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)