Saturday, March 20, 2010


We're still getting mail about the recent True Oldies Channel "Rock And Roll Remakes" Weekend and our Forgotten Hits Web Page tie-in!

It seems folks REALLY enjoyed this feature ... and from what we've heard, Scott Shannon has had a similar reaction. Meanwhile, our readers have a few more suggestions and ideas for the next go'round. Here are just a few:

Hi Kent,
Here is a remake that may not be known to some of the readers. I have not seen it in your recent posts although I've not had the time to read them all yet. Chuck Berry's only number one hit from 1972, "My Ding a Ling," is actually a re-make of The Bees' "Toy Bell" from nearly 20 years prior. One source puts The Bells song from 1954, and this recording that I found several years ago has the DJ putting it at 1955 (edited out). According to Wikipedia, The Bells version isn't even the original. Supposedly the original was written and recorded in 1952 by Dave Bartholomew and was called, "Little Girl Sing Ding-a-Ling." Thought you might find this interesting if it hasn't been mentioned yet. Also interesting is how Chuck Berry received total writer's credit for it.

The story going around at the time (circa 1972) was that this was one of Chuck's earliest compositions, dating back to the early '50's ... but because of its controversial nature, he never released it until the early '70's when censorship wasn't quite so strict.

Over the years, the true origins of this song have come under scrutiny. Dave Bartholomew, best known for his work with another early Rock And Roll Hall Of Famer, Fats Domino, claims that he wrote the song and first recorded it back in 1952 ... and, in fact, we have a copy of that recording to share with you today.

In 1958, Chuck Berry recorded what can best be described as a "prototype" of "My Ding-A-Ling" and called it "My Tambourine", for which he ALSO claimed songwriting credit! (One listen to Dave Bartholomew's 1952 recording should convince even the novice music fan that this is, in fact, the same song Chuck Berry would go on to claim as his own some twenty years later.)

The fact that Berry was able to copyright and cash-in on the proceeds of "My Ding-A-Ling" really is a crime ... and we've discussed many times before here in Forgotten Hits the fact that Berry's keyboard player, Johnny Johnson, may have played a large part in writing many of Berry's earliest hits, also never receiving the credit he deserved. (Even his famous "Johnny B. Goode" riff, one of Chuck Berry's biggest claims to fame, seems to stem from an earlier recording called "Ain't That Just Like A Woman", recorded by Louis Jordan ... clearly one of Berry's mentors ... years earlier.) At various times, it has also been suggested that his first hit, "Maybelline" was simply a reworking of an old country song and that even his infamous duckwalk was "lifted" from another early R&B performer!

(Despite this blatant "borrowing" from others, when The Beach Boys released "Surfin' U.S.A." in 1963, Chuck Berry was quick to take The Boys to court and demand a portion of the royalties for Brian Wilson's obvious reworking of Chuck's own classic "Sweet Little Sixteen" ... and he has shared songwriting credit on the song ever since. Yet years later Berry lifted the entire melody of Dave Bartholomew's "Ding-A-Ling" song, put his own clever lyrics to the tune and then claimed it as his own without penalty.)

The REAL shame here is that Chuck Berry is one of rock and roll music's first poets ... the man had ENORMOUS talent and I can't begin to tell you how many HUNDREDS of hours I've spent listening to his music ... and I am a HUGE fan of that music ... so this isn't a Forgotten Hits Witch Hunt ... it isn't our purpose to take down another Rock And Roll Legend ... Chuck Berry is, for all intents and purposes an INSTITUTION ... he is considered one of the greatest innovators and architects of rock and roll ... and his music has influenced and inspired HUNDREDS and HUNDREDS of other artists to follow their musical dreams and aspirations in his footsteps ... but fans deserve to know the truth and, simply put, the facts don't lie. (It is said that all successful artists "borrow" ... but the really GREAT ones steal!!! Such seems to be the case in many instances regarding Chuck Berry's early music.)

That being said, perhaps the greatest crime of all is the fact that despite ALL of the great, timeless music that Chuck Berry gave us as "The Grandfather Of Rock And Roll", it was "My Ding-A-Ling" that went all the way to #1. (It is hardly his finest moment ... and is EXTREMELY hard to listen to some 40 years later, especially when one considers Chuck's earliest work. It truly did shape the future of rock and roll music.)

"Maybellene", his first chart hit officially peaked at #5 in both Billboard and Cash Box Magazine. "Roll Over Beethoven" stopped at #29. "School Day" peaked at #3; "Rock and Roll Music" at #8; "Sweet Little Sixteen" rose as high as #2; and even the timeless classic "Johnny B. Goode" only climbed as high as #8. Other Berry classics include "Memphis", which incredibly was released as a B-Side and never charted in Billboard at all! (It peaked at #87 in Cash Box); "Carol" (#18); "Almost Grown" (#32); "Back In The U.S.A." (#37); "Nadine" (#23); "No Particular Place To Go" (#10), "You Never Can Tell" (#14) and "Promised Land" (#41). Chuck's live remake of "Reelin' And Rockin'" (originally released as yet another classic B-Side that didn't chart) was recorded at the same concert as "My Ding A Ling" in Manchester, England ... and the "dirty lyrics" on this one really livened up the track. Although Berry never charted with "Memphis" or "Reelin' And Rockin'", these songs became HUGE Hits for Johnny Rivers (#2) and Lonnie Mack (#5, both with "Memphis") and The Dave Clark Five, who took their version of "Reelin' And Rockin'" to #23 in 1965.

By the way, THREE of Chuck Berry's singles topped Billboard's Rhythm and Blues Chart: "Maybellene" held down the top spot for nine weeks on Billboard's R&B Best Sellers Chart in 1958, "School Day" spent a week at #1 in 1957 and "Sweet Little Sixteen" was #1 for three weeks in 1958. On the R&B Chart, "My Ding A Ling" stopped at #42, proving that Chuck's biggest and most loyal fans weren't buying into Berry's novelty phase! (kk)

Hello Kent,
Happy 2010! I know it is already March but I never seem have time to write in. Anyway, I read all the interesting stories regarding the Rock and Roll remakes and I realized that "Indian Reservation" was actually recorded by The Lewis & Clarke Expedition on Colgems Records in November 1967 before Don Fardon had his hit with it in 1968. It was never released as a single but their version has many of elements that the Raiders later used in their version. Go to and put in Lewis & Clarke Expedition and you will hear their version with Cherokee lyrics in the chorus. Amazing! Travis Lewis (Michael Murphey) and Boomer Clarke (Owen Castleman) later had their own respective hits "Wildfire" and "Judy Mae."
Gary Strobl
Didn't know about this one ... thanks for sending this in! (Although, quite honestly, it just may be the WORST version of this song that I've ever heard!!! lol) You can check it out here:

Click here: YouTube - Indian Reservation - Lewis & Clarke Expedition

Great stuff, Kent ...

If Scott goes for this again, I'd love to hear Beach Boys' covers of Hushabye, the Wanderer (Concert album), Rock & Roll Music, I Was Made To Love Her (Wild Honey), Sloop John B, California Dreamin', I Can Hear Music ...
Here's a more complete list:
Upward and forward!
A few Beach Boys-related tracks were featured ... "Barbara Ann" (first done by The Regents) and "Rock And Roll Music" (Chuck Berry and The Beatles) and "Do You Wanna Dance" (Bobby Freeman) seem to be the most popular. "I Can Hear Music" is a GREAT suggestion ... Brian Wilson covering his idol, Phil Spector ... and you could also do quite a bit with "Sloop John B.", covering ALL of the various versions released before The Beach Boys had the biggest hit with this song. (By the same token, I suppose that we could also do "Seasons In The Sun", another track covered by a number of artists, including The Beach Boys, without success before Terry Jacks took it all the way to #1.)

"Why Do Fools Fall In Love" isn't so much associated with The Beach Boys ... it was a "Bubbling Under" B-Side for them ... but it'd still be a timely track to feature with all the fuss about Tommy James' new book, "Me, The Mob and the Music". It was one of the first songs that Morris Levy tacked his name on as a co-writer. When the song first came out in 1956, competing versions by The Diamonds, Gale Storm and Gloria Mann fought for chart space with Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers' original version. It came back twice more in the '60's (The Beach Boys and The Happenings), Bubbled Under twice in the '70's (The Ponderosa Twins and Summer Wine), Bubbled Under again in 1980 for Joni Mitchell and then became a HUGE Top Ten Hit for Diana Ross. It was Diana's version that spurred all of Frankie's ex-wives to come out of the woodwork, clamoring for a piece of the royalty action (and also exposing Morris Levy's knack for putting his name in places it really didn't belong LONG before Tommy's book came out!) If you've never seen the movie, it's a fascinating piece of music history ... an unbelievable tale of the rise and fall of one of rock's earliest successes. (kk)

On the topic of remakes, I even stumbled across a classic remake on my own while researching Joel Whitburn's 1940 - 1955 Billboard Pop Hit Singles Book trying to nail down the earliest charting records by a British artist:

Because Jimmie Rodgers came along at the very outset of the rock and roll era, he was pretty much lumped in with many of the early rock stars ... and his first four singles all made The Top Ten on Billboard's Pop Charts.

But Jimmie was a folk singer at heart and as his musical style began to change, he lost a portion of his audience in the process.

Jimmie's very first release went all the way to #1. It was a song he'd first heard on the B-Side of a record by an artist named Georgie Shaw. The "hit" side of that record was a song called "Till We Two Are One" and it went all the way to #8 on Billboard's Best Sellers List back in 1954 ... and on the flipside of that record was a song called "Honeycomb".

Jimmie said he had already been performing the song for years so when he finally got the chance to audition for Roulette Records, that's the song he decided to go with because he felt real comfortable singing it.

It became a HUGE hit and launched his career.

Georgie Shaw inspired another #1 Record, too.

Back in the early '50's, he cut a record called "Let Me Go, Devil", a song originally written about alcoholism. In 1955, with a brand new set of lyrics about an requited love, "Let Me Go, Lover" went all the way to the top of the charts for Joan Weber. (kk)

We've run this piece before in Forgotten Hits but with so many new readers visiting the website these days ... and the subject of Chuck Berry remakes once again rearing its head ... it seemed like a timely piece to run again.

Our long time Forgotten Hits Buddy Ed Parker (JacoFan) published this piece in The Kansas City Blues Society / Blues News several years ago and it sounds like he's in the midst of refining it again now.

Meanwhile, he put together this "condensed" version for our readers to enjoy today:

Hi, Kent!

Well, I have the article that I wrote that was published in the monthly newsletter of the Kansas City Blues Society ('Blues News') which goes into some detail about Chuck's blues roots and, a bit more specifically, his guitar licks. I am, however, in the midst of rewriting that article as I think it could be better, but I'll write something here.

Chuck Berry was, in a very real sense, a combination of '40's jump blues master Louis Jordan and Texas blues guitarist and vocalist T-Bone Walker. From Jordan, Chuck took the ability to write lyrics that tell detailed stories and the sheer drive of his music. Even if Berry didn't take his lyric-writing cue from Louis Jordan, the similarity between them to write vivid stories in their lyrics are obvious.

It is common knowledge to anyone familiar with Louis Jordan and / or Chuck Berry that Berry was / is a giant fan of Jordan and his band the Tympani Five, a name that Jordan used regardless of how many members were actually in his band. More specifically, Chuck took the guitar intro to "Johnny B. Goode" note-for-note from Louis Jordan's 1946 Decca recording "Ain't That Just Like A Woman".

Jordan's guitarist, Carl Hogan, was an early idol of Chuck's. On September 3, 1965, Berry recorded his version of "Ain't That Just Like A Woman," which was released on his 1966 LP 'Fresh Berrys'. In addition to this recording, Berry also covered Jordan's calypso-flavored "Run Joe" (think of Berry's own "Havana Moon".)

The liner notes to the second box of Chuck's complete Chess recordings states, " ... Chuck ... laid down tracks for his upcoming 'Fresh Berrys' album. This time the major influence is Berry's hero Louis Jordan, on whom so much of Berry's musical persona is based. His music, his wit, his stage presence, his guitar style all owe a debt to Louis Jordan and His Timpani [sic] Five."

The words "guitar style" bring us to T-Bone Walker, the Texas guitarist whose biting guitar licks and jazz-tinged style influenced everyone to have picked up a guitar since. Many of T-Bone's tunes feature "the riff" later used in countless Chuck Berry songs. I can't describe it in words, but it occurs in the attached T-Bone Walker tune, "Street Walking Woman," at the 1:55 mark and lasts until 2:02.

"Street Walking Woman" was recorded in December 1951, but Walker was playing that lick since the mid-'40's, so a full ten years or so before Chuck Berry emerged in 1955 with "Maybellene".

Also attached to this mailing is "Ain't That Just Like A Woman" by both Jordan and Berry. I would attach "Johnny B. Goode" but I'm sure you and just about everyone else on your list has it already.

Everything in music is derivative and nobody is completely original. I've said it a million times before, but rock 'n' roll has been evolving since the days of slavery, and the blues is simply rock 'n' roll in an earlier phase.
Hope this helps.
Thanks, Ed ... ALWAYS insightful and informative. Give a listen to these tracks ... you can draw your own conclusions!!! (kk)


By the way, we've moved a good chunk of our recent "Remakes" Feature to the other Forgotten Hits Website (where you'll find a number of our archived articles). You can check it out right here:
Click here: Forgotten Hits - More Stories Behind The Songs ... And The Remakes