Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Tom Jones

Detroit City

First recorded (as “I Wanna Go Home”) by Billy Grammar (C&W #18 1962).
Other hit versions by Bobby Bare (US #16/C&W #4/MOR #4 1963), Tom Jones (US #27/UK #8/IRE #4 1967), Dean Martin (US #101/MOR #36/CAN #96 1970).
Also recorded by Arthur Alexander (1965), co-writer Mel Tillis (1968), George Jones (2005).

From the wiki: “‘Detroit City’, a ‘citybilly’ lament about the struggles and loneliness of a rural Southerner migrating north to industrial Detroit, was written by Danny Dill and Mel Tillis. It was first offered to singer George Jones, who turned it down (but who would later record it in 2005 for his album Hits I Missed … and One I Didn’t), and so ‘Detroit City’ was first recorded and made famous (as ‘I Wanna Go Home’) by Billy Grammer in 1962.

“In 1963, country singer Bobby Bare covered the song, releasing it as ‘Detroit City’, scoring a Top-5 hit on both the Country and MOR music charts, and making it the title track from Bare’s debut album ‘Detroit City’ and Other Hits. It would win for Bare a Grammy award for the Best Country & Western Recording in 1963.

Love Me Tonight

First performed (as “Alla Fine Della Strada”) by Junior Magli (1969) & The Casuals (1969) @ the Sanremo Music Festival 1969.
Recorded (as “Love Me Tonight”) by The Casuals (1969).
Hit version by Tom Jones (US #13/MOR #2/UK #9/CAN #4/IRE #7/BEL #2 1969).

[Above: Junior Magli’s performance at the 1969 Sanremo Music Festival]

[Above: The Casuals’ performance at the 1969 Sanremo Music Festival]

From the wiki: “Junior Magli made ​​his debut in the early 1960s, performing in various Italian clubs and competitions and publishing some 45 songs under his real name, Luigi Pazzaglini, before adopting the stage name ‘Junior Magli’. In 1968, Magli recorded a cover of ‘Delilah’ (the 1968 Tom Jones hit), with which he participated in the 1968 International Music Fair in Venice.

“In 1969, Magli entered the Festival of Sanremo and, in conjunction with the expatriate UK band the Casuals, premiered ‘Alla Fine Della Strada’. (According to the competition rules, every song entry was performed in a double performance by a couple of singers or groups.) But, neither Magli or The Casuals made the competition short-list.


First recorded by P.J. Proby (1967, released 2008).
Hit versions by Tom Jones (US #15/MOR #8/CAN #2/UK #2/IRE #1/GER #1 1968), The Sensational Alex Harvey Band (UK #7 1975).

From the wiki: “‘Delilah’ was written by Barry Mason and Sylvan Whittingham, to the music by Les Reed, who also contributed the title and theme of the song (a ‘murder ballad’), and earned Reed and Mason the 1968 Ivor Novello award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically. It was first recorded by P.J. Proby in 1967, for his album Believe It Or Not, in sessions produced by co-writer Reed.

“Proby hated the song thinking it sounded like a German bierkeller [‘beer cellar’ song] and refused its release. (Proby’s original version remained unreleased for the next 40 years until its eventual release in 2008 on the compilation album P.J. Proby: The Best of The EMI Years.) Reed knew it was a hit-in-waiting and offered the song to Tom Jones. Reed was also the musical director on Tom`s cover version which explains why both the Proby and Jones arrangements sound identical.

Help Yourself

First performed (as “Gli occhi miei”) by Wilma Goich (1968), Dino (1968).
First recorded (as “Gli occhi miei”) by Riccardo del Turco (1968).
Hit version by Tom Jones (US #35/UK #5/AUS #1/IRE #1/GER #1 1968).

[Wilma Goich, “Gli occhi miei” San Remo Festival performance (1968)]

[Dino, “Gli occhi miei” San Remo Festival performance (1968)]

From the wiki: “‘Help Yourself’ is a reworked English-language version of the Italian song ‘Gli Occhi Miei’, written by Carlo Donida with lyrics by Mogol and originally performed by both Dino (Eugenio Zambelli) and Wilma Goich in separate performances at the 1968 San Remo song festival, and was first commercially recorded by Riccardo del Turdo in 1968.

“Jack Fishman wrote the English lyrics, which bear no relation to the original Italian, and the song was retitled ‘Help Yourself’. Recorded by Tom Jones, it became one of his best-known hits and reached the Top 5 in the UK in its original run. ‘Help Yourself’ topped the charts in Ireland, Germany and Australia. The American single peaked at #35 on the Billboard Hot 100.”


First recorded by The Percy Faith Orchestra (US #63 1957).
Other hit versions by Roger Williams (US #22 1957), Tony Bennett (UK #38 1961), The Angels (US #14 1961), The Vogues (US #27/MOR #5 1968), Tom Jones (UK #2 1971).

From the wiki: “Since there are many songs with ‘Till’ in the title, let it be clear that this is the one that starts: ‘Till the moon deserts the sky’, with music by Charles Danvers and English lyrics by Carl Sigman, and adapted from the French song ‘Prière Sans Espoir’ recorded in 1956. The Percy Faith Orchestra (with chorus) charted first, in April 1957. Later the same year, Roger Williams released a similarly mostly-instrumental recording that reached into the US Top 40. In 1961, Shirley Bassey and Tony Bennett each recorded all-vocal covers of ‘Till’, with Bennett’s version reaching #38 on the UK Single chart. Girl-group The Angels originated in New Jersey as The Starlets. After a failed attempt at record deal, producer Gerry Granahan (‘Ne-Ne Na-Na Na-Na Nu-Nu‘) heard some hit potential with a song The Starlets had performed for him in their audition, ‘Till’. ‘Till’ became the group’s first single under their new name, The Angels, and also their first hit (US #14) released by Granahan’s Caprice label in 1961.

She’s a Lady

Written and first recorded by Paul Anka (1970).
Hit version by Tom Jones (US #2/R&B #42/UK #13 1971).
Also recorded by Paul Anka & Tom Jones (2013).

From the wiki: “‘She’s a Lady’ was written by Paul Anka, and was first on his album Paul Anka ’70s.

“‘She’s a Lady’ was most-famously performed by Tom Jones, becoming his highest-charting single to date in the US. The song was re-released in 2013 on Paul Anka’s Duets CD with a new recording featuring both Anka and Tom Jones.”

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.

Without Love (There is Nothing)

First recorded by Clyde McPhatter (US #19/R&B #6 1957).
Hit version by Tom Jones (US #5/MOR #1/CAN #1 1969).

From the wiki: “‘Without Love (There is Nothing)’ is a song written by Danny Small and originally recorded by Clyde McPhatter (‘A Lover’s Question’) in 1957. Tom Jones recorded his popular version in 1969, reaching the Top 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1970.”

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).