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Back Stories: Play It Again Sam

Updated: Mar 31, 2023

An often misquoted line from one of my favorite Humphrey Bogart movies. Both Humphrey Bogart's character Rick, and Ingrid Bergman's character Ilsa ask the piano player to play "The Song", their song, multiple times, and in different scenes. Rick is the jilted lover, but the circumstances are complex, and unprecedented when you really think about it. I'll provide to you the Reader's Digest version. Ilsa thought her husband died in a Nazi era concentration camp. She meets Rick, and they fall madly in love. That's until her hubby turns back up, and into her life alive! Suffice to say, Rick is still pining over Ilsa, and she still loves him too. She pops back up now with her husband in tow, and asking a life or death favor from Rick.

The song "As Time Goes By" is heard in the background throughout the film as a musical motif. It really drives the movie forward, and underscores the ongoing narrative of time going by, and things changing. The song is so closely associated with the movie that it is easy to think that it was especially made for the masterpiece Casablanca. However, that could not be farther from the truth as the song entered onto planet earth more than a decade prior to the movie's release.

As Time Goes By was written by Herman Humpfeld back in 1931.

It was first performed on Broadway as part of the play "Everybody's Welcome". Frances Williams performed the song in the play. It was then recorded by Rudy Vallée in 1931. It was a modest hit for him.

When the song was featured in Casablanca, there was a musician strike which impeded Dooley Wilson (Sam) from recording it. The first recording from Rudy Vallée was re-released and topped the charts!

Just like the song featured in Casablanca, there are quite a few songs I was surprised, and sometimes shocked to find that the most successful recording was not the first release of the song. I thought it would be fun, and informative to pick 10 iconic songs that were previously released by someone else, and often with little success, if any.

What follows are ten songs that were successful covers. It makes you wonder why one version was more successful than the other. In some cases, the original is way better. But don't take our word for it. Check out the videos below, and let us know what you think, cheers!


Tennesse Whiskey

A huge hit for Chris Stapleton, but I first became aware of the song through George Jones who included it in his 1983 "Shine On" album. I had no idea David Allan Coe was the first to record the song! Here's the original..

David Allan Coe reached #77 with Tennessee Whiskey


Hound Dog

This song really requires no introduction, but the story does. As legend tells, Elvis heard Freddie Bell, and The Bell Boys perform the song in Vegas. The song had actually been written for Mama by the Tin Pan Alley hit songwriters Lieber & Stoller.

Mama Thornton recorded the song in 1953. It topped the R&B charts. It was her only hit. Elvis Presley's version topped multiple charts. It became Elvis' signature song, and the best selling single of his career.

Here is the original version by Big Mama Thornton.

1965 Big Mama Thornton



Released in 1990, Fancy is arguably Reba's signature song. It helped boost the album "Rumor Has It" to platinum status. The single was a top 10 country hit. However, it was written, and released in 1969 by Bobbie Gentry, who also had success with it. Bobbie did not chart as high in the country charts, but did break the Billboard Top 40 pop charts.


Always Late With Your Kisses

If you are a big fan of neo-traditionalist country then

Hillbilly Deluxe is certainly part of your music collection.

The platinum release from Bakersfield sound enthusiast

Dwight Yoakum spawned several top 10 hits. One notable single was originally written, and recorded by the one, and only Lefty Frizzell!

The song was a top 10 hit for Dwight, but Lefty's original version went straight to No. 1!

Lefty Frizzell took Always Late to #1


She's All I Got

Now I have to admit that I did not know this song was not a Johnny Paycheck original. Even more shocking to some, the first time I ever heard it was by way of Tracy Byrd. Johnny Paycheck however had the biggest crossover hit of his career with the song. it went to 91 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1971. But the original was released just mere months before by Freddie North. Here's some of the back story..

She's All I Got: First recording by Freddie North. co-written by Swamp Dogg

Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain
We all know what an amazing songwriter Willie Nelson is. Arguably the most famous of his penned tunes is Crazy recorded by the incredible, and incomparable Patsy Cline. I was in utter shock when I found out that his signature song "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain" was not written by his hand.
Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain was first performed by Roy Acuff in 1945. and then recorded by Elton Britt and The Sky Toppers in 1947. The song was written by the legendary Fred Rose. It was Willie Nelson's first chart topper as a singer, and shaped his iconic album "Redheaded Stranger".
Here is the original 1947 recording.


Man of Constant Sorrow

Ever since I can remember "Man of Constant Sorrow" was a Stanley Brothers song. I've always heard their version of the song, and the many that recorded the song after emulated the Stanley Brothers recording.. For me it was the incredible high lonesome harmonies of the Kentucky brothers that always hooked me. To find out that the Stanley Brothers were not the first to record the song was a surprise.

Though the song was first published in 1913, Ralph Stanley says that the song has been around for 100s of years. He first became aware of the song through his dad who use to sing it with his own lyrics.

Historians lend credence to this claim as they've found four different versions of the song throughout Appalachia.

The first commercially released version of the song cane by way of Emery Arthur. Let's hear that version right now.


Walk Through This World With Me

One of my all-time favorite George Jones songs is "Walk Through This World With Me". I want to believe he was singing it to Tammy. And well she also recorded the song the following year. But in reality, the two were just starting to work together. George did not want to record the song as it was squarely middle of the road.

When the song started taking off, George recut the single.

The song is a departure from Jones' hard country themes of drinking, loss, and infidelity. The song became a chart topper for George. The first no. 1 in five years for the possum.

But George was not the first to record it. But to date, his version is the most successful so far.

Here is the earliest rendition of the song.

Lowell Knipp 1965


No Stranger To The Rain

In 1989 NSTTR won the ACM, and the CMA song of the year. It was like Keith Whitley had finally arrived after years of playing bluegrass in Kentucky, and kicking around in Nashville. Keith's talent was undeniable, but the right combination of songs had not been coupled yet. The album "Don't Close Your Eyes" did that for Keith. It was also the last single off of his 1988 album.

Iconic is an understatement. Even when Whitley heard the song, he quipped that it was like someone was reading his mail. In his personal life, RCA had threatened to drop him previously, if he didn't get sober. He unfortunately did lose the battle with the bottle in May 1989, but fortunately not before tasting a bit of success. It's hard to imagine that NSTTR was not specifically written for Keith.. It really did seem as if the song was autobiographical. However the truth is Sonny Curtis wrote, and recorded the song too.

Here's the songwriter's version!

Sonny Curtis released the song in 1987


Today My World Slipped Away

George Strait has probably done more for traditional country music than almost anyone I can think of in recent times. And he holds the Guiness World Record to prove it! Did you know King George is the only country act to have at least one Top 10 hit on the Hot Country Songs chart every year for the last 30 years (1981-2010)? He has also amassed more Top 5 country hits (73) than any other artist.

One key secret to his success is George's knack for picking great songs. It comes as no surprise that George Strait's secret weapon for years has been Dean Dillon. Dean made an earlier appearance on this list by way of his Tennessee Whiskey co-write. And like Dean who wrote many hits for other artists, George also recorded great music from other writers. One such song came by way of Vern Gosdin. Vern co-wrote "Today My World Slipped Away" with Mark Wright. He liked the song so much that he titled his 5th studio album after the song. 15 years later George Strait recorded the song. "Today My World Slipped Away", and it became a top 3 hit for Mr. Strait.

Here's Vern's heart-wrenching original.

#10 in 1982


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