It's Too Soon to Know
"It's Too Soon to Know" is an American doo-wop ballad by Deborah Chessler (1923-2012), performed first by The Orioles. It was number one on the American Rhythm and blues charts in November 1948. It is considered by some to be the first "rock and roll" song, and described by others as "the first rhythm and blues vocal group harmony recording".
"It's Too Soon to Know" should not be confused with "Too Soon to Know", a different composition written by country singer Don Gibson (whose own recording of that song was released in 1958 on Gibson's album, Oh Lonesome Me) and subsequently covered by Roy Orbison, who had a hit single in the UK (and more modest chart success in the US) with the song in 1966.
Jerry Blaine's Natural Records released "It’s Too Soon to Know" performed by The Orioles on 21 August 1948 on a 45 rpm single. It was the Orioles' first record for Natural, and Sonny Til was lead vocalist. On the flip side (B side) was "Barbara Lee", also by Deborah Chessler (real name Shirley Chessler and subsequently known as Shirley Reingold), who also managed The Orioles from 1948 to 1954. Blaine subsequently released it on his Jubilee Records label after complaints from National Records. By November it was number 1 in the R&B charts and number 13 in the pop charts. This was the first time that a black band on what was then known as a "race record" crossed over onto the pop charts.
In its 4 September 1948 issue Billboard noted the label and the release with "New label kicks off with a fine quintet effort on a slow race ballad. Lead tenor shows fine lyric quality" as well as noting it as a "race record".
"'It's Too Soon to Know' was like Elvis Presley's 'That's All Right (Mama)', Aretha Franklin's 'I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)', Nirvana's 'Smells like Teen Spirit'–a shock, a dead-in-your-tracks what is that?–a sound that was stylistically confusing and emotionally undeniable."
C. B. Morrow described it as "a strong foundation with a bass vocalist and set soothing alto breaths across the middle while a falsetto tenor cut a high line across the top."
Other recording history
Ella Fitzgerald recorded "It's Too Soon to Know" in 1948.
Irma Thomas also recorded a version in 1961, that was released as a single (which failed to chart) in the U.S. (Minit 633).
Linda Ronstadt recorded it on her 1993 Winter Light album, but it did not chart separately from the album.
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- quoted in Warner, Jay (2006), American Singing Groups: A History, From 1940 to Today, Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Hal Leonard Corp., pp. 59–60, ISBN 0-634-09978-7
- Morrow, Cousin Bruce, and Rich Maloof (2007), Doo Wop: The Music, the Times, the Era, New York: Sterling Publishing, p. 58.
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