Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Otis Blackwell

Hey Little Girl

Inspired by “Hambone” by The Red Saunders Orchestra with The Hambone Kids (1952).
First released by Thurston Harris (1958).
Hit version by Dee Clark (US #20/R&B #2 August 1959).

From the wiki: “Dee Clark was born Delecta Clark (or Delectus Clark, Jr.), in Blytheville, Arkansas, in 1938 and moved to Chicago in 1941. His mother, Essie Mae Clark, was a Gospel singer and encouraged her son to pursue his love of music.

“Clark made his first recordings in 1952 as one of the original members of The Hambone Kids, who enjoyed some success recording with The Red Saunders Orchestra for the OKeh record label. Clark embarked on a solo career in 1957, initially following the styles of Clyde McPhatter and Little Richard. When Little Richard temporarily abandoned his music career in 1957 to study theology, Clark fulfilled Richard’s remaining live dates and made his first recordings with Richard’s backing band, The Upsetters.

“First released in 1958 by Thurston Harris (‘Little Bitty Pretty One‘, 1957), with no apparent chart impact, ‘Hey Little Girl’ would be reach the Billboard Hot 100 Top-20 in 1959 with Clark’s cover. Written by Otis Blackwell and Bobby Stevenson, ‘Hey Little Girl’ surely felt a bit familiar to Clark. It was loosely based on ‘Hambone’, a song Clark had recorded with the Hambone Kids seven years earlier under his birth name, Delecta Clark. A Jo Stafford-Frankie Laine cover of ‘Hambone’ charted as high as #6 on the Billboard chart. Bo Diddley would also derive his ‘Bo Diddley beat’ from ‘Hambone’.”

(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear

First recorded (as a demo) by Otis Blackwell (1957).
Hit version by Elvis Presley (US #1/C&W #1 1957).

From the wiki: “‘(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear’ was written by Kal Mann and Bernie Lowe, and first recorded as a demo – at Mann and Lowe’s request – by Otis Blackwell (‘Fever‘, ‘Handy Man‘, ‘All Shook Up‘). Written for Elvis Presley’s second feature film, the semi-biographical Loving You, the song was a #1 hit for Presley during the summer of 1957, staying at #1 for 7 weeks, and was the third of four #1 songs Presley would have that year.

All Shook Up

First recorded (as “I’m All Shook Up”) by Dave Hill (1957).
Hit version by Elvis Presley (US #1/C&W #1/R&B #1/UK #1 1957).
Also recorded by Otis Blackwell, writer (1978).

From the wiki: “Otis Blackwell wrote the song at the offices of Shalimar Music in 1956 after Al Stanton, one of Shalimar’s owners, after dropping a bottle of Pepsi-Cola on the floor, challenged his songwriter Blackwell to write a song based on the fizzing soda contents.

Handy Man

First recorded by Sparks of Rhythm (1956, released 1959).
Hit versions by Jimmy Jones (US #2/R&B #3/UK #3 1960), Del Shannon (US #22/UK #36 1964), James Taylor (US #4/MOR #1/UK #54 1977).

From the wiki: “‘Handy Man’ was written by singer Jimmy Jones and songwriter Otis Blackwell, and was first recorded by The Sparks Of Rhythm, a group of which Jones was a member. Signed to Apollo Records, ‘Handy Man’ was one of four songs the group recorded for the label in 1956 but nothing happened with the recordings, and Jones left the group 2-1/2 months after the session. (When ‘Handy Man’ was belatedly released in 1959, the Sparks Of Rhythm single [on Apollo 541] credited Andrew Barksdale and Charles Merenstein, who owned Apollo Records at the time, as writers, entirely omitting both Jones and Blackwell.)


Originally recorded by Little Willie John (US #24/R&B #1 1956).
Other hit versions by Peggy Lee (US #8/UK #5 1958), Helen Shapiro (UK #38 1964), The McCoys (US #7/UK #44 1965), Madonna (DANCE #1/UK #6 1993).
Also recorded (as “Fiebre”) by La Lupe (1963), La Lupe (1968).

From the wiki: “The idea for the song was presented to Otis Blackwell (‘All Shook Up‘, ‘Don’t Be Cruel’, ‘Great Balls of Fire’) by an old friend, Eddie Cooley. Blackwell said: ‘Eddie Cooley was a friend of mine from New York and he called me up and said ‘Man, I got an idea for a song called Fever, but I canĀ“t finish it. I had to write it under another name [‘John Davenport’] because, at that time, I was still under contract to Joe Davis.’

“Little Willie John reportedly disliked the song, but was persuaded to record it on March 1, 1956. His version was released in April 1956 and became a double-sided hit along with the top-ten R&B song ‘Letter from My Darling’. ‘Fever’ reached #1 for three weeks on the R&B Best Sellers chart. It also made the pop charts, peaking at #24 on the Billboard chart.