High School Yearbook Photo

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

Friday, April 12, 2013

Don't Judge a Record by its Cover







Covering somebody else's record could be justified
as the sincerest form of flattery. It could also be
seen for what it often was, profiting from somebody
else's work. During the 40s, 50s and 60s many white
artists, groups and bands mined American R&B catalogs,
recorded the songs and turned them into hits while black
artists and their original work languished in obscurity.

Let's have a spin-off!

Listen to the following sets of originals and covers
and let me know which version you like better.



ETTA JAMES - cover


Formerly known as The Royals, Hank Ballard and the
Midnighters recorded the up tempo R&B blues number
"Work With Me Annie" in January of 1954. The single was
was released in February and quickly came under attack
from the FCC for its suggestive lyrics. Efforts to restrict
the spread of typhoid "Annie" and prevent it from poisoning
the minds of white teenagers failed. The Midnighters' record
shot to #1 on the R&B chart and became a million seller.

"Work With Me Annie" - Hank Ballard & 
The Midnighters (spring 1954, highest chart 
position #1 R&B)

Using the same melody, R&B thrush Etta James recorded
an answer song to "Work With Me Annie." Originally called
"Roll With Me Henry," the song was renamed "Wallflower"
to avoid offending the church lady. Etta's version, performed
with her girl group "The Peaches," also featured uncredited
vocal responses from Richard Berry, the man famous for
recording the original version of the rock 'n' roll standard
"Louie Louie." Etta's record also became an R&B chart topper
but was deemed too risque for the pop chart.

"Wallflower (Roll With Me Henry)" - Etta James and 
"The Peaches" featuring Richard Berry (Spring 1955, 
highest chart position #1 R&B)

The "Annie/Henry" song was sanitized for the pop market
by Georgia Gibbs using the safer title "Dance With Me Henry."
Georgia's vanilla version reached the top 5. Responding to
criticism that she enjoyed pop success with tame renditions
of original R&B recordings, Georgia made the valid point that
most artists back in the day had no control over the material
they recorded or the arrangement that was used. In other
words, if the record's lame the label's to blame.

"Dance With Me Henry (Wallflower)" - Georgia Gibbs 
(April 1955, highest chart position #3)


PAT BOONE - cover

FATS DOMINO - original

Fact: 99.99% of the music to which I was exposed at home
during childhood was recorded by white artists and many
of those recordings were covers of black originals. I didn't
know any better. White or whitewashed music is the kind
my parents bought and played. For me, an innocent child,
it was like ingesting a near lethal overdose of vanilla extract.
Here, for instance, is mild mannered crooner Pat Boone
performing a fairly decent cover of Fats Domino's hit
"Ain't it a Shame" aka "Ain't That a Shame," a record
that Pat rode all the way to the top of the pops.

"Ain't That a Shame" - Pat Boone (September 1955, 
highest chart position #1)

Roll over Beethoven and step aside, Mr. Boone.
Fats is in the house to show us how's it's done.

"Ain't it a Shame" - Fats Domino (September 1955, 
highest chart position #10 Pop/#1 R&B)


PAT BOONE - cover


Here's another cautious Caucasian cover by Pat Boone.
This one, a rendition of "Tutti Fruitti," went beyond
boring all the way to downright embarrassing. In all
fairness, Pat is quoted as saying that he didn't want to
record this cover because the song "didn't make sense"
to him. Pat implied that he was basically forced into it
by the producers. I can understand why the song didn't
make sense to Pat. Richard Penniman's original dirty lyrics
had already been cleaned up by the time Richard waxed the
original version and the meaning of the song was lost in
translation. The naughty lyrics "good booty," for example,
had become the nonsensical rhyming words "aw rooty."

"Tutti' Frutti" - Pat Boone (March 1956, 
highest chart position 12)

 (Hey, Pat... I liked you better when you were in a Metal Mood!

The older generation loved Pat Boone's records
because they were nice and safe and clean. To them,
nice and safe and clean was good. Oldsters just
didn't get it. They couldn't grasp the concept that
the rules are reversed in rock 'n' roll. Bad is good.
Kool kids didn't want their music nice and safe and
squeaky clean. They wanted screaming, shouting,
sweating, piano pounding Little Richard.

"Tutti-Frutti" - Little Richard (February 1956, 
highest chart position #17 Pop/#2 R&B)


FATS DOMINO - original


During the 1920s, 30s and 40s many country blues singers
recorded songs about the boll weevil, the notorious beetle
that destroyed cotton crops. "Bo Weevil," recorded by
Fats Domino, seems to have nothing to do with the insect
pest and is instead a fun ditty about a country boy who
worried his mama by running off somewhere. (I'm thinking
Bo was probably hangin' with his buddy Johnny B. Goode.)

"Bo Weevil" - Fats Domino (track on November 1955 
album Carry On Rockin', released on 45 February 1956, 
highest chart position #35 Pop/#5 R&B Mar./Apr. 1956)

Stop the presses and hold the phone! 
History is about to be made here on SDM&M. 
I actually like the white cover version of 
"Bo Weevil" better than Fats Domino's original!
It's a rousing rendition of the song performed by the
versatile and prolific Teresa Brewer, one of the most
popular female vocalists of the 50s. Released as the B side
of her top 10 hit "A Tear Fell," Teresa's "Bo Weevil" charted
in the top 20. My mother adored Teresa Brewer and owned
this 45. I loved it then and it's my Pick to Click today!

"Bo Weevil" - Teresa Brewer (March/April 1956, 
highest chart position #17, B side of "A Tear Fell")

 So you see, Beaver, 

 you should never 

 judge a record 

 by its cover. 

 Woll... yeah, Miss Landers says 
 the same thing about books, 
 and old Gus down at the 
 fire station says the same 
 thing about people. 
 I guess it's true, but when 
 it comes to guys like 
 Eddie and Lumpy, what 
 you see is pretty much 
 what you get. 

Have a Shady day!


  1. I think my favorite from your list here is Etta James's cover. But then, I really like Etta James, period, so I am a little biased.

    Wow- Pat Boone and Tutti Frutti- something else! I"m sure he was embarrassed, but the record companies certainly weren't!

    An enlightening line-up today, and one where I learned some things and enjoyed the music.

    Thank you for your always stellar work, and hope your weekend is terrific!

    1. Hi, Shelly! I agree with your Pick to Click. I like the "Annie/Henry" song as performed by Etta James & the Peaches with Richard Berry. I am also excited to recall that wonderful Teresa Brewer recording from my childhood because it played often on my tiny tinny turntable. It's nice to finally hear it in high fidelity on YouTube. Thank you very much for coming by, dear friend Shelly, and have a great weekend!

  2. Hi dear Tom. Wow! Ivan see that a lot of work went into this post today and we thank you for that. My pick to click was also Teresa Brewer, although I was always a fan of Pat Boone! Êtta James has got a great voice . What a treat it was listening to all the 45's today. Isn't You tube amazing , when you can just call up all these songs! Have a super duper weekend o Shady one'

    1. Hallo, dear Thisisme! My mother loved the prolific Teresa Brewer and I learned to love her, too. My mom's collection of 45s included the one featured here which includes "A Tear Fell," and another doublesider, "Mutual Admiration Society" b/w "Crazy With Love." I actually think Pat Boone did a nice job on "Ain't That a Shame" but most of Pat's black covers should never have been made. They include but are not limited to his repulsive rendition of Little Richard's "Tutti' Frutti" and "Long Tall Sally" and his vomitous version of the El Dorados' "At My Front Door." We can't blame the major record companies for wanting to turn a profit, but shame on 1950s Americans for buying all that watered down crap when they could have chosen to support the original black artists whose recordings were consistently superior! Thank you very much for your visit and comment, dear friend Thisisme, and have a wonderful weekend!

  3. Hi Shady!

    Today's artists are still doing it. One of my more recent favorites is Carrie Underwood's version of Motley Crue's, Home Sweet Home!

    Now on to your covers. I really thought I was gonna say Etta James hands down with the," Annie/Henry" Song but surprisingly my vote went to Georgia Gibbs. For "Ain't that a shame" , it's really a toss up, I'm undecided! For the "Bo Weevil "song, my vote, Teresa Brewer, I love the excitement in her voice. The only Teresa Brewer song I ever knew was, "Put another nickle in" so I enjoyed hearing one of her hits, even if it was a cover. As for "Tutti Frutti", It's gotta be Little Richard. He just seemed to own that song with his wild and crazy antics. I KNOW you were kidding when you said you liked Pat Boones "Metal mood" better--Boy! did he ever "jump the shark" when he did that! BTW, you nailed the Leave it to Beaver Spoof at the end! Another great and interesting post!

    1. Hi, Toni! Funny, I was just listening to Motley Crue's "Home Sweet Home" last evening during my exercise session. When I worked at that MTV station in the 80s the video for that song was heavily requested and we played it often. "I'm on my way!!!"

      You got it right when you noted that Teresa Brewer had excitement in her voice. Teresa pumped that same excitement and enthusiasm into all of her recordings including the one you mentioned, "Music! Music! Music!" That's why I liked her so much. To me artists like Pat Boone were much too refined. Their "excitement" is calculated, not genuine. When Pat covered black records he didn't "feel" the music like the black artist who originated the song. I honestly do prefer Pat Boone's heavy metal recordings to his feeble attempts at "interpreting" black music for white audiences. I owned many Little Richard records and was in for a rude awakening when I tried to play them at college. Album rock was in and Little Richard and all the rest of my oldies were definitely out. I'm glad you appreciated my Beaver tag. Thank you very much for making mention of it and for coming to see me today. Have a safe and happy weekend, dear friend Toni!

  4. I didn't know that Teresa Brewer sang "Music Music Music." I never knew who did, I just remember it was a song my mom liked when I was little. You gotta go with Little Richard, don't you? His high notes - wow, so clear. I liked his early days stuff. As he aged (and came out of the closet) he got a little ridiculous. Pat Boone, Perry Como, Dean Martin... meh. Never liked any of those guys. But my grandma did!

    1. Hi, karen! Well, don't look now, dear friend, but we finally agree on something! (LOL) I'm thrilled to know that you dug the early works of Richard Penniman and agree with me that Pat Boone was "meh." You took the word right out of my fingers. Aren't those old rock 'n' roll movie clips fun to watch? Most of the actors and extras who played teenagers were in their 30s! (LOL) Yessum, Teresa Brewer sang "the nickelodeon song" as it is often called. She sang with zest and vigor and passion and I always admire those qualities in a vocalist and in a friend. I'm so excited to have you over, dear karen, and I hope your bags are packed from your trip back east. I know you must be giddy with anticipation. Have a great weekend!

  5. I'm a big fan of cover songs, I think it's just as artists way of paying homage to a song they like. A few of my favourites are Bon Iver's cover of Bonnie Raitt's I Can't Make You Love Me, Red Hot Chili Peppers cover of Stevie Wonder's Higher Ground, Annie Lennox's cover of Neil Young's Don't Let it Bring You Down and The White Stripes cover of Dolly Parton's Jolene and James Mercer's cover of Neil Young's Harvest.

    Hope you're having a great weekend Tom!

    Emma x

    1. Hi, Emma! Yessum, I am having a very nice weekend, thank you. I'm happy to see your list of favorite covers. I am reminded of an interesting "cover story" surrounding the song "I Heard it Through the Grapevine." It was originally recorded in 1967 by Marvin Gaye but Motown chief Berry Gordy rejected it for release as a single. A month later a version by Gladys Knight and the Pips was released which I consider to be the definitive recording of the song. In 1968 the Marvin Gaye version was included on an album, got noticed and played by deejays, was released as a single and became a smash hit. Another great version of "Grapevine" was released in the mid 70s by Creedence Clearwater Revival. It's rather rare for three great versions of a song to be released with three very different arrangements, one by a R&B vocal group with a female lead, one by a solo male soul artist and the third by a rock band. Thank you very much for coming over to see me, dear friend Emma. I hope you and Donnacha are having a fine weekend!

  6. After I got done laughing with the Beave...I had to listen to all the songs because I'm happy to admit they were a bit before my time although thanks to an older brother (or 2!) I do remember some of them..but probably it's the covers I remember more. Pat Boone? Welllllll....I'm glad he's selling bathtubs these days! Love Fats Domino and early Little Richard! Thanks for the education on the other artists. When I think of covers I can't help but think to my own son (Phil) who had a garage band back in his HS days. They did a few gigs and he wrote some songs but they usually had to stick to what the kids wanted to hear, so covers had to do! He did cut a CD and I thought his little group was great. All grown up now, but he still loves his music!

    1. Wow, YaYa! You should post some of Phil's music on your blog. Garage bands often do covers that are better than the originals. Yessum, I see Pat Boone on television every day for Safe Step walk-in tubs, and here in my region he's also a pitchman for reverse mortgages. (If I'm ever in the market for a reverse mortgage I'd be more inclined to trust "The Fonz.") Pat isn't the only Boone on my TV screen. Daughter Debby "lights up my life" each day as the spokes model for Lifestyle Lift. Incidentally, a woman I once worked with and dated was the spokesperson for Lifestyle Lift in recent years. I'm so happy to know that some of my tunes resonated with you, dear friend, and that I gave you a chuckle with my Beaver bit. Thank you ever so much for your visit and kind comments, dear YaYa, and enjoy the rest of your weekend!

  7. Ha... you had me laughing at the end there, Shady. I just love "The Beav" and, Oh that Eddie Haskell is really a troublemaker! (LOL)
    I must admit that I like Etta James best on the first song but I'm partial ever since hearing "At Last," which I'm listening to right now, actually. Pat Boone's renditions are laughable. How could anyone else even attempt Tutti Frutti?!? I mean, really...
    It is a crying shame that so many black artists did not get their due credit and I'm glad that you've brought that issue to light here. I really like Teresa Brewer's singing style and I'm going to check out more of her stuff on YouTube when I'm done listening to Etta.

    I hope you've had a lovely weekend, Shady and that you and 'the fam' have a wonderful week ahead! ;)

    1. Hi, Jenn June! You and your little bub must watch a lot of vintage television shows, dear friend. A few weeks ago you enjoyed my Lost in Space spoof and today my nod to The Beav tickled your funny bone. It pleases me enormously that you and I have similar tastes in music right down the line. Clearly you know the real deal when you hear it. Artists like Hank Ballard, Etta James, Little Richard and Fats Domino always delivered the goods. I hope you will also check out Teresa Brewer because she sang with fire and pizzazz while some of her contemporaries induced drowsiness with their recordings. Thank you very much for your visit and sweet comments, dear friend Jenn, and have a wonderful week ahead!

  8. I'm so glad you didn't add Speedy Gonzalez to the Pat Boone songs. Glad to say I didn't own any of his covers and most times prefer the originals of anything. There are few white groups that came out with good covers because they understood the soul of the originals. The Mag Men and Kenny Vance and Planetones come to mind. And how many people did "Gloria"? Have a good day, I really enjoyed the background facts on the originals.

    1. Hi, Jerre! Ever hear Tiny Tim's gritty interpretation of "Say It Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud"? (LOL) And how about Pat Boone's sweaty, down and dirty, snake in the grass rendition of the Five Keys' record "Gee Whittakers"? Gzeesh, what's the point? I guess what I'm saying is that I have a lot more respect for crooners like Pat Boone when they stick to mainstream pop ballads like "April Love" and leave R&B, rock 'n' roll and heavy metal to the artists who know those genres best. As for Gloria, my favorite version is the psychedelicized "Gloria '69" by the Shadows of Knight. Hey, thanks for coming by, good buddy, and I'll be seeing you again soon!

  9. R.I.P. Frank Bank, the actor who played Clarence "Lumpy" Rutherford on Leave it to Beaver. Dead at the age of 71.


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