"WOULDN'T YOU KNOW" - B.M.I.
Composer: - John Marascalco
Publisher: - Robin Hood Music Company
Matrix number: - Non - Take 1 - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - November 25, 1957
First appearance: - Sun England (LP) 33rpm CFM 512-5 mono
THE SWINGIN' BLAST
Reissued: - 1990 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD
BILLY RILEY - THE CLASSIC SUN RECORDINGS 1956 – 1960
Billy Riley was unhappy with "Wouldn't You Know". "We should never have cut that record. It was something
that we used to do on stage. It just wasn't a good record". In the absence of Ronald Janes, Billy Riley plays lead guitar and the solo spots are taken by Martin Willis' tenor sax. However, the highlight of the recording is Jimmy Wilson's ringing piano accompaniment.
Note Riley's imitation of Jerry Lee Lewis' lascivious "Mmmm's".
''WOULDN'T YOU KNOW''
This comes from the pen of John Marascalco, an unlikely source for Sun material. We may never know exactly how this song found its way to Riley. On at least one occasion, Riley commented
that Marascalco had "written the song, for me". The truth takes a less personal but more interesting path. Sometime in 1955, promoter Bob Neal suggested to Marascalco that he look into securing a booking for Elvis in Grenada, Mississippi, Marascalco's home
town. On April 20, 1955 Elvis played the American Legion Hall there and during a backstage chat, Marascalco, a then-aspiring songwriter, played Elvis a song he had recently completed called ''Rip It Up''. Elvis liked it a lot and told Marascalco to talk to
Sam Phillips who, according to the singer, had final say in what was recorded. Marascalco drove up to Memphis and met with Phillips who turned down the song ("We want to take Elvis in another direction'', Marascalco recalls Phillips telling him), but Phillips
did encourage the songwriter to keep submitting material.
took Phillips up on his offer, and one of the demos he sent to Sun included ''Wouldn't You Know''. The disc presumably sat in the vicinity of Sam Phillips' office, drawing occasional interest from Phillips and his stable of singers. Eventually, and we can't
know how long it took, it caught Billy Riley's attention. It may have been love at first hearing - there's no way to tell at this point. In any case, Riley became adamant about recording Marascalco's tune, even though it was some distance from the style in
Phillips gave the project the green light, perhaps
in an attempt to pacify Riley, who by then had become incensed at Phillips for his lack of promotion of Riley's last two singles (''Flying Saucer Rock And Roll'' and ''Red Hot'').
By the time Riley got around to recording the song, Marascalco had become a national success story with hit records like ''Ready Teddy'',
''Good Golly Miss Molly'', ''Goodnight My Love'', and ''Send Me Some Lovin'' Elvis had gotten around to recording ''Rip It Up'' , the tune that Marascalco pitched to him back in April, 1955 and that Little Richard took to the top 20 in June 1956, along with
the flipside of the Little Richard record, Marascalco's ''Ready Teddy'', for his second RCA album. In fact, Elvis had already performed ''Ready Teddy'' in his first appearance on the Ed Sullivan TV show in September 1956. Sam Phillips was by now so resigned
to releasing Marascalco's song that he never protested the fact that Marascalco retained both the composer and the publishing share of the song. "Robin Hood Music was mine'', Marascalco proudly proclaims today. Did Phillips put up a fight over the publishing?
"He never mentioned a word'', Marascalco confirms.
Most of Riley's
fans neither knew nor cared about these backstories back in late 1957 or the start of 1958 when ''Wouldn't You Know'' appeared on Sun 289. However, Riley's fans, certainly those who had come to him from ''Flying Saucer Rock And Roll'' and ''Red Hot'', didn't
know what to make of this latest single. Many of them were, to put it mildly, underwhelmed. After all, Riley had shed his raucous, Little Richard vocal chops and the song did not rock along in Riley's customary groove.
This is by far the most melodic and musically complex song Riley had recorded for Sun to date. Martin Willis'
sax solo leaves little doubt that Riley had found a completely different style with this record. And by the way, the Sun Records Discography has it wrong: That's Jimmy Wilson on piano, not James `Luke' Paulman. Paulman, discussed later in these notes, was
a guitar player. It's a lot easier to appreciate the sophistication of this track a half a century later even if, back in the day, few of us were beating down the doors of our local record store.
In their liner notes to BCD 15444, Rob Bowman and Ross Johnson quote Billy Riley as saying that he was unhappy with ''Wouldn't
You Know''. "We should have never have cut that record. It was something that we used to do on stage. It just wasn't a good record''. It is hard to reconcile. Riley's words with his statement elsewhere that his live performances of the era typically consisted
of the dart's biggest hits, rather than his own records. So why include ''Wouldn't You Know'' on stage? It not only wasn't a hit, but it had yet to be recorded by anyone else.
Riley may have grown not to like the record over the years (poor sales can do that), but it's hard to imagine that's how he felt at the time. Moreover, if he truly didn't like the recording,
then whose insistence drove its release?
The only alternate take
of ''Wouldn't You Know'' that has survived reveals a completely different approach to the song. In fact, its barely the same song. Alternate Take 1 strips the song of all of its melodic advantages and forces it into a routine 12-bar blues structure. Putting
it bluntly, if this is what the song originally sounded like, why bother to pay Marascalco or Robin Hood Music for the composition? Riley and the boys could crank out one of these concoctions in their sleep. Somewhere between this early take (Alternate Take
1) and Sun 289, this baby came to life. You may not have liked it back then, but what this became showed some distinction as well as some melodic flair. That's the kind of stuff you pay a publisher for. Sam Phillips must have agreed. Never one to piss away
publishing revenue, he nevertheless agreed to issuing this outside composition.
Sax player Martin Willis has suggested that this was not an alternate take in the conventional sense, but rather an informal run-through of the title prior to recording. Willis claims that the tape was occasionally running under such circumstances
with Jack Clement in the studio and Alternate Take 1 might have been the result of exactly such circumstances.
John Marascalco and Billy Riley finally did cross paths, although not until the singer had left Sun Records and moved to Los Angeles in the 1960s. "We finally got to know each other back then'', Marascalco recalls.
''Toward the end of of his life, after he went back to Arkansas, Billy recorded another one of my songs. He sent me a CD of 'Blue Collar Blues and it had 'Back Door Sally''' on it''.