These Three Early Rock Pioneers Made Up The Majority Of The Beatles' Cover Songs

Before becoming much better known for their original music, most bands start out doing their own versions of their favorite songs from other artists. The Beatles were no exception, as it would be way too much to assume they came out swinging with "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and magically transformed popular music as we know it with their brilliant compositions. As any Beatles fan worth their salt will tell you, the band, once they had fully evolved from John Lennon's skiffle band the Quarrymen, got their start by covering songs from American rock 'n' roll performers, of which there were many who would eventually reach legendary status. But which of these acts did they cover the most?

Take note that when we mention covers, we aren't exclusively referring to the songs the Beatles covered as part of their studio discography. These also include their songs from live albums and compilations that were released after the band broke up, such as the two "Live at the BBC" albums and the "Anthology" box set that arguably helped reignite interest in the Fab Four and introduce them to younger audiences. If you're familiar with the Beatles' early history, you probably won't be too surprised to find out who those frequently covered early rock pioneers are, but here they are anyway — all legends and all worthy to be covered by a band many still consider to be the greatest of all time.

Little Richard: 4 songs covered (Or 3.5?)

At first glance, it might seem like there are just three Little Richard covers in the official Beatles discography — "Long Tall Sally," "Lucille," and "Ooh! My Soul." But a closer look at the list of songs from that discography (via Beatles Bible) reveals that there's a fourth song written — and originally performed — by the man born Richard Penniman that the Beatles covered. That song, which appeared on the album "Beatles for Sale," is "Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!," though it is the second half of a medley with "Kansas City," a song popularized by Wilbert Harrison in the late '50s. So with that in mind, let's alternately count it as three-and-a-half Little Richard covers, which is enough to put the pride of Macon, Georgia, slightly ahead of Larry Williams and Arthur Alexander, who were both covered thrice, as noted by Far Out.

According to Setlist's Beatles page, "Long Tall Sally" is the second most played cover song in the Fab Four's live performance history with 251 performances, right behind "Twist and Shout" with a whopping 377 — you probably thought the latter song was strictly an Isley Brothers cover, but it was actually first recorded by an obscure group called the Top Notes. There is, however, nothing obscure about Richard and his wild onstage antics and over-the-top vocals, and "Long Tall Sally" was a natural cover choice for the Beatles, who recorded it in 1964 and were so familiar with it that they only needed one take to nail it. Probably a good thing that was the case, as it isn't easy to replicate Richard's frenetic delivery and impassioned screams that kick off the instrumental breaks.

Carl Perkins: 6 songs covered

While Little Richard was a huge influence on Paul McCartney, in particular, Carl Perkins was among George Harrison's favorite performers. So much so that the Beatles lead guitarist opted for the stage name "Carl Harrison" when he and his bandmates briefly used pseudonyms while touring Scotland in their pre-fame days (via Beatles Bible). That's why it's quite notable that the rockabilly pioneer had six of his songs officially covered by the lads from Liverpool.

Of course, "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby," which features Harrison on lead vocals, should be among the first Perkins covers on the mind of Beatles fans, but there's also "Honey Don't," which features Ringo Starr singing lead and was also included in the unusually cover-heavy "Beatles for Sale." Aside from those songs, the Beatles also covered "Matchbox" (with an unusually aggressive-sounding Ringo again providing lead vocals), "Lend Me Your Comb," "Glad All Over" (not to be confused with the Dave Clark Five hit of the same name), and "Sure to Fall (In Love with You)."

Speaking about the band in general, the Beatles were heavily influenced by Perkins' work, and this was probably best summed up by McCartney, who was quoted as saying, "If there were no Carl Perkins, there would be no Beatles," for a documentary on the rock 'n' roll/rockabilly icon's life.

Chuck Berry: 9 songs covered

And now we're down to the early rock legend who was covered most frequently by the Beatles, and it's none other than Chuck Berry himself. He only has two songs that the Beatles covered as part of their studio discography — "Roll Over Beethoven" from "With the Beatles" and "Rock and Roll Music" from "Beatles for Sale." But when it came to their live albums and compilations, Berry was an especially popular choice for the Fab Four to cover. The Berry covers from those non-studio releases include "Too Much Monkey Business," "I'm Talking About You," "Memphis, Tennessee," "Sweet Little Sixteen," "Carol," "I Got to Find My Baby" (actually a Peter Clayton original also covered by B.B. King and Little Walter), and Berry's signature song, "Johnny B. Goode."

Although "Johnny B. Goode" is arguably the best-known Berry song to modern audiences, it ranks nowhere among the Beatles' favorite covers from their live performances. According to Setlist, "Roll Over Beethoven" ranks fourth on this list and is the third most covered track, and one can even say that their version, which was a good showcase for George Harrison's underrated lead vocal talent, is more popular than the original. Interestingly, Beatles Bible notes that John Lennon — who sang lead on "Rock and Roll Music" and most other Berry covers — was the original lead singer when the band first started playing "Roll Over Beethoven," with Harrison taking over that role in 1961.