DEAR JERRY: In several past columns you have surprised me with details of some famous Rock Era hits recorded by someone usually an unknown artist earlier than the popular version by the singer we know and associate with it.
Your coverage of Little Peggy March's “I Will Follow Him,” previously issued without success by Petula Clark, is one example that comes to mind.
Can you devote some more space to the fascinating discovery of other unknown originals?
Paul Morganstern, Beloit, Wisc.
DEAR PAUL: Sounds like a fun and fact-filled topic, so let's do it.
For the sake of general familiarity, we'll stick with obscure original singles of songs that later made the nation's Top 10.
Each title, artist, and chart date is followed by details of the original single. They are listed alphabetically:
“All I Ever Need Is You” (Sonny & Cher, October 1971). Though the earliest recording is by Ray Charles, for his “Volcanic Action of My Soul” LP (ABC-726, March 1971), the first single is by Ray Sanders (United Artists 50827). Sanders' C&W rendition (September 1971) hit the streets just three weeks ahead of Sonny & Cher's.
“All Shook Up” (Elvis Presley, April 1957). Otis Blackwell wrote this tune in 1956, and David Hill (with Ray Ellis and His Orchestra) released the single in January '57 titled “I'm All Shook Up” (Aladdin 3359).
“Drift Away” (Dobie Gray, February 1973). Previously released in October 1972 by John Kurtz (ABC 11341).
“First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” (Roberta Flack, February 1972). Ewan MacColl wrote this gem in 1962 for his wife, Peggy Seeger, but it appeared only on an album. In March of 1969, international superstar Nana Mouskouri came out with a single (Fontana 1641).
“Got My Mind Set on You” (George Harrison, October 1987). This is the only one of George's hits not written by him. The original is by James Ray (with Hutch Davie Orchestra & Chorus) (Dynamic Sound 503), issued in November 1962.
“I'm Gonna Be Strong” (Gene Pitney, October 1964). First issued by Frankie Laine (with Jack Nitzsche and His Orchestra) in September '63 (Columbia 42843). This disc is backed with “And Doesn't She Roll.” Just one month later, they reissued Laine's “I'm Gonna Be Strong,” but with “Take Her” as the flip side.
“Lover Please” (Clyde McPhatter, March 1962). Written by Billy Swan in 1961 and first issued that year by the Rhythm Steppers, featuring lead vocalist Jim Boyer (Louis 1003).
“One Less Bell to Answer” (Fifth Dimension, October 1970). The original of this Burt Bacharach-Hal David ballad is a July '67 release by Keely Smith (Atlantic 2429), then no longer performing with ex-husband Louis Prima.
“Rock Around the Clock” (Bill Haley and the Comets, May 1954). One of Rock music's anthems first came out in March '54 by Sonny Dae and His Knights (Arcade 123). Their version is much different than Haley's.
“Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss)” (Betty Everett, February 1964). The original, simply titled “It's in His Kiss,” is by Merry Clayton (with Jack Nitzsche and His Orchestra) (Capitol 4984, July 1963).
“Tainted Love” (Soft Cell, January 1982). A much older tune than most realize. First released in May 1965 by Gloria Jones (with Lincoln Mayorga and Orchestra) (Champion 14003).
“Teen-Age Crush” (Tommy Sands, February 1957). Originally by Rita Robbins in August 1956, and titled “Teenage Crush” (RCA Victor 47-6612).
“That's Life” (Frank Sinatra, November 1966). First with a record on this tune is Marian Montgomery (with Jack Marshall's Music) (Capitol 5231), issued in July '64.
“Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” (Casinos, January 1967). This great John D. Loudermilk composition has been recorded hundreds of times, though none earlier than Don Cherry (with Milton Delug and Orchestra) (Verve 10270), in February 1962.
And finally, Paul, here's one just for you:
“Tall Paul” (Annette, December 1958). Released about six months earlier by Judy Harriet (Surf 5023).
There are of course countless others, but this 15-count batch provides some excellent examples of obscure originals.
IZ ZAT SO? More often than not, the time between the release of a little known original and the hit version ranges from a few weeks to a couple of years.
One remarkable exception is “I'm Henry VIII, I Am,” a No. 1 hit in the summer of 1965 for Herman's Hermits.
The original single, a 78 rpm of course, came out in 1911 in the UK, by Henry Champion (Columbia-Rena 1621) with the title “I'm Henry the VIII.”
Champion's version includes some lyrics not used by the Hermits, but their chorus is nearly identical to that of the 54-year-old forerunner.
Amazingly, neither of Herman's Hermits' two biggest U.S. hits, “I'm Henry VIII, I Am” and “Mrs. Brown You've Got a Lovely Daughter,” were issued as singles in Great Britain though both topped the U.S. charts.