Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Leon Russell

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.”

This Masquerade

Written and first recorded by Leon Russell (B-side US #11/CAN #5 1972).
Also recorded by Helen Reddy (1972).
Hit versions by The Carpenters (B-side US #1/UK #2/CAN #1/AUS #1 1973), George Benson (US #10/R&B #3 1976).

From the wiki: “‘This Masquerade’ was written by Leon Russell (‘A Song for You‘), and first appeared on the B-side of the single ‘Tight Rope’ from Russell’s 1972 hit album Carney. Known mostly as a session musician early in his career, as a solo artist Russell crossed genres to include Rock and Roll, Blues, and Gospel music. As a first call studio musician in Los Angeles, Russell played on many of the most popular songs of the 1960s as a member of the Wrecking Crew, including Glen Campbell’s 1967 hit single ‘Gentle on My Mind‘, where Russell was credited on piano as ‘Russell Bridges’.

This Diamond Ring

First recorded (as a demo) by Jimmy Radcliffe (1964).
Hit released by Sammy Ambrose (US #117 1965)
Other hit version by Gary Lewis & the Playboys (US #1 1965).
Also recorded by Al Kooper (1976).

From the wiki: “‘This Diamond Ring’ was written by Al Kooper (who would later record with Bob Dylan, and found the group Blood, Sweat & Tears), Bob Brass, and Irwin Levine (‘Tie a Yellow Ribbon’, ‘Candida‘) in 1964. The song was first recorded as a demo that year by Jimmy Radcliffe in a session produced by Kooper.

“Sammy Ambrose, a Miami soul singer who had begun his recording career fronting the Afro-Beats, was the first to release a commercial single of ‘This Diamond Ring’, in December 1964. This was quickly followed by the January 1965 release of ‘This Diamond Ring’ by Gary Lewis & the Playboys. Both recordings appeared on Billboard magazine’s ‘Bubbling Under the Hot 100′ chart on January 9, 1965 – Ambrose’s recording at #117 and the Playboys’ recording at #101. But, that one appearance by Ambrose would mark his single’s only chart appearance while the Playboys continued the ascend the Hot 100 all the way to #1, on February 20, 1965, becoming the group’s only #1 single of their career.

“Ambrose’s biggest liability was that he didn’t have the same caché as being the son of a famous comedian (name recognition is everything in show biz) nor could make use off the chutzpah of producer Snuff Garrett, who promised radio disc jockey Murray the K a performance by the Playboys if he could break the Playboys’ record in New York City, and who also got Gary’s famous dad to call Ed Sullivan about booking an appearance on the The Ed Sullivan Show.

“None of the Playboys played their instruments on the hit recording and Lewis’s vocals were heavily supported by Ron Hicklin’s overdubs. The music was performed by members of The Wrecking Crew, including Hal Blaine (drums), Carol Kaye (bass) and Leon Russell (keyboard).

A Song for You

Written and first recorded by Leon Russell (1970).
Hit versions by Andy Williams (MOR #29 1971), The Carpenters (1972), Ray Charles (US #104/MOR #9/R&B #57 1993), Herbie Hancock & Christina Aguilera (US #19 2005).
Also recorded by Donny Hathaway (1971), Dusty Springfield (1972).

From the wiki: “‘A Song for You’ was recorded Leon Russell for his debut album, Leon Russell, originally intending for it to be recorded by Rita Coolidge. It has been called ‘an American classic’ by Elton John (who sang ‘Song for You’ as an intro to a medley of his own songs ‘Blue Eyes’ and ‘I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues’ on his 1986 tour).

“One of the first versions of the song that brought the song broader attention was by Andy Williams, in 1972. The Carpenters’ version, while not released as a single, was the title track to their 1972 hit album A Song for You (#4 on the Billboard Album chart; three Top-10 singles). Dusty Springfield recorded her version of ‘A Song for You’ for possible inclusion on the album See All Her Faces (1972) but the track went unreleased until 1996.

“Ray Charles recorded a poignant version of the song on his 1993 album My World. Released as a single, it reached #4 on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles but still won for him a Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance.”

Gentle On My Mind

Written and first recorded by John Hartford (1967).
Also recorded Tompall & the Glaser Brothers (1967).
Hit version by Glen Campbell (US #62/C&W #30 1967 |US #39/C&W #44/MOR #8 1968).

From the wiki: “‘Gentle On My Mind’ won two 1968 Grammy Awards. Hartford himself won the award for Best Folk Performance. The other award, Best Country & Western Solo Vocal Performance (Male), went to Country music singer Glen Campbell for his hit version of Hartford’s song.

“Hartford reported that he was inspired to write the song after seeing the film Doctor Zhivago when his own memories took over, and that it took about fifteen minutes for him to write down the music and lyrics, and he would record it in-studio on February 2, 1967 and release it on the album Earthwords & Music. Hartford would later re-record ‘Gentle On My Mind’ in 1977 for inclusion on the album All in the Name of Love.

Love of the Common People

First released by The Four Preps (1967).
Also recorded by The Everly Brothers (1967), Waylon Jennings (1967), John Denver (1969), John Hurley, co-writer (1970), Stiff Little Fingers (1982).
Hit versions by The Winstons (US #54 1969), Nicky Thomas (UK #9 1970), Paul Young (US #45/UK #2/IRE #1/NETH #1 1983).

From the wiki: “‘Love of the Common People’ is a Folk ballad composed by John Hurley and Ronnie Wilkins (‘Son of a Preacher Man’, 1968), eventually released by the songwriter himself in 1970 on Hurley’s album John Hurley Sings about People. But, the first recorded and distributed arrangement was released in January 1967 as a promotional single by The Four Preps, in a session arranged and conducted by Leon Russell, with no apparent chart impact.

“The song was quickly covered by both the Everly Brothers and country singer Waylon Jennings in 1967, followed by covers by the soul group The Winstons (1969), John Denver (on his 1969 Rhymes & Reason album), reggae artist Nicky Thomas (1970), punk rockers Stiff Little Fingers in 1982, and English pop singer Paul Young in 1982 (re-released in 1983).