Reader enjoyed R&B covers article
I enjoyed the article by Hank Davis and Scott Parker about the “white” covers of R&B songs. It was common practice for all record companies to release a version of any song that looked like it would capture the public’s attention.
Unfortunately, the Jim Crow policies at major record companies limited the careers of black performers.
In an obituary of Georgia Gibbs in the Boston Globe (sorry, I don’t have the year), she was quoted as saying, “At that time, artists had no right to pick their own songs. I came into the studio and had no say at all about the background or the arrangement.” In other words, do what the execs tell you, or get out. A couple of covers of interest: “Long Lonely Nights” by Kitty Kalen (Decca) and “Tweedlee Dee” by Pee Wee King (RCA).
Reader outraged by covers article
I cannot believe that you published the article “Sneak a peek beneath the covers” by Hank Davis and Scott Parker in Issue 731, August 1, 2008. I find the article racist, insulting and not worthy of your fine publication, regardless of what the authors intended. It is full of hate and worthless opinions, making it sound as if they’re also speaking for others rather than for themselves.
Cover records were/are a necessity in the music industry. I’m 70, and, in 1956, when I joined the Air Force and left home, I started listening to radio and records. I probably started hearing the cover records first and eventually heard the originals, which, in my opinion, were sometimes worse than the covers. I am grateful that various versions of popular songs exist.
The article starts with the mentioning of some artists that according to the authors recorded cover songs that were inferior to the original artists. One of the artists mentioned was LaVern Baker who recorded “Tweedle Dee.” But Georgia Gibbs’ version, in my opinion, was superior to Baker’s. The authors say: “Keep in mind that we’re not arguing in favor of cover records. Like most of you, we also believe that, for the most part, they stink.” How ridiculous! When did they take a globe-wide poll to know what “most of you” believe or think about cover records? How dare they insinuate that they know what my musical tastes are?
I love The Diamonds’ cover of “Little Darling.” Recently I acquired the original version, and there’s no way that I’m glad that the original could have been the only version. While The Diamonds may have done the cover note for note, their version is superior to the original with its manic treatment.
The authors say “Hillbilly singers (think Hank Williams) had about as much chance of breaking into the pop charts…” Could it be such singers had high, whiny, nasal voices? Perry Como’s version of “Don’t Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes” IS superior to whatever “hillbilly” singer sang it. Smoothness will always win out!
The authors ask, “Do you think Pee Wee King’s version of ‘Tennessee Waltz’ could have garnered the attention that Patti Page’s version did?” NO! If Patti had not covered it, probably no one would have heard of it!
Again, The Crew Cuts’ version of “Sh-Boom” is preferable to the original, and no matter how nice the originals were, if someone could do it better, more harmoniously, I’m glad for the cover. Originals and covers can sometimes coexist giving us consumers and music lovers a choice. Here is an example of a superior cover song that did not chart, but the original, much mo