Olivia Chaney is a classically trained British singer/songwriter. Her profile has been rising steadily in recent years, as she released an album called The Queen of Hearts with the Decemberists in 2017 under the group name Offa Rex (we gave it four stars). This summer, she put out her second solo studio album Shelter. Alongside her many originals is a cover of “Long Time Gone,” a song first recorded by… well, that’s a bit complicated.
According to Chaney’s press release, the song was written by Frank Harford and Tex Ritter and “first recorded” by the Everly Brothers. This is incorrect. Now before you go firing off an angry email to her publicist, the whole thing appears to be a case of mistaken attribution that predates the internet.
The database Second Hand Songs claims that the Everlys were the first ones to record the song in 1958, though their own comments section disputes this. When I first saw the listing on the site, I thought something was off because the tune was on the Everlys’ album Songs Our Daddy Taught Us — billed as a covers record. Plus, I didn’t think Tex Ritter, a popular country singer in the ‘40s and ‘50s, would write a tune directly for the Everlys. When I pulled up Ritter’s “Long Time Gone” it had different lyrics and a different melody entirely. Also, some sites list Ritter’s as being from 1944, while others have it as from 1946.
Searching a bit further, I found an image of one of the vinyl releases of Songs Our Daddy Taught Us and it, too, lists Ritter/Harford in the credits. The album’s liner notes go even further, describing the track as “Tex Ritter’s version of the old song that came with the first settlers through the newfound Cumberland Gap into Kentucky and Tennessee.” Both Wikipedia and Allmusic.com credit Ritter and Harford as the songwriters on the Everly Brothers’ album.
Wikipedia perpetuates the problem, but it turns out it solves it too. A different Wikipedia article, listing all the Everly Brothers songs, gives us the key to unlocking the mystery: a country duo called the York Brothers.
This, finally, appears to be correct. The York Brothers released a song called “Long Time Gone” in 1950. You can listen to a snippet here, and it’s the same song the Everly Brothers recorded. Somewhere along the line it got labeled incorrectly and the false credits stuck. At the very least, someone should call the York Brothers’ estate to make sure they’re getting the proper royalties. But the whole thing shows how false narratives can perpetuate themselves in the age of the Internet.
None of this has any impact on the cover. Chaney plays it as a slow, ethereal, piano ballad. Her voice is dark and haunting and she recounts the song’s heartbreak-themed lyrics. She throws in a few flourishes of fiddle that give it the feel of a song from the British Isles. When she hits the high notes, you can clearly hear the extent of her classical training as her singing is almost operatic in nature. Origins aside, the track is a solid reworking of the tune, no matter who played it first.
Click here to listen to more covers of songs by the Everly Brothers (or so we think).