It's Too Soon to Know

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"It's Too Soon to Know" is an American doo-wop[1] ballad by Deborah Chessler (1923-2012),[2] 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,[3][4] and described by others as "the first rhythm and blues vocal group harmony recording".[5]

"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 big hit single in the U.K. (and more modest chart success in the U.S.) with the song in 1966.

Original release[edit]

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",[6] also by Deborah Chessler (real name Shirley Chessler and subsequently known as Shirley Reingold), who also managed The Orioles from 1948 to 1954.[7] Blaine subsequently released it on his Jubilee Records label after complaints from National Records.[8] By November it was number 1 in the R&B charts and number 13 in the pop charts.[9] This was the first time that a black band on what was then known as a "race record" crossed over onto the pop charts.[8]

Reception[edit]

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"[10] as well as noting it as a "race record".[10]

"'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."[6]

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."[11]

Other recording history[edit]

Ella Fitzgerald recorded "It's Too Soon to Know" in 1948.

Pat Boone's recording of the song made No.4 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100[12] and No.7 on the U.K. singles chart in 1958.

Etta James recorded a version in 1961, that was released as the B-side to her minor U.S. chart hit "Seven Day Fool".[13]

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.

Glenn Frey recorded the song for his 2012 album After Hours.

Roy Orbison recorded a version on his 1967 Roy Orbison Sings Don Gibson

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Art", Esquire magazine, 118: 1992, p. 122.
  2. ^ Horner, Pamela (2009), "An Evening with Deborah Chessler, Songwriter and Former Manager of the Orioles at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame", Echoes of the Past, No. 88, p. 18, accessed 28 May 2010.
  3. ^ Marcus, Greil (24 June 1993), "Is this the woman who invented rock & roll?' the Deborah Chessler story", Rolling Stone, Issue 659, p. 41.
  4. ^ Marcus, Greil (1989) Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, pp. 257–258, ISBN 0-674-53580-4
  5. ^ Tompkins, George (2002), "Foreword", in Rosalsky, Mitch (2002), Encyclopedia of Rhythm & Blues and Doo-Wop Vocal Groups, Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, p. ix, ISBN 0-8108-4592-X
  6. ^ a b Marcus, Greil (1995), The Dustbin of History, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, p. 234, ISBN 0-674-21857-4
  7. ^ Kelly, Jacques (October 18, 2012). "Shirley Reingold, manager of vocal group The Orioles". The Baltimore Sun. Baltimore, MD. Retrieved May 26, 2015. 
  8. ^ a b Bogdanov, Vladimir (ed.) (2003), "The Orioles", All Music Guide to Soul: the definitive guide to R&B and soul, San Francisco, California: Backbeat Books, pp. 511–512, ISBN 0-87930-744-7
  9. ^ "Orioles", Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Oxford University Press, online edition, accessed 27 May 2010.
  10. ^ a b 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
  11. ^ Morrow, Cousin Bruce, and Rich Maloof (2007), Doo Wop: The Music, the Times, the Era, New York: Sterling Publishing, p. 58.
  12. ^ McAleer, Dave (2004), Hit Singles: top 20 charts from 1954 to the present day, San Francisco, California: Backbeat Books, pp. 43–44, ISBN 0-87930-808-7
  13. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2007), Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–2006 (11th edition), Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research, p. 421, ISBN 0-89820-172-1