Welcome to “Original Rock Legends!” To celebrate Geva’s final show this season, the hit musical Million Dollar Quartet directed by Hunter Foster, I’m taking you through a musical journey, uncovering the history behind the songs featured in Million Dollar Quartet.
This week, we’re exploring rock music legends who are not part of the Million Dollar Quartet, but whose music is included in the musical Million Dollar Quartet to honor their profound impact on early rock ‘n’ roll:
“I Hear You Knockin’”-1955
“You went away and left me long time ago/Now you’re comin’ back knockin’ on my door/I hear you knockin’, but you can’t come in/I hear you knockin’, go back where you been.”
Throughout this series, we’ve encountered many early rock tunes that were reattributed to white performers while radio stations and many other music venues remained racially segregated in the 1950s. “I Hear You Knockin’” is no exception: This bluesy ballad was written by Dave Bartholomew and Pearl King in 1955, and recorded the same year by Smiley Lewis, a New Orleans musician. However, Lewis’ recording was quickly eclipsed when Gale Storm hit the scene. Storm was a Hollywood starlet who signed with Dot Records in 1955 after the company discovered her when she sang live on the TV sitcom, “My Little Margie.” “I Hear You Knockin’” was her first recording with the company, and her cover hit #2 on Billboard’s charts. She continued to keep up a strong presence in the music world through the end of the ‘50s, with her renditions of such Top 20 hits as “Why Do Fools Fall In Love?,” “Teenage Prayer,” “Memories Are Made of This,” and “Dark Tower.”
Given Storm’s popularity relative to Lewis’ at the time the Million Dollar Quartet met, then, it’s more likely that the fictional character Dyanne would be imitating Storm’s version of the song than Lewis’, when Dyanne covers “I Hear You Knockin’” in Million Dollar Quartet.
Here’s Smiley Lewis’ version of “I Hear You Knockin’:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ciAS1h2i72Y
And, here’s Gale Storm performing “I Hear You Knockin’” on TV: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0pqfjCmqCs
Thanks for tuning in to “Original Rock Legends!” We’ll be back on Friday with more stories behind the legendary musicians who defined rock ‘n’ roll. This program is sponsored by Geva Theatre Center, where the Million Dollar Quartet comes back to life, LIVE onstage, now through June 25th. Until next time, rock on my friends!