Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: John Henry Kurtz

Drift Away

First recorded by John Henry Kurtz (1972).
Hit versions by Dobie Gray (US #5/R&B #42 1973), Narvel Felts (C&W #8 1973), Uncle Cracker & Dobie Gray (US #9/MOR #1 2003).
Also recorded by The Rolling Stones (unreleased 1974).

From the wiki: “‘Drift Away’ was written by Mentor Williams (brother of songwriter Paul Williams) as a lament of the difficulties being a Nashville songwriter. John Henry Kurtz was the first to record ‘Drift Away’, for his own album, Reunion (1972), on which he was backed by some of L.A.’s finest: Skunk Baxter, Kenny Loggins, Michael Omartian, Jim Gordon, and others. Kurtz was a man of many talents: Broadway, movie and TV actor; Civil War collectibles buff (some of which were filmed for Ken Burns’ PBS-TV series, Civil War); voice-over artist (NBC Nightly News, and countless commercials); musician.

“In 1973 the song became Dobie Gray’s biggest hit, peaking at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was the final pop hit for Decca Records in the United States. In the early 1960s Gray had moved to Los Angeles, intending to pursue an acting career while also singing to make money. Born Lawrence Darrow Brown, he recorded for several local labels under the names Leonard Ainsworth, Larry Curtis, and Larry Dennis, before Sonny Bono directed him toward the small independent Stripe Records. They suggested that he record under the name ‘Dobie Gray’, an allusion to the then-popular sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis

“Gray’s first taste of success came in 1963 when his seventh single ‘Look At Me’, on the Cor-Dak label and recorded with Wrecking Crew bassist Carol Kaye, reached #91 on the Billboard Hot 100. Greater success came in early 1965 when his original recording of ‘The ‘In’ Crowd‘ (recorded later that year as an instrumental by Ramsey Lewis). Gray’s record reached #11 on the US R&B chart, and #25 in the UK.