Written by the New Orleans trumpet player Dave Bartholomew and guitarist Earl King (listed as "Pearl King" - his songwriting pen name), this song was published in 1955 and quickly became a rhythm & blues standard. The first to record it was Smiley Lewis, a New Orleans singer who ran in the same circles with Bartholomew and King.
With a slow, swinging blues sound, the song is emblematic of the New Orleans sound of the era popularized by Fats Domino, whose version made #67 US in 1961.
The song is about a guy whose ex-lover returns to him. When she left, he begged her to come back, but now the tables are turned and he won't even answer the door.
A singer/actress named Gale Storm recorded a very popular version of this song that went to #2 US in 1955. Storm, who starred in a TV show called My Little Margie at the time, did a sultry version with the gender switched.
Dave Edmunds brought this song back to the charts with a rocking guitar version released in 1970. In his version, he namechecks some of his musical contemporaries, including Smiley Lewis, who originally recorded the song, and Fats Domino, who also covered it.
It was Edmunds' first single; the song did very well in America, but far better in his native UK (he's Welsh), where it was one of the biggest selling singles of all time to that point. He had several other UK hits, following up with another retro cover: "Baby, I Love You," which made #8 in 1973. He had a number of other hits in his native Britain, among them "Queen of Hearts" and "I Knew The Bride (When She Used To Rock & Roll)." These were also minor hits in the US (where Juice Newton's 1981 cover of "Queen of Hearts" would also reach #2), but Edmunds' only other American Top 40 hit was 1983's "Slipping Away," which just barely made the list at #39.
Suggestion credit: Joshua - Twin Cities, MN
This song wasn't Edmunds' first choice: he planned to record a version of "Let's Work Together" by Wilbert Harrison, but Canned Heat covered that song before he could. Searching for a different song by an under-appreciated American artist, he heard "I Hear You Knocking" on his car radio when he was driving in Britain; the song was getting airplay because a Smiley Lewis compilation album had recently been released in the UK.
"I thought, Hang on, the two songs have identical format. You could use the same backing track for both songs," Edmunds said in his Songfacts interview. "It's just a simple 12-bar thing. So I thought, I'll do that."
The original Smiley Lewis version is in 6/8 time, but Edmunds recorded it at 4/4 to make it more contemporary. At first, Edmunds added a lot of instruments, but he wasn't satisfied with the results. After leaving it for a few weeks, he returned to the song, stripped it down, and got the sound he wanted.
Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn December 20th 1970 "I Hear You Knocking" by Dave Edmunds entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; and on February 7th, 1971 it peaked at #4 (for 2 weeks) and spent 12 weeks on the Top 100... And on November 29th, 1970 it reached #1 (for 6 weeks) on the United Kingdom Singles chart... Mr. Edmunds will celebrate his 70th birthday come next April 15th.
Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn December 4th 1961, "I Hear You Knocking" by Fats Domino entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart for a two week stay, peaking at #67.. The record's flip-side, "Jambalaya (On The Bayou", also charted, it reached #30 and spent 7 weeks on the Top 100 (peaked at #41 in the U.K)... Mr. Domino will celebrate his 86th birthday in two months on February 26th, 2014.
Jim from Santa Monica, CaDave Edmunds played a couple of solo shows in Los Angeles in small venues in 2007. He was performing the old songs and selections from "Hand Picked: Musical Fantasies", demonstrating his ability to get a lot of sound from a single guitar.
Kevin from Reading , PaDave Bartholomew was Fats Domino's songwriting partner, and you can tell that with this song. I can hear Fats singing it in my mind, though I don't know if he ever did a cover of this song.
Jeff from Liverpool, Englanddave edmunds had a uk#4 hit with elvis costello's girls talk in 1979
Dave from Portsmouth, NhActually, Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe were in a band together for quite some time, along with Billy Bremner and Terry Williams, called Rockpile. They released an album stateside called Seconds of Pleasure which spawned a minor hit, "Teacher, Teacher". The personnel of Rockpile were responsible for playing on solo albums by both Lowe and Edmunds as well: Labour of Lust and Repeat When Necessary, I recommend both highly.
Pat from Albuquerque, NmDave Edmunds toured with Nick Lowe in the late 70s; I sw them in concert along with Elvis Costello and the late Willy de Ville. Lowe and Edmunds did several of Lowe's songs, but also played "I Hear You Knocking" and "I Knew the Bride". Excellent concert.