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Andy Sullivan: Against the Grain

The late Conway Twitty is known for a lot of songs.  Did you know that one of his biggest was a cover? “Slow Hand” was a 1982 hit for Twitty that topped the country charts for two weeks in 1982.  The original, done a year earlier by The Pointer Sisters, was recorded for their eight album Black and White.  Their original reached #2 in the U.S. 


As learned on Little Steven’s Underground Garage, Elvis’ “That’s Alright Mama” was, in fact, a cover.  The song was written and originally performed by blues singer Arthur Crudup in 1946 and originally titled “That’s Alright”.  It stands as a convincing frontrunner for Rock & Roll’s “ground zero”, according to one unnamed source.  It is best known as Elvis’ debut single.  Elvis, a huge Crudup fan, recorded his version July 5, 1954.  It was released 14 days later with “Blue Moon of Kentucky” as the B-side.  It was ranked #113 on 2010’s Rolling Stone magazine list of 500 greatest songs of all time. 

“One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” was originally written by Rudy Toombs and recorded by Amos Milburn in 1953.  It was one of several drinking songs recorded by Milburn in the early ‘50’s that placed top 10 of the Billboard R&B chart.  Other artists released popular recordings of the song, including John Lee Hooker in 1966 and George Thorogood in 1977.  Milburn’s version was a hit, reaching #2 on the R&B charts during a 14 week stay in 1953.  The performers are listed as “Amos Miller and his Aladdin Chickenshackers” after Miller’s first #1 single “Chicken Shack Boogie”.  Hooker used Milburn’s storyline and chorus(but altered the order) but edited the verse down to its essentials.  Thorogood recorded the song for his 1977 debut album, George Thorogood and The Destroyers.  His is a medley of that song and another Hooker song called “House Rent Boogie”.  According to Hooker, “he told me he was gonna do that and I said “okay, go ahead”.  “House Rent Boogie” is written in first-person and details the events after a person lost their job.  If you listen to George’s version of the song, that will make sense.  George’s live version mistakenly credits Hooker as the writer.

“Need You Tonight” was recorded in 1987 by INXS for their Kick album.  It was the only INXS song to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.  It also achieved their highest chart position in the U.K(#2),  It was also #1 of all of 1987 in the U.S.  The song has been covered in concert by many notables(including Bonnie Raitt and Kylie Minogue), though no others have released it as a single. Kylie, once romantically linked to INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence, sang the song in tribute in her concerts.

My final cover this week is “Mercy Mercy Me(The Ecology).  The second single from Marvin Gaye’s 1971 album What’s Going On, the song, written solely by Gaye, became one of music’s most poignant anthems of sorrow regarding the environment.  In December, 1990, Robert Palmer recorded the song, combining it with Gaye’s ’76 song “I Want You”.  Gaye’s original rose to #4 on Billboard and #1 for 2 weeks on the R&B chart.  Palmer’s remake charted #16 on Billboard, #4 on Adult Contemporary, #9 in U.K


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