O’Keefe (1967, released 1972).
First released by The Bards (1968).
Also recorded by Danny O’Keefe (1971), Elvis Presley (1973).
Hit versions by Danny O’Keefe (US #9/MOR #5/C&W #63 1972), Red Steagall (C&W #41 1979), Leon Russell (C&W #63 1984).

From the wiki: “‘Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues’ was written by Danny O’Keefe (‘The Road‘) and first recorded by him in 1967 for the Jerden record label, owned by Jerry Denton who didn’t release the record but claimed the credits. It was covered by a Seattle band, The Bards, and released in 1968 as the B-side to the song ‘Tunesmith’ on Parrot Records. Luckily for O’Keefe, his contract was bought by Atlantic boss Ahmed Ertegun, who returned him half of the publishing credit without obligation. That’s when Danny re-recorded ‘Goodtime Charlie’ under better conditions for Cotillion Records, in 1971, produced by Ahmed. One year later, the song was recut for the Signpost label under the supervision of Arif Mardin and released on the album O’Keefe. When that version hit, Denton released the original demo version on the semi-bootleg The Seattle Tapes.”

C.C. Rider (See See Rider)

First recorded (as ‘See See Rider Blues’) by Ma Rainey (US #12 1925).
Other popular versions by “Wee” Bea Booze (R&B #1 1943), Chuck Willis (US #12/R&B #1 1957), LaVern Baker (US #34/R&B #9 1963), Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels (US #10 1965), The Animals (US #10/CAN #1/AUS #8 1966).
Also recorded by The Orioles (1952), Elvis Presley (1970 |1973).

From the wiki: “Although the song is generally regarded as being traditional in origin, ‘See See Rider Blues’ is attributed to Ma Rainey & Lena Arant. Rainey’s version became popular during 1925, telling the story of an unfaithful lover, commonly called ‘easy riders’ (‘See See rider, see what you have done’), making a play on the word ‘see’ and the sound of ‘easy’. The song has since become one of the most famous of all Blues songs, with well over 100 versions.

“‘C.C. Rider’ has been recorded by Big Bill Broonzy, Mississippi John Hurt, Lead Belly, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Peggy Lee and many others. In 1943, a version by ‘Wee’ Bea Booze became a #1 hit on the Billboard ‘Harlem Hit Parade,’ precursor of the Rhythm & Blues chart. Some Blues critics consider Booze’s recording to be the definitive version of the song. A doo-wop version was recorded by the Orioles in 1952.

Girls! Girls! Girls!

First recorded by The Coasters (US #96 1961).
Hit versions by Elvis Presley (1962), The Fourmost (UK #33 1968).

From the wiki: “Changing popular tastes and a couple of line-up changes contributed to a lack of hits in the 1960s for The Coasters (‘Yakety Yak’, ‘Poison Ivy’). In 1961, the group barely made it into the Billboard Hot 100 with the Lieber-Stoller-composed ‘Girls! Girls! Girls!’ (not be confused with the Motley Crue hit).

“The song found wider popular when repurposed as the lead song and title for the 1962 Elvis Presley movie Girls! Girls! Girls!, but was not issued as a single. In 1968, the group The Fourmost released the song and their version did chart on the UK Singles Chart.”

Are You Lonesome Tonight?

First released by Charles Hart (1927).
Also recorded by Vaughn DeLeath (1927), Henry Burr (1927), The Carter Family (1936), Al Jolson (1950).
Hit versions by Blue Barron Orchestra (US #19 1950), Jaye P. Morgan (US #65 1959), Elvis Presley (US #1/C&W #22/R&B #3 1960).

From the wiki: “‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’ was written by Lou Handman and Roy Turk in 1926, and first published in 1927. A number of artists first recorded the song in 1927, most notably by Ned Jakobs on May 8 but the first released recording belongs to Charles Hart whose production was released on May 9, 1927. (Jakobs’ version was released on May 17.)

“Vaughn De Leath (also known as ‘The Original Radio Girl’) recorded two versions of the song in 1927, the second as vocalist for The Colonial Club Orchestra. Another version was released later that year by famed tenor Henry Burr.

Heartbreak Hotel

Inspired by “Dreaming Blues” Roy Brown & His Mighty-Mighty Men (1950).
Recorded (as a demo) by Glenn Reeves (1955).
Hit version by Elvis Presley (US #1/C&W #1/UK #2 1956).

From the wiki: “‘Heartbreak Hotel’ was written in 1955 by Mae Boren Axton, a high school teacher with a background in musical promotion, and Jacksonville-based singer–songwriter Tommy Durden. The lyrics were based on a report in The Miami Herald about a man who had destroyed all his identity papers and jumped to his death from a hotel window, leaving a suicide note with the single line, ‘I walk a lonely street.’

“It has been alleged that the songwriting of ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ was not wholly original; that the rolling piano, and song’s basic chord structure, was copied note-for-note from Roy Brown’s 1950 R&B hit ‘Dreaming Blues’. Brown would also become known as the writer and original performer of B.B. King’s sole Top-40 hit, ‘The Thrill is Gone‘.

“Axton and Durden give different accounts of how their song was written: Durden’s account is that he had already written the song and performed it with his band the Swing Billys before he presented it to Axton; Axton’s account is that Durden had only penned a few lines of the song, and asked her to help him finish it.

Mystery Train

Written by Junior Parker and first recorded by Little Junior’s Blue Flames (1953).
Hit version (as a B-side) by Elvis Presley (C&W #10 1955).
Also recorded by Junior Wells (1967), The Band (1973), Neil Young (1983).

From the wiki: “The original recording of ‘Mystery Train’ was written by Herman ‘Junior’ Parker and recorded by him (billed as Little Junior’s Blue Flames) at Sun Studios in 1953. And, of the many groundbreaking songs recorded by Elvis Presley during his storied career, ‘Mystery Train’ has come to be regarded key to understanding his unique place in the Rock and Roll canon, with Sam Phillips, as producer of both the Parker and Presley recordings, serving as mid-wife.

Hound Dog

First recorded by “Big Mama” Thorton (R&B #1 1953).
Also recorded by Jack Turner & His Granger County Gang (1953), Eddie Hazelwood (1953), Betsy Gay (1953), Tommy Duncan & the Miller Brothers (1953), Freddie Bell & The Bell Boys (1955).
Hit version by Elvis Presley (US #1/C&W #1/R&B #1 1956).

From the wiki: “Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller wrote ‘Hound Dog’ as a 12-bar Blues song. It was first recorded in Los Angeles by Willie Mae ‘Big Mama’ Thornton in August 1952, and became her only hit record. Credited with contributing to the evolution of R&B into Rock and Roll, Thornton’s recording of ‘Hound Dog’ is listed as one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll, and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in February 2013.

“In August 1952, R&B bandleader Johnny Otis invited 19-year-old songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller to his home to meet Blues singer Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton, a ‘foul-mouthed three-hundred pound R&B singer’. Leiber recalled: ‘We saw Big Mama and she knocked me cold. She looked like the biggest, baddest, saltiest chick you would ever see … I had to write a song for her that basically said, ‘Go fuck yourself.’ Leiber and Stoller wound up writing a Southern Blues lament, ‘the tale of a woman throwing a gigolo out of her house and her life.’

Crying in the Chapel

First recorded by Darrell Glenn & The Rhythm Riders (US #6/C&W #4 1953).
Other hit versions by The Orioles (US #11/R&B #1 1953), Rex Allen (US #8/C&W #4 1953), Ella Fitzgerald (US #15 1953), Art Lund (US #23 1953), June Valli (US #4 1953), Elvis Presley (recorded 1960 |US #3/MOR #1/UK #1 1965).
Also recorded (as “Selassie Is the Chapel”) by Bob Marley & The Wailers (1968).

From the wiki: “‘Crying in the Chapel’ was written by Artie Glenn for his son, Darrell, to sing. Darrell recorded it while still in high school in 1953, along with Artie’s band the Rhythm Riders, and the record went Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song went on to become one of the most-covered songs of 1953, with additional charted versions recorded by The Orioles (‘C.C. Rider‘), Rex Allen, Ella Fitzgerald, Art Lund, and June Valli. (The Orioles’ recording would be used two decades later in the soundtrack of American Graffiti.)

Any Day Now

First recorded (as “Lover”) by Tommy Hunt (unreleased 1961).
Hit versions by (as “Any Day Now (My Wild Beautiful Bird)”) by Chuck Jackson (US #23/R&B #2 1962), Elvis Presley (B-side US #3 1969), Ronnie Milsap (US #14/C&W #1/CAN #1 1982), Luther Vandross (2001).
Also recorded by Alan Price Set (1965), Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels (1966).

From the wiki: “‘Any Day Now’ was written by Burt Bacharach and Bob Hilliard in 1961. Co-writer Bacharach (‘Alfie‘,’Make It Easy On Yourself‘,’Message to Michael‘) had orchestrated and recorded the song’s backing track a year before presenting it to Chuck Jackson, formerly of the Del Vikings (‘Come Go With Me‘).

“In the interim, producer Luther Dixon made use of the same backing track to record the arrangement of the song with former Flamingos singer Tommy Hunt (‘I Only Have Eyes For You’, The Flamingos; ‘I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself‘), titled ‘Lover’, using a set of completely different, and uncredited, lyrics. Hunt’s 1961 recording, believed to have been recorded within days of his leaving the Flamingos, went unreleased by Stardust Records (backed with another unreleased track, Big Maybelle’s ‘How Do You Feel Now’).

“When it came time to record Jackson, parts of Hunt’s original singing were still audible at the end of Jackson’s hit version.

That’s All Right

Written and first recorded (as “That’s All Right, Mama”) by Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup (1946).
Hit versions by Marty Robbins (C&W #7 1955), Elvis Presley (UK #3 2004).

From the wiki: “The song was written by Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup, and originally recorded by him in Chicago in September 1946. Some of the lyrics are traditional blues verses first recorded by Blind Lemon Jefferson in 1926. It was less successful than some of Crudup’s previous recordings, but was rereleased under the title ‘That’s All Right, Mama’ and issued as RCA’s first Rhythm & Blues record on their new 45 rpm single format, on bright orange vinyl.

Always on My Mind

First recorded by Brenda Lee (C&W #45/CAN #40 1972).
Hit versions by Elvis Presley (C&W #16/UK #9 1972), John Wesley Ryles (C&W #20 1979), Willie Nelson (US #5/C&W #1 1982), Pet Shop Boys (US #4/UK #1/CAN #1 1988).

From the wiki: “‘Always on My Mind’ is an American country music song by Johnny Christopher, Mark James (‘Suspicious Minds‘, ‘Hooked On a Feeling‘) and Wayne Carson, recorded first by Brenda Lee in 1972.

“Wayne Carson says that he wrote the song in 10 minutes at his home in Springfield at his kitchen table and completed the song in studio with the assistance of Johnny Christopher and Mark James. Brenda Lee would be the first singer to record and release a version of ‘Always On My Mind’. Her single, however, would stall at #45 on the US Country Singles chart.

I Just Can’t Help Believing

Co-written and first recorded by Barry Mann (1968).
Also recorded by Bobbby Vee (1969), Leonard Nimoy (1969).
Hit versions by B.J. Thomas (US #9/MOR #1/CAN #18 1970), Elvis Presley (UK #6 1971).

From the wiki: “‘I Just Can’t Help Believing’ is a song written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. The song was most successful after it was recorded by B.J. Thomas and released by him as a single in 1970. It went to #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, and spent one week at #1 on the Easy Listening (adult contemporary) chart. The first recording and single release was by the song’s co-writer, Barry Mann, in 1968 (with no apparent chart success), and as album tracks in 1969 by Bobby Vee, and Leonard Nimoy.

“The song was also recorded by Elvis Presley in 1970 for the documentary Elvis: That’s the Way It Is. The film captures Presley’s Summer Festival in Las Vegas at the International Hotel during August 1970. It is considered one of Elvis’ best live performances as both orchestra and vocals are virtually flawless (even if he does start the performance reading from a lyric sheet). That’s the Way It Is was Presley’s first non-dramatic film since the beginning of his film career in 1956, giving a clear view of Presley’s return to live performances after years of making films. His performance in the film of ‘I Just Can’t Help Believing’ was released as a single in the UK in November 1971, peaking at #6.”


First recorded by Elvis Presley (1962 |UK #9 1976).
Hit version by Terry Stafford (US #2/UK #31 1964).

From the wiki: “‘Suspicion’ is a song written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, one of 25 songs Pomus and Shuman wrote for Elvis Presley.

Little Darlin’

First recorded by The Gladiolas (R&B #11 1957).
Other hit version by The Diamonds (US #2 1957).
Also recorded by Sha Na Na (1969), Elvis Presley (1977).

From the wiki: “‘Little Darlin” was written by Maurice Williams and recorded as a rhythm-and-blues song by Williams’s R&B group, The Gladiolas, and quickly released in January 1957 by Excello Records.The Gladiolas, featuring Williams, were from Lancaster, South Carolina, where they had been together since high school. Their original version of the song peaked at #11 on the R&B charts in April 1957, but barely dented the Billboard Hot 100. (By 1959, Williams’ group became ‘Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs’ (‘Stay’).)

One Night

First recorded by Smiley Lewis (R&B #11 1956).
Also recorded by Elvis Presley (1957, released 1983).
Other hit version by Elvis Presley (US #4/R&B #10/CAN #1/UK #1/SWE #1 1958).

From the wiki: “The song was written by Dave Bartholomew, Earl King (under the pseudonym ‘Pearl King’) and Anita Steiman, and was originally recorded by Smiley Lewis in 1956. His recording charted R&B Top-15 in 1956.

“Elvis Presley recorded a cover of the song with its original lyrics on January 18, 1957, but that version would not be released until 1983. Both Elvis’ manager, Colonel Tom Parker, and Presley’s record company (RCA) had reservations about the suggestive lyrics along with the provocative title, ‘One Night of Sin’. This recording was unheard by the public until its release in 1983 on Elvis: A Legendary Performer Volume 4. In the meantime, Presley did not give up on the song. He continued to play with it during his spare time on the movie set of Loving You, finally rewriting the lyrics that he felt were holding the song captive.

Solitaire (The Carpenters)

Written and first recorded by Neil Sedaka (1972).
Also recorded by Petula Clark (1972), The Searchers (1973).
Hit versions by Andy Williams (MOR #23/UK #4 1974), The Carpenters (US #17/MOR #1/UK #32 1975), Elvis Presley (1976 |B-side C&W #10 1979).

From the wiki: “Neil Sedaka recorded ‘Solitaire’ as the title cut for a UK-only 1972 album recorded at Strawberry Studios, Manchester. Members of the band 10cc – Lol Creme, Kevin Godley and Graham Gouldman – accompanied Sedaka while Eric Stewart, also of 10cc, engineered the session.

“Appearing on 1972 album releases by both Tony Christie and Petula Clark, ‘Solitaire’ had its first evident single release in February 1973 with a recording by The Searchers. However, it was the autumn 1973 single by Andy Williams which would reach #4 UK. In 1974, Sedaka’s original 1972 recording of ‘Solitaire’ was included on his comeback album Sedaka’s Back. Later in 1975, a live-in-concert version recorded by him at the Royal Festival Hall was issued as the B-side of ‘The Queen of 1964’.

Help Me Make It Through the Night

Written and first recorded by Kris Kristofferson (1970).
Hit versions by Sammi Smith (US #8/C&W #1 1971), Joe Simon (US #69/R&B #13 1971), Gladys Knight & The Pips (US #33/R&B #13/UK #11 1972).
Also recorded by Elvis Presley (1971), Joan Baez (1971), Jerry Lee Lewis (1971), Dottie West (1971), Bryan Ferry (1974).

From the wiki: “Kris Kristofferson wrote ‘Help Me Make It’ while sweeping floors and emptying ashtrays at Columbia Records studios in Nashville, and said that he got the inspiration for the song from an Esquire magazine interview with Frank Sinatra. When asked what he believed in, Frank replied, ‘Booze, broads, or a Bible…whatever helps me make it through the night.’

You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me

First performances (as “Io Che Non Vivo (Senza Te)”) by Pino Donaggio (ITA #1 1965) and Jody Miller (1965).
First (English-language) recording by Willeke Alberti (1965).
Hit versions by Dusty Springfield (US #4/UK #1 1966), Elvis Presley (US #11/UK #9 1970), Guys ‘n Dolls (UK #5 1976), The Floaters (US #28 1977).

From the wiki: “‘Io Che Non Vivo (Senza Te)’ was introduced at the 1965 Sanremo Festival by Pino Donaggio – who’d co-written the song with Vito Pallavicini – and his team partner Jody Miller (‘He’s So Fine‘, ‘Never Let Her Go‘): the song took seventh place at San Remo and, as recorded by Donaggio, reached #1 in Italy in March 1965.

“Willeke Alberti was a Dutch singer and actress, starting her career at the early age of eleven in the musical Duel om Barbara, recording her first single in 1958 together with her entertainer father, Willy Alberti. Willeke and her father had a television show between 1965 and 1969. Her singing career from 1970 onwards was less active. In 1994, she returned to the state to representd the Netherlands in the Eurovision Song Contest with the song ‘Waar is de zon?’ (‘Where is the sun?’).

Suspicious Minds

Written and first recorded by Mark James (1968).
Hit versions by Elvis Presley (US #1/MOR #4/UK#2/CAN #1/AUS #1/NZ #2 1969), Dee Dee Warwick (US #80/R&B #24 1971), Waylon Jennings & Jessi Colter (C&W #2 1976), Gareth Gates (UK #1 2002).

From the wiki: “‘Suspicious Minds’ was written by Mark James in 1968, and first recorded and released by James on Scepter Records in 1968. but Scepter did not have the money to promote new artists, and the song did not make the charts. After Mark James’ recording failed commercially, the song was suggested to Elvis Presley by James’ producer, Chips Moman. Even though James’s recording initially had not been commercially successful, Elvis decided, upon reviewing the song, he could turn it into a hit.

“Presley’s ‘Suspicious Minds’ would go on to become a #1 hit in the US and in several other countries around the world, one of the top songs of the year (1969), and one of the most notable hits of Presley’s career.

Burning Love

Originally recorded by Arthur Alexander (1972).
Hit version by Elvis Presley (US #2 1972).

From the wiki: “‘Burning Love’ is a song written by Dennis Linde and originally recorded by Country Soul artist Arthur Alexander, who included it on his 1972 self-titled album. It was soon covered and brought to fame by Elvis Presley, becoming his biggest hit single in the United States since ‘Suspicious Minds’ in 1969 and his last Top 10 hit in the American Hot 100 or pop charts. ‘Burning Love’ was kept from becoming #1 by Chuck Berry’s novelty song ‘My Ding-a-Ling‘.

Good Rockin’ Tonight

Written and first recorded (as “Good Rocking Tonight”) by Roy Brown (R&B #13 1947).
Other hit versions by Wynonie Harris (R&B #1 1948), The Honeydrippers (US #25 1984).
Also recorded by Elvis Presley (1954).

From the wiki: “”Good Rocking Tonight” was originally a jump blues song first recorded and released in 1947 by its writer, Roy Brown, and has been covered by many other recording artists.

“The song anticipated elements of rock and roll music (it includes the memorable refrain, ‘Well I heard the news, there’s good rocking tonight!’ . Brown had first offered his song to Wynonie Harris, who turned it down. He then approached Cecil Gant later that night who, after hearing Brown sing it to him, made a 2 a.m. phone call to Jules Braun, the president of DeLuxe Records. Brown sang his song over the phone for Braun who then asked Brown to sing it a second time. Braun then told Gant, ‘Give him fifty dollars and don’t let him out of your sight.’

“Five weeks later, Brown recorded the song for DeLuxe Records. Only after Brown’s record had gained traction in New Orleans did Harris change his mind and decide to cover it. Harris’s version was even more energetic than Brown’s original version, featuring black gospel style hand-clapping. This may have contributed to the composition’s greater success on the national R&B chart. Brown’s original recording hit #13 of the Billboard R&B chart while Harris’ record became a #1 R&B hit and remained on the chart for half a year.

Bossa Nova Baby

First recorded by Tippie & the Clovers (1962).
Hit version by Elvis Presley (US #8/R&B #20/UK #13 1963).

From the wiki: “‘Bossa Nova Baby’ was written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller (‘Kansas City’, ‘Hound Dog‘, ‘Ruby Baby‘, ‘Jailhouse Rock’). Even though the song would go on to become a huge promotional hit for the Elvis Presley movie, Fun in Acapulco, its origin had nothing to do with ‘fun’ or with ‘Acapulco’. It was initially given by Leiber-Stoller to The Clovers, who had had past success (‘Love Potion No. 9’) with the songwriters, to record.

Blue Moon

Based on “The Bad in Every Man” by Shirley Ross (1934).
First recorded by Ted Fio Rito & His Orchestra (US #2 1934).
Other hit versions by Glen Gray & The Casa Loma Orchestra (US #1 1934), Connee Boswell (US #1 1935), Billy Eckstine (US #21 1949), Mel Tormé (US #20 1949), The Marcels (US #1/R&B #1/UK #1 1961).
Also recorded by Coleman Hawkins with the Michel Warlop Orchestra (1935), Elvis Presley (1954), Sam Cooke (1959).

From the wiki: “The melody to ‘Blue Moon’ goes back further than the first recorded version by Ted Fio Rito & His Orchestra. Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart were contracted to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in May 1933. They were soon commissioned to write the songs for Hollywood Party. ‘Prayer (Oh Lord, make me a movie star)’ was written for the movie but never recorded.

“Hart wrote new lyrics for the melody to create a title song for the 1934 film Manhattan Melodrama, but it was cut from the film before release. (Manhattan Melodrama wasn’t so much famous for having left what would become ‘Blue Moon’ on the edit room floor but for being the film John Dillinger went to see in the Chicago movie theater where he was gunned down by police bullets at the exit.) Rodgers still liked the melody so Hart wrote a third lyric, ‘The Bad in Every Man,’ which was sung by Shirley Ross. The song, which was also released as sheet music, was not a hit.

“Jack Robbins, the head of MGM studio’s publishing company, decided that the tune was suited to commercial release but needed more romantic lyrics and a punchier title. Hart was initially reluctant to write yet another lyric but was persuaded and the result – the FOURTH use of the melody – was ‘Blue moon/you saw me standing alone/without a dream in my heart/without a love of my own’.”