Apr 042011

There’s a new version of the Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Woman” out and if it sounds like it was recorded in the 1930s, that’s because it was! It turns out that the Rolling Stones’ version was the cover all along. Back in 1969, they repurposed an old William “Silky Bill” Nathan song and claimed it as their own.

For four decades the acoustic original remained hidden until this past Friday, April 1st. Silky Bill’s great-grandson Neil Nathan, a longtime Cover Me favorite, just unearthed the shocking evidence. The Rolling Stones may have a lawsuit on their hands, as detailed in the following totally-sincere press release. Then, after you finish reading, check out the “original,” Robert Johnson-esque “Honky Tonk Woman.”

NEW YORK (April 1, 2011) — Shocking new evidence indicates that “Honkytonk Woman” was not written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Though they’ve been credited with creating the song while on Brazilian holiday in 1968, its true birthplace goes back much further. Richard’s quote that “it was originally written as a real Hank Williams/Jimmie Rodgers/1930’s country song,“ seems now to be quite revealing of its true origin; the 1930’s. And the writer is golden voiced crooner, William “Silky Bill” Nathan. Virtually unknown to all but the most serious auteurs, Nathan is credited as one of Elvis’ main vocal influences. But since all his recordings were believed to be lost to oxidation, it was never known to what extent until now.

How could such a ruse have stood for the past 40 years? It seems that billionaire and noted eccentric Maurice Fetherberry, had hoarded the song amongst the rest of his 30’s vintage country, folk, and blues archives. The Maurice Fetherberry Archives were thought to be lost while in transport on the final voyage of the Andrea Doria (Fetherberry believed air travel to be unsafe).

However, the real truth is they ended up in the hands of Fetherberry’s grandaughter, Marianne Faithfull, Jagger’s girl friend from 1966-1970, and co-writer with Jagger and Richards of Sister Morphine. Although now clean and sober for decades, at the time Faithfull was battling her own demons, and sold the archives to fund her drug addiction. No one knows whose hands they passed through since then, and the collection has been all but decimated. But in a strange twist of fate, the original recording of “Honkytonk Woman” has found its final and rightful resting place; in the hands of William “Silky Bill” Nathan’s great grandson, Neil Nathan. A singer songwriter in his own right, Neil gravitated over to some cylinders of 78’s at a NYC antique fair and noticed his great grandfather’s name on one of them. Now Nathan is fuming and plans to file suit against Jagger and Richards. “Those slimey limey bastards’ll get there’s! You can’t just tell people you did something you didn’t do!”

William “Silky Bill” Nathan – Honky Tonk Woman (Rolling Stones cover original)

Check out more Neil Nathan at his website or MySpace.

Cover Me is now on Patreon! If you love cover songs, we hope you will consider supporting us there with a small monthly subscription. There are a bunch of exclusive perks only for patrons: playlists, newsletters, downloads, discussions, polls - hell, tell us what song you would like to hear covered and we will make it happen. Learn more at Patreon.

  18 Responses to “Neil Nathan Unearths “Original” “Honky Tonk Woman” from the 1930s”

Comments (18)
  1. Let’s give Jagger & Richards the benefit of the doubt here: they were stoned off their fucking gourds much of the time back then, especially Keith. It’s entirely possible that they ripped it off without realizing it since Faithfull might’ve sold her copy of this by that time. There’s zero doubt that this is the original and the Rolling Stones version is a cover, but I doubt the guys who wrote “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, “Sympathy for the Devil”, “Mother’s Little Helper”, “Gimme Shelter”, etc. would feel the need to take credit for this one, especially since they were perfectly willing to accurately credit every single one of the dozens of other covers released by them.

  2. It’s never too late to say APRIL FOOL!

  3. april fools joke writ large ..whole story seemed far fetched ..and if that was a tad sus the line “blew my nose and then she blew my mind” clinched it . hardly the vernacular of mid 30’s songwriting.

  4. They did not even blow their noses in the 1930s… April Fools–

  5. sorry, I think this is too well recorded. recordings of this era and at this level would sound a lot crappier & way more muddled. if you listen carefully you can here the guitar is way too clear. yeah, April fooled ya.

  6. Gimme a break, where is the pop and hiss heard in all these old recordings. This record traveled the world yet is in perfect condition. Can you spell fake?

  7. I was watching an episode of House and at the end of the program Dr Wilson is paying him a visit,in the back ground I heard what sounded like an old black man singing what I thought could be the original version of the song Honky Tonk Woman It was very Bluesy and slower,so I started track it down when I came across this connection. If any of you audiophiles have heard this or know anything about it please RSVP to Rex at
    The funcave@comcast.net Thanks R……………..

  8. Cheats,thieves,They are not the only ones,The beatles too.

  9. I am 75 years old and I have known this song since I was a child, my mother used to sing it to me, I didn’t even know that they claimed to have written this song, I always thought that they had just covered it.

  10. Much ado about nothin’


  12. I heard the version on HOUSE (series 2 / episode 14 ) & I love it ! ! But STILL no clue as to who the singer is ? ? SOMEBODY MUST KNOW ! ? ! HELP ! !

  13. The picture is Angus Young

  14. What gave it away and clinched it as a fake was the line” I laid a divorcee in New York city”
    That line was pretty controversial in 1969 and many southern station would not play it without a bleep.
    In 1930 a lyric like that would have shut down any recording studio that produced it.
    The Maryanne Faithful part of the story was pretty sketchy too.

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>