For this installment of “Deeper Under the Covers,” I’ve decided to focus on a particular song again, this time “Fever.” Some of you will know and remember this song being sung by a sultry-voiced Peggy Lee in 1958. Although I do not have a recollection of this version then (I was only eight!), I do remember it from few years later as it wafted out of my parent’s brand new “hi-fi” when I was around 12 or 13. And I do remember being hypnotized by that voice even then! However, as is usually the case, this was not the first version of the song. That honor belongs to the gentleman in the photo to the left, an American R&B singer by the name of Little Willie John, for his 1956 debut album of the same name. The song was written by Eddie Cooley and Otis Blackwell (he went by the pseudonym of John Davenport). It has been covered by many, and you will find three of those below along with the original and Peggy Lee’s version. I have chosen three very different versions of the song done in what I think are unique ways. These include a popular singer songwriter who burst onto the music scene in 2015, singing the song live and backed by a full band, and two very different duos. Enjoy!
William Edward “Little Willie John” was born November 15, 1937 and died May 28, 1968. He performed in the 1950s and early 60s and is best known for songs such as: “All Around the World” (1955), “Need Your Love so Bad” (1956), “Talk To Me, Talk To Me” (1958), “Leave My Kitten Alone” ((1960), and “Sleep” (1960). His rendition of “Fever” became a number-one hit in 1956. Little Willie John had a very troubled life, known for his short temper and alcohol abuse. He was convicted of manslaughter in 1965, and died in prison in 1968 of an apparent heart attack, at the age of 30!
Norma Deloris Egstrom, known professionally as Peggy Lee, was born in Jamestown, North Dakota on May 26, 1920 and died on January 21, 2002. She was a jazz and popular music singer, songwriter, composer, and actress, with her career spanning seven decades. She was once dubbed the “Queen of American pop music.” She recorded over 1,100 masters and composed over 270 songs. In 1995, she was given the Grammy Lifetime Achievement reward. She continued to perform into the 1990s, often using a wheelchair. After years of poor health, she died at 81 due to complications from diabetes.
Joshua Lee Turner is a multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, engineer, and producer based in Brooklyn, New York. He is best known for his YouTube channel “Josh Turner Guitar,” where he posts covers, original music, and instructional content. He created the channel in 2007, at the age of 15, about a year after first picking up the guitar! As of 2022, his channel has grown to 650K subscribers and over 170 million views. For this cover of “Fever,” he is joined by Allison Young, a singer from Nashville, Tennessee, with a very sultry voice that really does justice to this song.
I discovered DOVYDAS some time ago, and he is, for lack of a better term, one very interesting dude! Born in Kanus, Lithuania (1992), he relocated to the United States in 2012. He is a multi-instrumentalist and composer who has made a name for himself for his YouTube “busking” performances. He will ask people in the audience for song suggestions, and if he doesn’t know them, he looks them up on his phone, listens to the song for a minute or two, then programs an elaborate looping system with drums, piano, bass, etc., and then accompanies it on the guitar…and boy, can this guy shred! He has a decent voice as well, but it is his guitar playing that caught my attention. He often enlists people from the crowd to sing and/or play along. Sometimes these are random people; other times they are themselves YouTube performers, as is the case with the singer Chezzarai, who also does a very good Peggy Lee rendition of this song.
Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell was born on December 18, 2001. She first gained the public’s attention in 2015 with her debut single “Ocean Eyes,” written and produced by her brother Finneas O’Connell. To say that her career “blew up” after that is probably the understatement of the year, and it’s only January! This performance of “Fever” was recorded at the Hollywood Bowl in August of 2022, and is accompanied by the Count Basie Orchestra. If she ever decides to start singing jazz and leave “pop” behind, I don’t think anyone would mind at all!
Los Angeles 2023