Great Moments in Cover History: “Blueberry Hill”

7 Jan

Mmmm...Blueberries...Homer Simpson guttural noises

Blueberry Hill” has a history. It’s roots are in early 40’s music. This could come as a surprise to fans of the classic, most famously made a standard by Fats Domino 15 years after it was first released to the public. I’m sure when most of you read the title of the post the thought of a more recent cover came to mind. Yeah, probably someone covering Fats’ song. But, no, on the contrary, today’s great moment in cover history belongs to none other than Fats Domino himself.

So, where did “Blueberry Hill” come from? Slow the song down and you have the work of Mr. Vincent Rose, an Italian musician and band leader, who also wrote the music to Al Jolson‘s 1921 hit “Avalon.” Rose’s music was paired with the well-known lyric by Al Lewis and Larry Stock and the song was immediately recorded…in 1940. It was originally recorded by several orchestras. Glenn Miller and his orchestra laid down a version and so did Sammy Kaye, Russ Morgan, and Kay Kyser. But, perhaps the most famous recording was done by Gene Autry, the Singing Cowboy for the aptly titled movie “The Singing Hill.”

Sounds slightly different than Fats’ hit, right. It has a country charm to it, obviously. The old-time guitar twang that comes off like a moan. It makes you feel like you are actually back in the 40s. Yes, the song is that dated. It also makes you yearn for the most innocent musical time ever. Seriously, this song was recorded when World War II was only a year old. It is 70 years old. Listen to that. The original song is 70 years old. Look what’s on the charts today. From Gene Autry to Kady Perry. Wow. That’s all I can say.

After Louis Armstrong did a version in 1949, Fats picked up the song in 1956 and put down the “Blueberry Hill” we all know and love.

Fats’ version hit at the right time. It is also clearly the best version of the song. The song works better up-tempo. It shot up to #2 in the Top 40 and was #1 on the R&B charts for 11 weeks. It sold five million copies in its first year. It also set the stage for several other musicians to cover the song. Keep this in mind. After Fats’ cover, 14 other musicians – including musicians like Duane Eddy, Cliff Richard and The Everly Brothers – all covered the song within the span of 14 years. It was that influential. Now, if we took this as Fats’ classic, which it mostly is, I can pose the question of what is the best cover of Fats Domino’s version.

One of my personal favorites is this version recorded by Nat King Cole and 11-year-old Billy Preston on the Nat King Cole show. The version was recorded in November of 1957. I cannot embed it into the post, but do check it out. Billy Preston is incredibly talented, even at 11.

But, let us not skip over one of the most awesome covers of the song performed by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. He did a good job performing the song in English and it was at a children’s charity event. It is slightly odd, but, heck, the man likes to sing and play the piano so good for him.

One Response to “Great Moments in Cover History: “Blueberry Hill””

  1. Sarah Redwood November 24, 2016 at 12:15 pm #

    So many good versions of this song but I found a really original one recently by this guy called Lenny,

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