Under The Covers

By Russ:

(Don’t be afraid)

A lot of popular hit songs have been covers of (sometimes obscure) original recordings. For your amusement we have dug up 24 old titles so that you can be the judge as to which was better – the Hit Version or the Original Release. A few of these originals may surprise you.

Hound Dog

Hit Version / Elvis

Original Release / 1952 / Big Mama Thornton

Money Honey

Hit Version / Elvis

Original Release / 1953 / Clyde McPhatter & The Drifters

Mystery Train

Hit Version / Elvis

Original Release / 1953 / Junior Parker

Earth Angel (Will You Be Mine)

Hit Version / The Crew-Cuts

Original Release / 1954 / The Penguins


Hit Version / The Crew-Cuts

Original Release / 1954 /The Chords

Blue Suede Shoes

Hit Version / Elvis

Original Release / 1955 / Carl Perkins

Ain’t That A Shame

Hit Version / Pat Boone

Original Release / 1955 / Fats Domino

Tutti Frutti

Hit Version / Pat Boone

Original Release / 1955 / Little Richard

Wallflower Song / Roll With Me Henry / Dance With Me Henry

Hit Version 1 / The Platters

Hit Version 2 / Georgia Gibbs

Original Release / 1955 / Etta James

Long Tall Sally

Hit Version / Pat Boone

Original Release / 1956 / Little Richard

Louie Louie

Hit Version / The Kingsmen

Original Release / 1957 / Richard Berry

Sweet Little Sixteen

Hit Version / 1963 / Beach Boys *

* The Beach Boys vs. Chuck Berry (1963)

The Beach Boys, Chuck Berry, Copyright, Case, List, Rolling Stone, Cases

Photo : Michael Ochs Archives/Getty, Michael Putland/Getty

“Surfin’ U.S.A.,” by the Beach Boys (1963) vs. “Sweet Little Sixteen,” by Chuck Berry (1958)

The Case: The California boys often incorporated rock & roll pioneer Chuck Berry’s songs into their early concerts. But 1958’s “Sweet Little Sixteen” set Beach Boys’ composer Brian Wilson into overdrive. Inspired by Berry’s rapid-fire references to various American cities, he recast the song as a paean to a fun-in-the-sun sport. Wilson penned a new set of lyrics listing off the hot surfing locales across the Pacific coast. Wilson said he intended the song as a tribute to the rock guitarist, but Berry’s lawyers used another term: plagiarism.

The Verdict: With the threat of lawsuits looming, Beach Boys manager – and Brian Wilson’s father – Murry Wilson agreed to give the publishing rights to Arc Music, Berry’s publisher. However, Berry’s name wouldn’t appear on the songwriting credits until 1966. 

Why It Matters: Although the genre was built on a handful of standard three-chord progressions and blues licks, the “Surfin’ U.S.A.” incident was one of the first major plagiarism scuffles in rock history.

Original Release / 1958 / Chuck Berry

Kansas City

Hit Version / Wilbert Harrison

Original Release / 1959 / Little Willie Littlefield

Memphis Tennessee

Hit Version / Johnny Rivers

Original Release / 1959 / Chuck Berry

Tobacco Road

Hit Version / 1964 / Nashville Teens

Original Release / 1959 / John Loudermilk

Twist And Shout

Hit Version 1 / Isley Brothers

Hit Version 2 / The Beatles

Original Release / 1961 / Top Notes

Oye Como Va

Hit Version / Santana

Original Release / 1962 / El Ray Bravo

Whole Lotta Love

Hit Version / Led Zeppelin

Original Release / 1962 / Muddy Waters

Walkin’ The Dog

Hit Version / Jackie Shane


Original Release / 1963 / Rufus Thomas

Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood

Hit Version / The Animals

Original Release / 1964 / Nina Simone

Baby I Need Your Lovin’

Hit Version / Johnny Rivers

Original Release / 1964 / The Four Tops

Mr. Tambourine Man

Hit Version / The Byrds

Original Release / 1965 / Bob Dylan

Always On My Mind

Hit Version / Willie Nelson / 1982

Original Release / 1972 / Gwen McCrae

I Shot The Sheriff

Hit Version / Eric Clapton

Original Release / 1973 / Bob Marley

So there you have it; two dozen songs that were all made very popular by other artists, some time after their original releases. I am sure there are many more. Let me know if you have any.



6 responses to “Under The Covers

  1. Overwhelmingly I prefer the original versions. Special attention to Gwen McCrae, unknown to me. What a wonderful voice !

  2. What a coincidence, Gwen McCrae’s the one who struck me too.

  3. Loved some of the tunes man great post.

  4. All Along the Watchtower, Jimi Hendrix covering Bob Dylan. One of the rare times IMO the cover version is better. Dylan even said so.

  5. Hi Russ. That 1963 version of Louie Louie by The Kingsmen was a cover of this 1961 version by the Wailers https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihpGNoCreyg which was a big hit in the Pacific Northwest and is arguably the best version. The Wailers had covered the 1956 Richard Berry original. The Wailers had another hit in 1959 with a little gem called Tall Cool One that you might like https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Vbj4ybW4og It has a nice sax solo. These Wailers by the way are in no way related to the Bob Marley band.

    • Ah yes, Tall Cool One. I can remember playing that one! It was simple but very effective in getting people on the dance floor.
      Thanks for bringing it up, Les.

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