Day 167: “Memphis, Tennessee”

When was it recorded?   Jul. 10, 1963 (one version, anyway)

When was it first released, and on which album?   Nov. 30, 1994 on “Live at the BBC”

Who wrote it?   Chuck Berry

Have I heard this song before?   No

What my research dug up:

Chuck Berry wrote and recorded “Memphis, Tennessee” (or simply “Memphis”). It was first released as the B-side to his single, “Back in the USA” in 1959. In 1963, it peaked at #6 on the UK music charts.

(Something in the bass line is freaking out my dog, and I can’t figure out what.)

Decca Records released Dave Berry and the Cruisers’ cover of “Memphis” around the same time. This version was a Top 20 hit single in the UK. Johnny River’s cover the following year charted at #2 in the US. (Given the Fab Four were big Berry fans, I’ll assume only a link to his version is necessary here – this is just to note that “Memphis” was popular in the UK around the Beatles’ early years.)

According to the Beatles’ Bible, “Memphis” “became a part of The Beatles’ live repertoire” soon after its initial release (and was clearly a staple for a long time afterwards). The Beatles first recorded the song during their Jan. 1, 1962 audition for Decca Records.

Note that Pete Best played the drums on that track since he also did for the Beatles’ next recorded version of “Memphis.” The band auditioned for BBC producer Peter Pilbeam on Feb. 12, worth noting because the Beatles Bible claims they played “Memphis” during this audition too. The Beatles then performed “Memphis, Tennessee” during their very first BBC radio appearance on the Mar. 8 program, “Teenager’s Turn.” The Fab Four performed “Memphis” again Jun. 1, 1963 for “Pop Go the Beatles” (aired Jun. 18) and Jun. 24 for “Saturday Club” (aired Jun. 29).

On Jul. 10, the Beatles again recorded “Memphis” for “Pop Go the Beatles.” This version aired 20 days later and appeared on 1994’s compilation “Live at the BBC.”

The Beatles recorded “Memphis” one last time on Sept. 7. It aired on Oct. 5’s episode of “Saturday Club,” and appeared on last year’s compilation, “On Air – Live at the BBC Vol. 2.”

Can’t say I have anything enlightening to add — I really like this song.  It’s jaunty.




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