Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.
“Sloop John B” is a song that most of us have heard at least a few times in our lives. Popularized by the Beach Boys on their immortal Pet Sounds album, it has been around much longer than that. The song originally came out of the folk tradition in the Bahamas under the title “The John B. Sails.” It was transcribed as early as 1916 by Richard Le Galliene, but really came to fame in America when included by Carl Sandburg in his 1927 folk song collection The American Songbag.
From there, it was recorded multiple times over the years. Notable versions include artists as diverse as Dick Dale, Jimmie Rodgers (under the title “Wreck of the John B”), Johnny Cash (as “I Want To Go Home”), and the Kingston Trio. It was the Kingston Trio, who recorded the song as “(The Wreck of the) John B,” that had the largest influence on the Beach Boys’ take, which would explode in popularity all over the world.