Day 95: “Honey Don’t”

When was it recorded?  Oct. 26, 1964

When was it first released, and on which album?  Dec. 4, 1964 on “Beatles for Sale”

Who wrote it?  Carl Perkins

Have I heard this song before?  No

What my research dug up:

Carl Perkins (who I discussed on Day 63: “Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby”) wrote and originally recorded “Honey Don’t.” Recorded Dec. 18, 1955, it actually appears as “Honey, Don’t!” on the B-side to his single, “Blue Suede Shoes,” which was released Jan. 1, 1956.

“It was almost criminal of Sun Records …to tuck as savage a slab of prototypical rockabilly as Carl Perkins’ seminal ‘Honey Don’t’ on the flip side of the guitarist’s immortal ‘Blue Suede Shoes.’ Cut December 18, 1955, at Sun’s famous studios at 706 Union in Memphis, the inordinately exciting ‘Honey Don’t’ actually outclasses its more celebrated platter-mate in some ways. …Perkins should have enjoyed two smashes instead of one from that classic single.” – Bill Dahl (All Music, “Song Review”)

“Honey Don’t” did have longevity – apart from the Beatles, at least 20 other bands have released covers of the song.

I couldn’t find a good video of it, but Perkins and his band also performed “Honey Don’t” during their first live television appearance on ABC-TV’s “Ozark Jubilee” Mar. 17, 1956.

Quoth Robert Fontenot, “A common fixture in the live sets of many a Liverpool band, the song’s unusual (for the time) chord structure probably appealed to [The Beatles] as well” (Oldies Music). Beginning in 1962, The Beatles played “Honey Don’t” in their live shows with John on lead vocals. A version with John singing lead was recorded Aug. 1, 1963, for BBC Radio’s “Pop Go the Beatles” and released on the compilation album, “Live at the BBC.”

In May 1964, while touring Europe, Perkins met the Beatles at a party thrown by Eric Burdon. According to Fontenot, “Ringo requested that the Beatles be allowed to record the hit, and Perkins, honored, agreed immediately.”

“We all knew ‘Honey Don’t’; it was one of those songs that every band in Liverpool played. I used to love country music and country rock. I’d had my own show with Rory Storm, when I would do five or six numbers. So singing and performing wasn’t new to me; it was a case of finding vehicles for me with The Beatles. That’s why we did it on ‘Beatles For Sale.’ It was comfortable. And I was finally getting one track on a record: my little featured spot.” — Ringo Starr (Anthology)

The Beatles recorded “Honey Don’t” (with Ringo on lead vocals) on Oct. 26 during their final session for “Beatles for Sale.” According to Fontenot (again), “Carl Perkins had visited the group during the recording of his song ‘Matchbox,’ but was absent from this session.” Fontenot also notes that Perkins’ version is “almost identical” to the Beatles’ cover, which was unusual for them.

I couldn’t pin down the date for this one, but the Beatles performed “Honey Don’t” one more time for BBC Radio. Given Ringo sings lead, I’ll assume this version (performed on “Top Gear”) post-dates the album version. The video says 1965 and “The Beatles (Invite You to Take a Ticket to Ride),” but the audio matches the album version from “Top Gear” that was recorded Nov. 26, 1964. Sooo, I’m guessing the video is from “Ticket to Ride” and the audio is from “Top Gear.” Don’t hold me to that assumption though.

Interestingly, Oldies points out each Beatle covered this song individually once they split.

  • John as part of a medley with the Plastic Ono Band and Some Time New York City + for the soundtrack of “Clock” (his own film) (1971)
  • Paul with Perkins while collaborating on Paul’s album “Tug of War” (1981)
  • Ringo with Perkins during the TV special “Blue Suede Shoes: A Rockabilly Session With Carl Perkins And Friends” (1986)
  • George with Bob Dylan, John Fogerty and Taj Mahal during a live show in Hollywood (1987)

“Honey Don’t” is cute, but as with most of the covers I prefer the original version. Sorry, lads.




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