Lovesick Blues

Album: 40 Greatest Hits (1949)

Songfacts®:

  • Vaudeville pianist and Tin Pan Alley songwriter Cliff Friend wrote the melody to this tune in 1922 and the words were added by Irving Mills. The song was premiered in a musical about lonesome pilots, Oh, Ernest and first recorded by Elsie Clark. "I was a fighter pilot in the First World War at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio. I was impressed by the lovesick boys who left their young wives and sweethearts for the service, blue," Friend later recalled. "I had been writing songs since I was 12. So I wrote 'Lovesick Blues.'"
  • In 1928 blackface minstrel Emmett Miller made the first recording of this song to feature a yodel. A decade later, country music singer Rex Griffin laid down another well-known version.
  • Inspired by Miller and Griffin's versions, Hank Williams performed the tune during his first appearances on the Louisiana Hayride in 1948. Receiving an enthusiastic reception from the audience, Williams decided to record his own interpretation.

    The young singer could only record songs published by Acuff-Rose, so Williams told Fred Rose that he had purchased the rights to "Lovesick Blues" from his drinking companion Rex Griffin. However they weren't his to sell and Acuff-Rose had to deal with a very cross co-writer Cliff Friend who did own the rights. "Fred Rose published it, but I had the copyright," Friend recalled. "When Williams' record hit the market, I flew to Nashville and took all the money, since I was also the publisher."
  • Billboard magazine reviewed Williams' version at the time as follows: "Hank's razz-mah-tazz approach and ear-catching yodelling should keep this side spinning."
  • Williams had earned four Top 20 hits by the time the song was released, but this became his first chart-topping hit reigning for sixteen weeks. Billboard named it the top "Retail Folk Record" of the year, and Cashbox named it "Best Hillbilly Record of the Year."
  • The song's success earned Williams invitation to join the Grand Ole Opry. The singer performed the tune for his Opry debut on June 11, 1949. He created a sensation playing six encores to thunderous applause.
  • A friend of Australian pop singer Frank Ifield, Ronnie Carroll, suggested he record this as the follow up to his international hit "I Remember You." Ifield's version topped the UK singles chart in 1962 and also peaked at #44 in the US.

    Frank Ifield recalled: "(Producer) Norrie Paramor said, quite correctly, 'Let's not go the American way of a carbon copy follow-up, let's go for something different.' Hank Williams had been a tremendous influence on me in my youth and I liked the idea of doing 'Lovesick Blues' but with a twist beat as the twist was the current rage."

Comments: 1

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn this day in 1962 {April 8th} Floyd Cramer's instrumental covered version of "Lovesick Blues" entered Billboard's Top 100 chart at position #91, the following week it moved up to #87, and it remained at #87 on it's third and final week on the Top 100...
    It reached #20 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary Tracks chart...
    Between 1958 and 1962 the Louisiana native had eleven records on the Top 100 chart, three made the Top 10 with his biggest hit being "Last Date", it peaked at #2* {for 4 weeks} on November 28th, 1960...
    Besides "Last Date", his two other Top 10 records were "On The Rebound" {#4 in 1961} and "San Antonio Rose" {#8 in 1961}
    Floyd Cramer passed away on December 31st, 1997 at the young age of 64...
    May he R.I.P.
    * The four weeks that "Last Date" was at #2 on the Top 100, the #1 record for those four weeks was "Are You Lonesome Tonight" by Elvis...
    And from the 'For What It's Worth' department; the last week that Floyd Cramer's "Last Date" was at #2, there were three other versions on the Top 100 at the time, Lawrence Welk's instrumental version at #24, and two vocal versions titled "(My) Last Date (With You)", Skeeter Davis was at #79 and Joni James at #90.
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