Everybody's got the 'Fever,' but Peggy Lee's got it bad

Dec 6, 2013

Chances are you’ve heard Peggy Lee’s iconic version of “Fever”– it’s one of the steamiest love songs ever written. But the original recording was released two years earlier by Little Willie John in 1956.

Little Willie John had a hit with “Fever," but after Peggy Lee recorded it in 1958, it became her signature song. Here’s Peggy Lee and “Fever” from a 1958 television show:

Peggy Lee’s is still the best known version, despite remakes by the likes of Madonna and Beyonce.

Many blues artists have taken a crack at it, including Buddy Guy, James Cotton and Bobby Blue Bland.

“Fever” sounds perfectly natural as a Piedmont-style acoustic blues in Precious Bryant’s 2002 recording. Here’s a short clip of Precious Bryant playing another Piedmont blues:

Since the 1970’s The Neville Brothers have been some of the most influential players in  New Orleans rhythm and blues. Here’s an amazing live version of “Fever” from 1987:

Here are the full versions of “Fever” tracked through time:

1956: “Fever” Little Willie John

1958: “Fever” Peggy Lee

2002: “Fever” Precious Bryant

2008: “Fever” The Neville Brothers

The Blues Time Machine” is a weekly feature tracking one great blues song through time. The series is hosted by John Kessler, from KPLU’s  “All Blues,” and is published here every Friday and airs on KPLU 88.5 on Fridays at 12:10 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m.