K-Chuck Radio: The Mystery of Blueberry Hill

You’ve heard this song thousands of times, it’s a classic on oldies radio.  Heck, if you’ve watched Happy Days more than once, you’ve heard Richie Cunningham croon the opening stanza as a reference to him possibly getting lucky with a girl.

Yep, it’s the Fats Domino classic “Blueberry Hill.”  The minute you saw my blog headline, you already had that strolling piano riff in your head, didn’t you?  Admit it.  You did.  It’s okay, there’s no shame in that.

But what if I told you that the version of “Blueberry Hill” that you know and love … wasn’t the original recording?  And that if you THINK you’ve gotten the original recording … you may be fooled there as well?

Actually, there are three different versions of the song “Blueberry Hill,” and they can be found in three different locations.

Let’s start with the track we all know and love.  Pay attention to the bridge … and listen to the phrase, “The wind in the willow played // love’s sweet melody…”

Yep.  This was the original 78 RPM version, the first release of “Blueberry Hill.”  And the original bridge lyrics were, “But all of the vows we made // were never to be …”  The lyrics are repeated later in the song, but in the second bridge lyrics, Fats Domino sings “But all of the vows you made // were never to be …”

Subtle change, I know, but it now tells the story of two separated lovers … first the lead singer talks about the broken promises they made together … but by the end of the song, he’s just ruminating about her broken promises.

As “Blueberry Hill” raced up the pop charts, Imperial Records started pressing 45 RPM copies, as well as 78’s for the international market.  But something happened  with those pressings … well, take a listen.

Wait … did somebody bump the turntable in the middle of the song?  No … but possibly when the master recording was transferred to stampers for the 45 pressings, the tape machine may have been bumped or damaged, causing that very nasty wrinkle in the middle of the track.  Urgh.

What to do, what to do, what to do…

An Imperial Records engineer quickly came up with a solution.  He simply took the second bridge lyric (“the vows YOU made”) and spliced it over the first bridge lyric (“the vows WE made”), re-mastered the track, and that’s the version we’ve all come to know and love.

So, thanks to a bumped tape transfer and an engineer’s adjustment, the song now becomes a plaintive wail about a girl who did a man wrong, not just a track about two broken-hearted lovers.

Then again, if you ever see Fats Domino live in concert, you can hear him use the lyrics “vows WE made” clear as a bell.

But you know how it goes … whether they were our vows, or your vows, it all depends on who’s telling the story.

And you got the story here … on K-Chuck Radio!