Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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The Wild Side of Life

Inspired by “Thrills That I Can’t Forget” by ‘John Ferguson’ (1925).
Inspired by “I’m Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes” by The Carter Family (1929).
Inspired by “Great Speckled Bird” by Roy Acuff (1936).
First recorded (as “Wild Side of Life”) by Jimmie Heap & The Melody Masters (1951).
Hit versions by Hank Thompson (C&W #1 1952), Burl Ives & Grady Martin & His Slew Foot Five (US #30/C&W #6 1952), Tommy Quickly & The Remo 4 (UK #33 1964), Freddy Fender (C&W #13 1976), Status Quo (UK #9 1976).

From the wiki: “‘The Wild Side of Life’ carries one of the most distinctive melodies of early country music, used in ‘Thrills That I Can’t Forget’ (recorded by Welby Toomey, using the pseudonym ‘John Ferguson’ in 1925), ‘I’m Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes’ (by the Carter Family in 1929), and ‘Great Speckled Bird’ (by Roy Acuff in 1936). That, along with the song’s story of a woman shedding her role as domestic provider to follow the night life, combined to become one of the most famous country songs of the early 1950s when recorded as ‘Wild Side of Life’, first by Jimmie Heap & the Melodie Masters and, then, a #1 hit by Hank Thompson.

“According to Country music historian Bill Malone, ‘Wild Side’ co-writer William Warren was inspired to create the song after his experiences with a young woman he met when he was younger — a honky-tonk angel, as it were — who ‘found the glitter of the gay night life too hard to resist.’

“Jimmy Heap and His Melody Masters first recorded ‘Wild Side’ in 1951, but never had a hit with the song. Hank Thompson did, in 1952. His recording spent 3-1/2 months atop the Billboard Country chart in the spring and early summer of 1952.

“The lyric ‘I didn’t know God made honky tonk angels,’ and the tune’s overall cynical attitude — Kingsbury noted the song ‘… just begged for an answer from a woman’ — inspired ‘It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels‘, which was also based on the same melody. Recorded by Kitty Wells and released later in 1952, that song, too, became a #1 Country hit. (That record’s message was controversial at the time, and was banned by many radio stations, and it was also temporarily banned from the Grand Ole Opry, too. Nonetheless, ‘It Wasn’t God’ became the first single by a female singer to peak at #1 in the eight-year history of the Country music chart.)

“There have been many cover versions of ‘The Wild Side of Life’, several of which became hits in their own right. Burl Ives had a Top 30 pop chart hit with the song concurrent with Thompson’s success, while Freddy Fender reached #13 in 1976 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart with his arrangement. It was also the only single by Tommy Quickly to make the UK Single charts, reaching #33 in 1964. A rock arrangement by the British rock band Status Quo reached the UK Top 10 in 1976, peaking at #9. Quo’s recording featured, instead of Alan Lancaster (who had to go back to his family in Australia), Deep Purple’s bassist Roger Glover, who also produced the song.”

The Carter Family, “I’m Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes” (1929):

Roy Acuff, “Great Speckled Bird” (1936):

Jimmie Heap & The Melody Masters, “Wild Side of Life” (1951):

Hank Thompson, “Wild Side of Life” (1952):

Burl Ives, Grady Martin & His Slew Foot Five, “Wild Side of Life” (1952):

Tommy Quickly & The Remo 4, “Wild Side of Life” (1964):

Freddy Fender, “Wild Side of Life” (1976):

Status Quo, “Wild Side of Life” (1976):