Musical Dice -- Instrumental And Vocal Versions Of The Same Song

     Welcome to the music section of my Musical Dice website! For you music trivia enthusiasts, and those who love to learn about the stories behind the music, you've come to the right place! I love sharing my knowledge of music trivia, so that's why I created this section.

     Today's article is a short article on what is to me, a fascinating subject, songs that have both vocal and instrumental versions that have become hits. Below are the songs that I am aware of that have both vocal and instrumental versions that have become hits.

"Limbo Rock"

     For years, I've heard and loved the vocal version of this song. But the one that I heard first (in a summer school dance class when I was 11), was the original instrumental version by the Champs, which went to #40 in early 1962. It wasn't until about the end of the same year, that Chubby Checker took his vocal version of the tune to #2 for 2 weeks.


     In the case of this song, it was first as a vocal by Chuck Berry (the songwriter) in 1959, as "Memphis, Tennessee." The first top ten hit version of this song, came as an instrumental by Lonnie Mack, which went to #5 for him in 1963. The most successful version was Johnny Rivers' vocal version, recorded live at the Whiskey-A-Go-Go, in West Hollywood, California. This version went to #2 for 2 weeks in 1964.

"Wipe Out"

     Undoubtedly, this instrumental version by the Surfaris, is a classic, being played a lot as an oldie, and featured in the movie "Dirty Dancing." On the chart, it went to #2 for a week in 1963, and it even charted again in 1966, when it went to #16. But some of you may remember the rock and rap version (recorded as "Wipeout") by the Fat Boys and the Beach Boys. This reached #12 for them in 1987.

"The In-Crowd"

     Here's one that many of you may not be aware of: In 1965, Dobie Gray (the same artist who went to #5 in 1973 with "Drift Away"), had a hit with this vocal version, which went to #13. Later on that same year, the Ramsey Lewis Trio made an even bigger hit out of theirinstrumental version. It reached #6 for them.

"Mercy Mercy Mercy"

     For years, I was only aware of the vocal version of this song. But it was first a hit as an instrumental for Cannonball Adderly, climbing to #11 in early 1967. Just six month later, the vocal version by the Buckinghams came out, reaching #5 that same year.

"Grazing In The Grass"

     Nowadays, it's hard to tell which version has become more of a classic, as one can hear either version on the oldies stations. I actually heard the vocal version first, long before I heard the instrumental version. But the instrumental version by Hugh Masekela was the original hit version. It spent 2 weeks at #1 in 1968. The vocal version, recorded by Friends Of Distinction, came out in 1969, climbing to #3 for them.

"Soulful Strut"

     To be honest with you, I wasn't even aware that this tune first came out as a vocal. I'd always heard this as an instrumental. But it first came out as a vocal by Barbara Acklin (recorded as "Am I The Same Girl") in early 1969. The instrumental version by Young-Holt Unlimited, came out later in the year, reaching #3 on the chart. As I said, I wasn't aware of the original vocal version initially. I only became aware of this, when I heard Swing Out Sister's remake of the vocal version in 1992. Neither vocal version made the top 40.

"Amazing Grace"

     I really have to thank Casey Kasem, the original voice of American Top 40, for this entry. For in the mid-80's, Casey Kasem had mentioned that the biggest hit song that was sung completely a capella, was Judy Collins' vocal rendition of this song. It reached #15 for her in 1971 (of course, "Don't Worry, Be Happy" by Bobby McFerrin became the biggest a capella hit, spending 2 weeks at #1 in 1988). I was listening to an old episode of Casey Kasem's American Top 40 when I heard the bagpipe instrumental version by the Pipes and Drums and the Military Band of the Royal Scot Dragoon Guards. This was played recently at Queen Elizabeth's funeral, plus, if you watch Law & Order, you may remember an early episode, where this was played at Detective Greevey's funeral. This version reached #11 in 1972.

     Before I conclude this article, there are three other songs that I need to mention that have gotten the same treatment. First of all, there is "One Mint Julep," originally a big R & B hit vocal by the Clovers. in 1952. The same tune would be a #8 hit instrumental for Ray Charles in 1961. There's also the classic "Auld Lang Syne" which millions sing every New Year's Eve, as the new year is brought in. But it was also a #7 hit instrumental for Kenny G. in early 2000. And of course, there is the "Star Spangled Banner," which, to me, sounds best when it's a big band playing the instrumental version. But I'm aware that many of you love Whitney Houston's vocal version of the song, which was twice a hit for her. It first came out for her in 1991, shortly after her performance at the Super Bowl. It reached #20 on the chart then. Just after 9/11, the song was re-issued, when American patriotism was at an all-time high, and the song reached #6 at that time.

     Of course, this sort of a thing was a more common practice back in the day, than it is now (especially since I think "Auld Lang Syne" was the last instrumental to hit the top ten). If you know of any other songs that were hit instrumentals as well as hit vocals, please let me know by emailing me at If there's nothing else, that's all for now! ☺