Friday, July 2, 2010

Smiley Lewis: I Hear You Knocking

Many of us remember the hit version of “I Hear You Knocking” that was recorded and released by Dave Edmunds in 1970. It was a number 1 hit in the UK and topped the US charts at #4. Released originally only as a single flipped with an instrumental tribute to Bill Black’s Combo called “Black Bill,” Edmunds debut LP “Rockpile” with the two songs wasn’t released until 1972. In his original, Edmunds evokes the names of numerous rock musicians including “Smiley Lewis” who recorded the original in 1955.

The Original

In 1954, Dave Bartholomew and Pearl King penned “I hear you Knocking” and Smiley Lewis was the first to record the song. Released on the Imperial imprint, Lewis’s version went to the #2 spot on the Billboard R&B Charts. Huey “Piano” Smith is tickling the ivories on this version. For some reason, Pearl King's name was omitted on the original label for this song and only credited Dave Bartholomew.

Gale Storm’s Cover

As with many R&B artist who were shunned by mainstream radio, white artists would often find R&B hits and tone them down a notch and have national hits with these records. Actress Gale Storm did just that in 1955 when she recorded “I hear you knocking.” It’s somewhat lame when compared to Lewis’ original.

Dave Edumunds single release

I remember buying this single as the album was not yet released – it took two years for that to happen. I read somewhere (Circus magazine perhaps) that Dave played all of the instruments on this tune (including the drums), but had someone else play the piano on the C7 chord that appears sparsely in the tune. I remember thinking that this was hilarious at the time. During the instrumental break, Dave evokes the names of several past rockers, I am unable to decipher the first name; however, the others include Fats Domino, Smiley Lewis, Chuck Berry, Huey Smith, and Bob Dylan in order.

The vocals on the tune are processed to sound like they are coming through a small antique speaker with a tin element – the rest of the production sounds like a typical AM mix from 1970.

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