The early months of the Deep Purple story were about transatlantic success and a marked absence of chart activity back home in Britain. The Mk I line-up of the group enjoyed huge American acclaim with their debut single, a cover of Joe South’s ‘Hush,’ climbing to No. 4. For the follow-up, they made the surprising choice of covering a Neil Diamond song that had been a top 30 hit for the singer-songwriter less than a year earlier, ‘Kentucky Woman.’
In the meantime, the band had swiftly released a second album, The Book of Taliesyn, which contained ‘Kentucky Woman,’ whereas ‘Hush’ had been on its predecessor, released only three months earlier, Shades of Deep Purple. The new single was released in the UK on 6 December 1968, in the week that it peaked at No. 38 in the US. It came out there via Purple’s deal with Tetragrammaton, the label co-founded by comedian Bill Cosby.
Both albums also made decent inroads into the American market, reaching Nos. 24 and 54 respectively, but the band were drawing blanks in their own back yard. None of the singles or albums made the charts in the UK, and Purple would have to wait until January 1970 before finally cracking the bestsellers with Jon Lord’s Concerto For Group and Orchestra.
Ritchie Blackmore commented on the choice of cover when he was interviewed for Stuart Grundy and John Tobler’s 1983 book The Guitar Greats. “I was quite happy playing it,” he said, “because I just had no direction at the time and was very happy to be in a band with some financial backing behind us.
“We were living in a haunted chateau in St Albans, and I think ‘Kentucky Woman’ was Jon Lord’s suggestion, putting it to the type of beat which Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels would have used. And it worked – I think it got quite high in the charts in America, as our second single.”
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