DEAR JERRY: While reading your recent column about the early Beatles records in the U.S., a question popped into my mind.
Regarding their second U.S. single, you state: On July 6, “From Me to You” even put the Beatles on a national chart for the first time, as the disc debuted at No. 86 on the Cash Box survey. Also at No. 86 that week, in a tie for the position, is Del Shannon's cover version of “From Me to You.”
Unless someone in this country covered either side of their first American single, “Please, Please Me” backed with “Ask Me Why,” that would make Del Shannon the first to cover a Beatles song.
Which is it?
Also, I know neither Elvis nor the Beatles ever made a cover record, but their music has been covered dozens of times by others.
Who is the first to cover an Elvis hit?
Luann D'Augstino, Cadiz, Ky.
DEAR LUANN: Since we know of no U.S. cover of either “Please, Please Me” or “Ask Me Why,” that gives Del Shannon the distinction of being America's first to cover the Beatles.
As for the Elvis situation, it is sometimes written that Marty Robbins covered “That's All Right,” but that is not true. Marty recorded it but didn't cover it.
“That's All Right,” Presley's first single ever (Sun 209), hit the streets in July 1954, whereas Marty's version (Columbia 21351) didn't come out until February of '55. Anything issued that long after the original has run its course is not considered a cover record.
Also not in the cover category are ghost records, answer records, and parodies even if they have the same title as the original (i.e., “Heartbreak Hotel” by Stan Freberg).
For those unfamiliar with the term, ghost records are low-cost singles (usually 29-cents) with versions of hit songs by mostly unknowns who attempt to copy the sound and style of the hit.
Which leaves us with “Heartbreak Hotel,” by the Cadets (Modern 985) as the earliest cover of an Elvis tune.
Presley's single came out in late January and was already in the Top 20 when the Modern record was issued.
What with the difference in time between the two, the Cadets “Heartbreak Hotel” being merely the B-side of “Church Bells May Ring,” and that it is a dreadful version, tells us it was never intended to compete with the Elvis smash.
As it turned out, neither side got anyone's attention. The Willows (original) and the Diamonds (cover) had the big hits of “Church Bells May Ring.” Nevertheless, Modern 985 meets the requirements of a cover record.
In October '56, “Love Me Tender,” by Henri Rene with His Orchestra and Chorus (RCA Victor 6728 came out just a couple of weeks after Elvis' version (RCA Victor 6643).
But rather than competition, RCA regarded Rene's lush, cinematic version as a companion to Elvis' “Love Me Tender,” as well as his film of the same title.
As with the Cadets “Heartbreak Hotel,” the Henri Rene issue is a borderline cover record, though neither offered any competition whatsoever to the original.
DEAR JERRY: Around 1986, a C&W station here played a great song by Waylon Jennings and John Anderson.
I don't recall much about it, other than Waylon's fabulous guitar work.
What I am sure about is they only played it for a few days, then they dropped it altogether.
Is this song out there somewhere?
Steve Dolezar, Milwaukee
DEAR STEVE: Oh it's out there alright, and quite easy to come by.
It is “Somewhere Between Ragged and Right,” and considering it became a Top 25 hit in January 1988 (a bit later than you recall) it is odd your local station would have dropped it so quickly from their rotation.
Besides the original single (MCA 53226), which primarily credits John Anderson, it is also a bonus track on Waylon's two-disc “Complete MCA Recordings” (MCA 602498605813).
You can even download it from Napster.com.
Silly as it seems, I believe the title to be “Three Blind Mice.”
Am I merely on a wild goose chase?
Gregory Jensen, Lakeland, Fla.
DEAR GREGORY: More like a blind mouse chase.
The title is “Hickory, Dick and Doc” (Liberty 55700), which involves a girl being chased by three guys: a small-town hick (Hickory), a friend (Dick), and the singer (Doc).
In the lyrics, the girl views them as “just like three blind mice,” a line you recall well.
Perhaps love is indeed blind.
IZ ZAT SO? Mention above of Elvis Presley's first record makes this a good time to report a recent and impressive sale of this 1954 single (Sun 209).
In an eBay auction earlier this month, a copy with undeniable provenance, described as mint and unplayed, attracted 34 bids.
Though offers began at just $5.50, by closing time bids reached an amazing $11,400!