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When you’re coming up in the music world there’s always going to be someone you admire and look up to, even borrow elements of their look, their style or their technique to try and build a persona of your own.

A lot of times you keep these inspirations to yourself, not wanting to be seen as a mere imitator, but other times the influence they had on you is unmistakable.

Usually the established star ignores the more blatant homages, or at the very least feigns indifference, but deep down it has to be unsettling for them in a way, simply because their own artistic self-identity is being threatened by someone else moving in on their territory.

But if you’re that up and comer hoping to make a name for yourself without quite knowing how to go about it other than copying your heroes, what goes through your mind when that hero – still at their commercial peak – acknowledges you in the most blatant way possible… by cutting your last song for their next release?


When The Sun Began To Rise
Nobody in 1951 or ’52 when he was starting out (or for that matter 1953 or ’54) could’ve honestly said they’d predicted the impact that Little Richard was going to have on music.

He was unquestionably a good singer with a strong distinctive voice, but even that voice wasn’t fully unleashed on record yet. As a result Richard Penniman was simply a promising Billy Wright imitator, ramping up the emotional stakes on ballads and hoping that the effect he himself got from listening to Wright, others would get when listening to him.

Little did he suspect that one of those who might’ve been impacted by his efforts was Wright himself.

That might not be exactly what happened though, for it may not have even been Billy Wright’s idea to cover Richard’s Every Hour, which had been released last November… it’s quite possible that was the decision of Savoy Records who were always on the lookout for solid material that was ripe for covering, reasoning that it was far easier to let someone else do the hard manual labor of coming up with a song rather than relying on their own artists or producers to do the heavy lifting in that regard.

They changed the title to Every Evening, stealing writing credits in the process, but it was the same song and the same type of anguished delivery.

What the creator of this song thought of this at the time was amazingly never really documented. Considering Little Richard spent the rest of his life running his mouth about himself you’d think he’d have touched upon the subject once or twice in the next 68 years, especially since the one subject he’d talk about with humble deference was his debt to Billy Wright. Of course the fact that they not only knew each other, but Wright was the one who touted Richard to Zenas Sears, the Atlanta disc jockey who in turn got Richard his contract with RCA, so I suppose what goes around comes around.

The odd thing about this though isn’t that Savoy would hear the obvious similarities of their reigning star and this shameless imitator, but rather than they weren’t even the first to cherry pick one of Richard’s songs to cover, as The Treniers had just issued a version of his Taxi Blues earlier this winter.

That a kid with just one record under his belt – and no hits to his name – now had two established artists in the field covering both of his released songs should’ve told everybody that maybe Little Richard was worth keeping an eye on after all.


Memories Of You Keep Coming Back To Me
Since this is a cover version in all but name, the important thing is to see how closely Billy Wright followed the original, or conversely how far astray he tried to go in order to stamp it with his own personality.

The most obvious difference is that Richard’s was taken at a slower pace and – surprising for those who know him for his later unbridled vocals – delivered in measured tones, keeping his emotions straining at the seams without ripping those seams to shreds.

Wright on the other hand hits the ground running with horns blaring in a declaratory manner before he dials things back… though not quite as restrained as Richard who is far more reflective about his situation than Wright.

Maybe the best way to put it is this: Richard is focused on the girl, subservient to her in every way. Even as her actions have made him despondent he’s still more concerned with why she did what she did than he is about his own sadness that resulted from those decisions.

Wright on the other hand seems focused mostly on himself. His vocal tone is not only harsher but his projection is designed to assert control over the narrative. He may be saying similar things – the lyrics change and shift around some but essentially convey the same plot – but whereas Richard was stunned and hurt by these things, Wright is rankled by them and at times appears almost vindictive in how he reacts.

Because of this you feel more sympathy for Little Richard, who clearly was a patsy in his affair, but you definitely are more galvanized by Billy Wright who isn’t going to recede quietly into dejection and isolation when all is said and done. Every Evening may burn with the same kind of pain, but it’s clearly manifesting itself differently. While Richard wallows in his misery, passively accepting it, Wright lashes out and threatens to leave and never be heard from again… a rather cocky response considering he was the one who was essentially dumped by the woman in question.

Musically speaking aside from sharing the same prancing progression the records sound as different as night and day primarily because Wright’s record is in your face from beginning to end with a prominent horn section here that recalls New Orleans jazz funerals with its circular refrain. Of course on Richard’s single it was Billy Wright’s road band who backed him in the studio and really the primary change is found in the tempo and emphasis, not the structure or personnel.

Which rendition you prefer may fluctuate depending on your own mood. When you’ve got a sense of swagger about you then you’ll be more likely to connect with the attitude shown in Wright’s record, but when your own confidence is shaken then it’ll be Richard who speaks to your doubts and insecurities.

Both are faithful to their creator’s mindsets at the time however and so you really can’t go wrong with either of them.


I Can’t See Mine
Considering the fact that for once the follower would eventually overtake the leader in this instance, it’s nice to see how they matched up on the same song at the same time and especially interesting to see that while Little Richard delivered a strong performance on the original, it was done in with a subdued approach that he’d soon leave behind… ironically because he’d morph into an even more overt Billy Wright imitator in terms of his projection, his intensity and his mannerisms.

Of course within a few years he’d discard that – or at least pervert it to the point of farce – which is would made him one of the biggest stars in rock history.

Billy Wright was a huge star in his own right now however and while he never enjoyed the crossover success that he rightly deserved, you can also see how this style was never going to be what put either of them on the map once the audience got younger, whiter and the means for dispersal shifted to radio.

Every Evening is just a little too intense, a little too personal, a little too emotionally raw for mass consumption.

But for the times when you were alone, stinging from rejection and obviously not surrounded by kids dancing on the bandstand, this kind of thing hit home.

Though Wright’s version may have stolen Richard’s thunder, his songwriting royalties and a regional hit in the process, considering most kids starting a career by following in someone else’s footsteps never think their heroes will even be aware of their existence, Little Richard had to be happy that his idol was impressed enough by his work to cover it in a way that did them both proud.


(Visit the Artist page of Billy Wright for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)

Spontaneous Lunacy has reviewed other versions of this song you may be interested in:
Little Richard (November, 1951)