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Old 10-13-2006, 10:29 PM
Wee Bairn Wee Bairn is offline
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Big hits written by really obscure songwriters

Inspired by a current thread where I learned that Muskrat Love was not written by the guys in America, or the Captain and Tenille, but by one Willis Alan Ramsey, (titled Muskrat Candlelight on his album) who seems to have quite a cult following among musicians such as Lyle Lovett, Shawn Colvin & Jerry Jeff Walker, but not too well known to the general public.

One other I can think of is Steve Miller's Jet Airliner, written by the talented but obscure Paul Pena:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Pena

Are there many others like this? Obviously discounting professional songwriters who don't record.
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Old 10-13-2006, 11:09 PM
fishbicycle fishbicycle is offline
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A teenaged girl named Enotris Johnson walked from Appaloosa, Mississippi to New Orleans to find Little Richard and sell him an idea for a song, because her aunt was sick and they needed the money to put her in the hospital. When she arrived, she had what appeared to be a scrap of toilet paper or a used doily bearing the words:

Saw Uncle John with Long Tall Sally
They saw Aunt Mary comin'
So they ducked back in the alley


The rest was filled out by Richard and his manager, Bumps Blackwell. As for Enotris, there's zero to immortality in one move for you!
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Old 10-13-2006, 11:47 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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There's got to be millions of these. Go through any stack of classic albums and you'll find names that are unknown or even untraceable today.

One of my favorite examples is Hamilton Camp. He did an obscure folk album back in the early 60s when everybody was doing folk albums. But his song, "Pride of Man," led off the first Quicksilver Messenger Service album and became their defining hit, one of the best 60's rock protest songs.

This wouldn't mean much except that he was a child actor who returned to television and played an endless series of character roles in every show on television.

And he played the extremely short writer that Mary Tyler Moore is embarrassed to go out with on the funniest - and Emmy-winning - episode of her show, Toulouse-Lautrec Is One of My Favorite Artists.

That's my favorite, but as I say there are millions. Finding rock classics that were originally obscure folk songs is one of those obsessions that set archivists to sleepless nights. Probably the most famous is Led Zep's Babe, I'm Gonna Lave You.
Quote:
"Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" is a folk song performed by Joan Baez in 1962 and most notably by the English rock band Led Zeppelin, on their 1969 debut album. The band was inspired to cover the song after hearing Baez's version and credited it as a traditional arrangement since they did not know who wrote it. They later found out it was written by an American folk singer named Anne Bredon.
Both The Association and Quicksilver also released versions of the song before Zeppelin.
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Old 10-14-2006, 08:11 AM
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Crafter_Man Crafter_Man is offline
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The Turtles' "Happy Together" was written by songwriters Garry Bonner and Alan Gordon.

Isn't that fascinating? It is very apparent that Garry Bonner and Alan Gordon are highly skilled song writers, yet no one has ever heard of them.
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Old 10-14-2006, 08:24 AM
Annie-Xmas Annie-Xmas is offline
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The country hit "I Don't Want to Have to Marry You" was written by Phil Sweet and Fred Imus, brother of shock jock Don Imus
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Old 10-14-2006, 09:41 AM
Zebra Zebra is offline
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Francis Scott Key

Primarily a lawyer he did write some hymns and one really famous song.
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Old 10-14-2006, 10:38 AM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zebra
Francis Scott Key

Primarily a lawyer he did write some hymns and one really famous song.
Not really. That's like saying that Bernie Taupin is a songwriter. Key wrote a poem that he said was to be sung to the tune of "Anacreon in Heaven," an English drinking song.

Quote:
To Anacreon in Heaven, where he fat in full glee,
A few fons of Harmony fent a petition,
That He their Infpirer and Patron would be;
When this anfwer arrived from the Jolly Old Grecian
"Voice, Fiddle, and Flute,
"no longer be mute,
"I'll lend you my Name and infpire you to boot,
"And, befides, I'll infruct you like me to entwine
"The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine.
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Old 10-14-2006, 02:40 PM
Biffy the Elephant Shrew Biffy the Elephant Shrew is offline
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Born to Be Wild, credited to one Mars Bonfire, who was actually Dennis Edmonton, the brother of Steppenwolf's drummer.

Hey Joe, written by one Billy Roberts, though sometimes incorrectly credited to Dino Valenti (a/k/a Chet Power), who stole it and sold it to a publisher.
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Old 10-14-2006, 03:20 PM
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A little ditty called "Wind beneath My Wings" has been recorded by lots of people, most notably by Bette Midler. I first heard it sung at the Newport Harbor High School graduation in 1984 (IIRC), performed by the songwriter's little brother.

His name is Jeff Silbar, and he also wrote the main title theme for a little show called "My Name is Earl."
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Old 10-14-2006, 04:00 PM
DesertDog DesertDog is online now
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I nominate Lieber and Stoller. The team wrote a tremendous number of hits and near-hits in the fifties and sixties but, because they wrote 'em, not performed 'em, hardly anyone knows their names today. The Coasters practically based their collective career on L&S's work, performing 24 of their songs. Their hits include:
  • Hound Dog
  • Kansas City
  • Love Potion No. 9
  • On Broadway
  • Stand by Me
  • Poison Ivy
  • Charlie Brown
  • Yakety Yak
  • Come a Little Bit Closer
  • Is That All There Is
  • Spanish Harlem
The Song Writers Hall of Fame site list 287 in all.
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Old 10-14-2006, 04:21 PM
fishbicycle fishbicycle is offline
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I'd have to disagree with you about Lieber & Stoller. They are not even remotely obscure, in fact they are superstars among composers. They wrote hundreds of songs and have had more hits than just about anybody. I hardly think that qualifies as obscure!
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Old 10-14-2006, 05:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fishbicycle
I'd have to disagree with you about Lieber & Stoller. They are not even remotely obscure, in fact they are superstars among composers. They wrote hundreds of songs and have had more hits than just about anybody. I hardly think that qualifies as obscure!
Also, any composers whose songs are the subject of a successful Broadway revue (i.e.,Smokey Joe's Café) are about as far as from the definition of obscure as you can get.
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Old 10-14-2006, 07:17 PM
pinkfreud pinkfreud is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wee Bairn
Inspired by a current thread where I learned that Muskrat Love was not written by the guys in America, or the Captain and Tenille, but by one Willis Alan Ramsey, (titled Muskrat Candlelight on his album) who seems to have quite a cult following among musicians such as Lyle Lovett, Shawn Colvin & Jerry Jeff Walker, but not too well known to the general public.
Willis Alan Ramsey has a cult following among some ordinary folks, too. Although he has only cut one album (and that was decades ago) he can still draw crowds of devoted admirers. I've only been to one concert by Willis Alan, but it was a doozy. And almost everyone in the audience knew all the songs by heart. We were mouthing along silently as he sang (and a few folks were mouthing along out loud).
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Old 10-14-2006, 07:37 PM
fishbicycle fishbicycle is offline
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Shuggie Otis is the son of '50s bandleader Johnny Otis. He is a multi-instrumentalist and composer, and played extensively with his father's band and solo for many years. He made only four albums, and hasn't had one since 1974. He never had a bona fide hit of his own, but several of his songs have been covered by others. The most notable is "Strawberry Letter 23" by The Brothers Johnson, which has sold over a million copies.

Incidentally, I just learned that the incredible guitar solo in that record was not played by "Lighnin' Licks" Johnson, but by Lee Ritenour!
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Old 10-14-2006, 08:21 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DesertDog
I nominate Lieber and Stoller.
From the OP:
Quote:
Obviously discounting professional songwriters who don't record.
Guess you can't be obvious enough for some people.
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Old 10-14-2006, 08:32 PM
Beware of Doug Beware of Doug is offline
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Dream A Little Dream of Me, the ballad that was a hit for everyone from Ozzie Nelson to Mama Cass, was the one claim to fame of Fabian Andre, a Milwaukee orchestra leader, who wrote it in 1930 with his piano player, Wilbur Schwandt.
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Old 10-15-2006, 04:05 PM
Wee Bairn Wee Bairn is offline
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I'll add two more, written by well known people who are known for things other than music:

Former VP of the USA Charles Dawes co-wrote the #1 hit "It's All In the Game".

Denise Rich, friend of the Clinton's, wrote the Sister Sledge hit "Frankie".
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Old 10-15-2006, 05:35 PM
42fish 42fish is offline
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Rudy Clark wrote two minor R&B hits that became #1 songs in cover versions:

"Good Lovin'" (original by the Olympics, #1 for the Young Rascals) and "Got My Mind Set on You" (original by James Ray, #1 for George Harrison)
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Old 10-15-2006, 06:12 PM
Bearflag70 Bearflag70 is online now
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Palisades Park was a top 10 hit in 1962 performed by Freddy Cannon.

It was written by Chuck Barris , host of the Gong Show .
  #20  
Old 10-16-2006, 04:00 AM
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"Joy to the World" by Three Dog Night

"Never been to Spain" by Three Dog Night

"The Pusher" by Steppenwolf

"The No No Song" by Ringo Starr

All written and recorded by Hoyt Axton.
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