Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Will the Circle be Unbroken?

Early recording by The Silver Leaf Quartet of Norfolk (1930).
Popular versions by The Carter Family (1935), Johnny Cash & June Carter (1968), Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (1972).

From the wiki: “‘Will the Circle Be Unbroken?’ is a popular Christian hymn written in 1907 by Ada R. Habershon with music by Charles H. Gabriel. The song is often now recorded unattributed and, because of its age, has lapsed into the public domain. One of the earliest recordings of the song was made by The Silver Leaf Quartette of Norfolk (Virginia) in 1930. Already in New York City for an extended performance tour, including 21 straight nights at the Metropolitan Baptist Church, the Quartet’s recording was released and distributed by Okeh Records. In 1935, A.P. Carter adapted the original hymn and, with The Carter Family, recorded the song as ‘Can the Circle be Unbroken (By and By)?’. That version (often using the original ‘Will the Circle’ title) has been covered by a large number of artists. Its refrain has also been incorporated into the Carl Perkins song ‘Daddy Sang Bass’ and the Atlanta song ‘Sweet Country Music’.

“In the early 1970s, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band next sought to solidify its reputation as a country band, traveling to Nashville, Tennessee and recording the triple album, Will the Circle be Unbroken, with Nashville stalwarts Roy Acuff, Earl Scruggs, and Jimmy Martin, Country pioneer Mother Maybelle Carter, Folk-Blues guitarist Doc Watson, and others. The title is from the song, ‘Can the Circle Be Unbroken (By and By)’, as adapted by Maybelle’s brother-in-law, A. P. Carter, and reflects the album’s theme of trying to tie together two generations of musicians: long-haired boys from California and older veterans of the middle American establishment.”

The Carter Family, “Can the Circle be Unbroken?” (1935):

Johnny Cash & June Carter, “Will the Circle be Unbroken?” live performance (1968):

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with Mother Maybelle Carter, “Will the Circle be Unbroken?” (1972):

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