Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Three Dog Night

Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues)

First recorded by Sylvester & the Hot Band (1973).
Hit version by Three Dog Night (US #33 1974).
Also recorded by Frankie Miller (1974), Maria Muldaur (1974), B.J. Thomas (1974), Little Feat (1974, released 2000), Allen Toussaint (1976), Levon Helm (1978).

From the wiki: “‘Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues)’ was written by Allen Toussaint, and was first recorded in 1973 by Sylvester & the Hot Band for the album Bazaar. In 1974, Toussaint would also produced an album by Frankie Miller, High Life, that included ‘Play Something Sweet’ among six other Toussaint-penned songs featured.

“It was Miller’s version, one among several other productions recorded in 1974 (including covers by B.J. Thomas, and by Maria Muldaur), that attracted the immediate interest of Three Dog Night whose 1974 arrangement would became the only release of ‘Play Something Sweet’ to crack the US Top-40.

“Another recording produced in 1974 was by Little Feat, during the course of the Feats Don’t Fail Me Now recording sessions. This version, however, would not be released until 2000 when it was included in the retrospective compilation Hotcakes & Outtakes: 30 Years of Little Feat.

“Toussaint’s own version of his song made its first appeared on a compilation titled Live at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival 1976. Levon Helm would record ‘Play Something Sweet’ for his second album independent of The Band, Levon Helm, in 1978.”

The Show Must Go On

Co-written and first recorded by Leo Sayer (UK #2/IRE #3 1973).
Other hit version by Three Dog Night (US #4 1974).

From the wiki: “‘The Show Must Go On’ was written by Leo Sayer and David Courtney and first recorded by Sayer in 1973, becoming his first hit recording and was included on Sayer’s debut album Silverbird. The song uses a circus theme as a metaphor for dealing with the difficulties and wrong choices of life. Early in Sayer’s career, he performed it dressed and made up as a pierrot clown.

“The song was covered by Three Dog Night, whose version was released in 1974, and became the group’s final Top 10 US recording. In Sayer’s version, the last line of the chorus is ‘I won’t let the show go on’. Three Dog Night sang it as ‘I must let the show go on’, which Sayer was reportedly not happy about.”


First recorded by Larry Williams & Johnny Watson with The Kaleidescope (1967).
Bubblin’-Under Hit version by Three Dog Night (US #116 1968).

From the wiki: “The Kaleidoscope (featuring Chris Darrow, Earl Palmer and future Jackson Browne/Warren Zevon sideman David Lindley). Kaleidoscope returned briefly for studio work to back Larry Williams and Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson on their 1967 single ‘Nobody’. (The group would later back Leonard Cohen on ‘So Long Marianne’ and ‘Teachers’ on Cohen’s first album.) ‘Nobody’ would be covered in 1968 by Three Dog Night and released as that group’s very first single.

“Larry Williams was making comeback in the mid-1960s while, at the same time, luring Little Richard back into secular music. Williams produced two Little Richard albums for Okeh Records in 1966 and 1967, returning Little Richard to the Billboard album chart for the first time in ten years. Williams also acted as the music director for the Little Richard’s live performances at the Okeh Club. Bookings for Little Richard during this period skyrocketed. Williams also recorded and released material of his own and with Watson, with some moderate chart success.


Co-written and first recorded by Garry Bonner (1969).
Also recorded by Spice (1969, released 1974).
Hit version by Three Dog Night (US #15/CAN #8 1970).

From the wiki: “‘Celebrate’ was cowritten by Garry Bonner with Alan Gordon, who also cowrote The Turtles’ ‘Happy Together’ and ‘She’d Rather Be With Me’, and first recorded by Bonner in 1969. It was covered in 1969 by Spice, the immediate precursor to the English band Uriah Heep, but went unreleased until 1994’s The Lansdowne Tapes compilation. In 1970, Three Dog Night recorded ‘Celebrate’ for their Suitable for Framing, and released it as the album’s third single.”

Joy to the World

Written and first recorded by Hoyt Axton (1971).
Hit version by Three Dog Night (US #1 1971).

From the wiki: “‘Joy to the World’ was originally intended for use in The Happy Song, an animated film for children. The film never materialized. The story is told that while recording material for his first album with Capitol Records, the song’s writer, Hoyt Axton, had to convince the label to let him record ‘Joy to the World’. He had the tune, he said, but not all of the lyrics. Axton was encouraged by the engineers to sing nonsensical lyrics so that an arrangement could be built around the tune and he could later record ‘real’ lyrics.

“Axton recalls ”Jeremiah’ was an expedient of the time. I’d had the chorus for three months [but nothing else]. I took a drink of wine, leaned on the speaker, and said ‘Jeremiah was a bullfrog.’ It was meaningless. It was a temporary lyric.’ (A member of Three Dog Night said he’d heard that the original lyric to the song was ‘Jeremiah was a prophet’ but ‘no one liked that.’)


First recorded by Argent (1970).
Hit version by Three Dog Night (US #7/CAN #4/AUS #72 1971).

From the wiki: “‘Liar’ wasg written by Russ Ballard (‘Winning‘, ‘Since You Been Gone‘) of Argent from their 1970 self-titled debut album. It was released as the band’s first single, but did not chart.

“A version by Three Dog Night was released the following year and featured on the band’s album, Naturally.”

Sure As I’m Sittin’ Here

Written and first recorded by John Hiatt (1974).
Hit version by Three Dog Night (US #16/CAN #18 1974).

From the wiki: “John Hiatt was working as a songwriter for Tree International, a record label in Nashville, when his song ‘Sure As I’m Sittin’ Here’ was covered in 1974 by Three Dog Night. The song became a Top 40 hit, earning Hiatt a recording contract with Epic Records. Since then Hiatt has released twenty-one studio albums, two compilation albums and one live album, and his songs have been covered by a variety of artists in multiple genres, including Joe Cocker (‘Have a Little Faith in Me‘), Bonnie Raitt (‘Thing Called Love’), The Jeff Healy Band (‘Angel Eyes’), Bob Dylan, The Searchers, Willy DeVille, Ry Cooder, Linda Ronstadt, Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Joe Bonamassa, Willie Nelson, Buddy Guy, Jimmy Buffett, Nick Lowe, Chaka Khan, and many others.

Pieces of April

Written and first recorded by Dave Loggins (1971).
Hit versions by Three Dog Night (US #19/MOR #6/CAN #13 1972), Dave Loggins (MOR #22 1979).

From the wiki: “‘Pieces of April’ was written by Dave Loggins (‘Please Come to Boston’, 1974) and was first recorded by him in 1971 for the album Personal Belongings, released in February 1972. The song was recorded later in 1972 by Three Dog Night and released as a promotional single in November 1972 for the album Seven Separate Fools, peaking at #19 on the Billboard Hot 100.

“Loggins would later re-record ‘Pieces of April’ in 1979, with a more lush arrangement, for the album David Loggins, with his single charting near the Top-20 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary music chart.”

Try a Little Tenderness

First recorded by Ray Noble Orchestra (1932).
Hit versions by Ruth Etting (US #16 1933), Ted Lewis & His Band (US #6 1933), Aretha Franklin (US #100 1962), Otis Redding (US #25/R&B #4/UK #26 1966), Three Dog Night (US #29 1969).
Also recorded by Little Miss Cornshucks (1951), Sam Cooke (1964), Tom Jones (1969).
Also performed by The Commitments (1991), Paul Giamatti & Andre Braugher (2000).

From the wiki: “‘Try a Little Tenderness’ is a song written by Jimmy Campbell and Reg Connelly, a British songwriting team who often collaborated with a third composer – in this case the American, Harry Woods. The song was first recorded on December 8, 1932 by the Ray Noble Orchestra (with vocals by Val Rosing) followed in early 1933 by Ruth Etting’s first charting version. The song quickly became a standard. Subsequent productions were recorded by Frank Sinatra, Mel Tormé, Frankie Laine, Earl Grant, Nina Simone, Etta James and others – including a discovery by Atlantic Records founder, Ahmet Ertegun: Little Miss Cornshucks.

Easy to be Hard

First recorded by the Original Off-Broadway Cast of Hair (1967).
Also recorded by the Original Broadway Cast of Hair (1968), Jennifer Warnes (US #128 1969).
Hit version by Three Dog Night (US #4/CAN #2 1969).

From the wiki: “‘Easy to Be Hard’ was written by Galt MacDermot, James Rado, and Gerome Ragni, and was first performed in the original Off-Broadway stage production of Hair in 1967.

“Beginning in 1968, Jennifer Warnes (performing as ‘Jennifer Warren’) portrayed the female lead in the Los Angeles production of Hair. Coincidental to that, she recorded a version of ‘Easy to be Hard’ in 1969 for release (as ‘Jennifer’) in the UK in June 1969 (along with another song property from Hair, ‘Let the Sunshine In’). The American label Parrot licensed the recording for distribution in the US on the album, See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Heal Me, released in the spring of 1969. The single failed to chart in the UK but did ‘bubble under’ the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #128.

“Three Dog Night also released ‘Easy to be Hard’ in 1969, in August, with their recording peaking at #4 – their fourth single, and highest-charting song until ‘Mama Told Me (Not to Come)‘ hit #1 in 1970.”

Black and White

First recorded by Pete Seeger (1956).
Also recorded by Sammy Davis Jr. (1957), Earl Robinson (1957), The (UK) Spinners (1969), Maytones (1970).
Hit versions by Greyhound (UK #6/NETH #2 1971), Three Dog Night (US #1/CAN #1/AST #8/GER #24 1972).

From the wiki: “‘Black and White’ was written in 1954 by David I. Arkin (father of actor Alan Arkin) and Earl Robinson, inspired by the United States Supreme Court decision that year of Brown v. Board of Education that outlawed racial segregation in US public schools.

“‘Black and White’ was first recorded by Pete Seeger in 1956 and released on his album Love Songs for Friends and Foes, followed by Sammy Davis Jr. in 1957 (for a limited-edition Anti-Defamation League EP) and also a version recorded that year, too, by co-writer Robinson. The original folk song lyrics (not used in either Greyhound’s or Three Dog Night’s versions) include the line ‘Their robes were black, their heads were white’, referring to the US Supreme Court justices involved in the 1954 decision.

An Old Fashioned Love Song

Written and first recorded by Paul Williams (1971).
Hit version by Three Dog Night (US #4/MOR #1/CAN #2 1971).

From the wiki: “‘An Old Fashioned Love Song’ was written by the noted songwriter Paul Williams, who originally intended the song for The Carpenters, and it was first recorded by Williams for his album Just an Old Fashioned Love Song.

“This was the first song Williams had written specifically for the Carpenters. But, Richard Carpenter rejected it and so Williams then offered the song to Three Dog Night. The Carpenters never recorded the song, but did perform it live on television with Carol Burnett a few months later on The Carol Burnett Show.”


Written and first recorded by Nilsson (1967).
Also recorded by Al Kooper (1968).
Hit versions by Three Dog Night (US #5/CAN #4 1969), Johnny Farnham (AUS #1 1969).

From the wiki: “‘One’ was written by Harry Nilsson and recorded in 1967. It appeared initially on Nilsson’s third album, Aerial Ballet, released in 1968. Nilsson wrote the song after calling someone and getting a busy signal. He stayed on the line listening to the ‘beep, beep, beep, beep…’ tone, writing the song. The busy signal was expressed musically to become the opening notes of the song.


First single release by B.W. Stevenson (US #66/SA #8 1973).
Other hit version by Three Dog Night (US #3/CAN #4/SA #13 1973).

From the wiki: “‘Shambala’ was written by Daniel Moore and made famous by two almost-simultaneous releases in 1973: the lesser-known but first-released version by Moore’s sometime-collaborator, Texas singer-songwriter B.W. Stevenson (‘My Maria’), and the better-known but slightly later-released version by Three Dog Night. While the Three Dog Night arrangement was the first to be recorded, in December 1972, it was released on May 19, 1973, one-week after Stevenson’s February 1973 recording.

Mama Told Me Not to Come

Originally recorded by Eric Burdon (1966).
Also recorded by Randy Newman (1970).
Hit versions (titled “Mama Told Me (Not to Come)”) by Three Dog Night (US #1 1970), Tom Jones & Stereophonics (UK #4 2000).

From the wiki: “‘Mama Told Me (Not to Come)’ is a song by Randy Newman written for Eric Burdon’s first solo album in 1966. A scheduled single-release of September 1966 was withdrawn, but the song was eventually included on the US-only 1967 album Eric Is Here (billed as ‘Eric Burdon & The Animals’ although the actual band with Burdon is the Horace Ott Orchestra).

Eli’s Comin’

Written and first recorded by Laura Nyro (1967).
Hit version by Three Dog Night (US #10/CAN #4 1969).

From the wiki: “‘Eli’s Comin” was written and recorded in 1967 by singer-songwriter and pianist Laura Nyro, and was first released in 1968 on Nyro’s album, Eli and the Thirteenth Confession.

“The song was later recorded – twice – by Three Dog Night in 1969, for their album Suitable for Framing (for which see note on piano outro) and, later the same year, Captured Live at the Forum. The studio version of ‘Eli’s Comin” reached #10 on the Billboard Hot 100.”

Never Been to Spain

Written and first recorded by Hoyt Axton (1971).
Hit versions by Three Dog Night (US #5/MOR #18/CAN #3/AUS #34 1972), Ronnie Sessions (C&W #34 1972).
Also recorded by Elvis Presley (1972).

From the wiki: “‘Never Been to Spain’ was written by Hoyt Axton (‘Joy to the World‘,’No No Song‘), and was first recorded for and released on his 1971 LP Joy to the World. It would later be recorded later that same year by Three Dog Night, with Cory Wells on lead vocal, and was featured on the album, Harmony. Released as the second single from the album (after ‘An Old Fashioned Love Song‘), ‘Never Been to Spain’ peaked at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100, and #18 on the MOR chart in 1972.