Etymology of two rockin' senses of the word "cover"?

I found this one hard to Google. As a struggling musician (I struggle to carry a tune), I often encounter two specialized senses of the word “cover.”

  1. An admission charge to a club, often but not always to defray the expense of providing live music: “Tonight at Crummigan’s: The Titanium Dildos and Buttknuckle! $3 cover.”

  2. A song made famous by an artist other than the one who’s playing it now: “Titanium Dildos don’t write their own material; they just play Steely Dan covers.”

Does anyone know the origin of these senses, and is it possible they’re related?

This is the sort of question that seems likely to invite WAGs; I’d like to try for some rigor, though, at least at first. (Not that I’m not a notorious WAGer myself.)

Cover to indicate an extra charge for something, is just a shortening of cover charge, the earliest cite of which in print is 1921. I can’t say just when cover as a shortening occured. I could look later.

As to a band which does a recording of someone’s earlier version, cover is first cited in print in 1981.

Are they related–only in the sense that they both contain five letters, which are the same in the order printed.

No way. I knew that term in the early '70s, and I’m sure it goes back at least to the '50s.

Edited to read:
Other, better, responses showed up while I was writing this one. Pretend I never posted. Add a “hole” on the end of W A, and you got me.

1981? I remember it from the sixties, and the OED’s first cite is from 1965.

The cover charge for a club was named because it “covered” your admission. Night clubs used to have a cover charge (admission) and a minimum (the minimum number of drinks you were required to buy). Thus, a $10 cover charge and a two-drink minimum. Some places had minimums only and some only had cover charges. Now, the minimum is rare.

As for songs, the original OED definition was for a song released to compete with another song (in the 50s, white acts would cover R&B songs, putting out versions for white teens that often outsold the originals).

I screwed up when I posted. I knew that, but stupidly cut and pasted something.

1966, unless I read it wrong.

As for cover charge, this comes from a restaurant’s per-person charge that is ostensibly for the “cover,” or place setting.

Just a WAG, but could a “cover charge” be called that to “cover” the cost of the band?

For example, if I was holding a casual party, I might say “Bring your own beer, plus ten bucks to cover the cost of the male stripper.”

That’s what first came to my mind. Surely “cover the cost of ___” has been a common phrase for a long time, easily and naturally adapted to a band at a nightclub. Also I would bet that cover charges were first used only when entertainment was offered, not for other reasons such as may be found nowadays.

How much does the stripper cost for a formal party? :wink:

Which would make it per person, instead of per table… interesting. Makes sense to me, especially if some nightclubs used to charge by the table.

I don’t mean this in the snotty way, but… got a cite? :slight_smile:

Also, for the folks who are saying it’s to “cover” the cost of the band: well, that’s true. But surely any money you spend anywhere is to cover the cost of something. Why do admission charges get to be called “cover,” and not charges for gas, or appetizers, or lumber, or something else?

Depends. I got one for a hundred bucks for a friend’s bachelor party, more for tradition than for prurience. It was pretty pro forma; she danced a two song set and was outta there. (Actually, she stuck around and had drinks, clothed, 'cause she was a friend of mine.)

You should be able to get somebody for $100 (just to show up) plus $100 per hour of nakedness.

Oh wait, you said a formal party. That’s more of a “how much have you got” kind of thing. For example, I think the strippers at that White House state dinner for the prime minister of India made like a grand apiece. But that’s pretty high-end, you can probably get 'em for a lot less.

::d & r::

It seems the idea is that people usually go to clubs to drink and socialise. That is their primary purpose and many successful clubs never have a live act. When an act is performing, that is a bonus to normal club business. As such it incurs an extra fee to cover the cost of the extra service.

In contrast buying lumber or even going to a movie doesn’t involve any extra, unusual activity beyond the norm. However if you ask for your lumber to be sawn into 3’ lengths then you will indeed be charged a fee to cover the cost of cutting. And if you ask for the lengths to be delivered you will also be charged a fee to cover handling and delivery. And if you ask to rent a cinema for a private screening you will be charged a fee to cover that as well.

While we still haven’t seen evidence for either of the theories put forward here, i can’t see anything incongruous about a cover charge being a charge to cover the cost of the band.

Not an online one, but I’ve heard the word “cover” used in this sense on shows like Kitchen Nightmares. It’s not uncommon, for example, to hear Chef Ramsay ask the restaurant owner, “How many covers are booked for tonight?” He means diners, of course; or, to put it in the sense that Matt did, “How many diners are you preparing places for tonight?”

Okay, “cover” is used in that sense, but “cover charge” (or “cover” obviously used as shorthand for “cover charge”)? I’ve never heard of a restaurant having a per-person charge to go in and eat. (If they have a band performing there, that brings us to covering the cost of the band.) Are you telling us that restaurants charge admission to diners?

I found an examples of “cover version” (not just “cover”) from a 1955 edition of Billboard on Google Books.

The more appropriate term would seem to be “plus ten bucks to uncover the stripper.”

There are restaurants in Italy, for example, that charge a basic fee to each diner, called pane e coperto (bread and cover/place setting). Wikipedia claims that 1920s speakeasies charged a figure called couvert (French for cover/place setting) to guests.

My vague – and totally unsupported by evidence – understanding was that ‘cover version’ had something to do with being able to put a different (i.e. white) face on the record cover, so as to be able to sell a song to a different (i.e. white) demographic.

I think the Wikipedia article is rather lacking in cites. The term certainly predates prohibition.

The OP, The Seventh Deadly Finn asked about “cover” as a charge to get into a club, often but not always attibuted to the music, if any.

The earliest use of “cover charge” I could find in newspapers was in 1916. This predates the OED by 6 years. I’ll submit it later. The exact cite is talking about the higher prices of doughnuts in cafeterias in downtown Chicago.

Next, a newspaper cite from Iowa City, 1917.