50 Years Ago: David Bowie Releases His Debut Single, ‘Liza Jane’
On June 5, 1964, David Bowie issued his debut single, the stomping R&B rocker, ‘Liza Jane.’ With his band, the King Bees, Bowie, using his given name of Davie Jones, was a mere 17 years old, but as evidenced by the recording, already full of fire and attitude.
Recorded for the Vocalion Pop label, ‘Liza Jane’ is a growling R&B-based tune that features Bowie on lead vocals as well as sax. Joining Bowie were George Underwood and Roger Bluck on guitars, Bob Allen on drums, and Francis Howard on bass.
The song’s origins date back to 1917, when a song called ‘Lil’Liza Jane‘ was recorded by Earl Fuller as an instrumental. A year later, the song, with added vocals, was issued by Harry C. Brown. Leslie Conn, the King Bees’ manager who also worked for Dick James Music Publishing, made a few changes to update the song and credited it to himself. The flip side was ‘Louie, Louie Go Home,’ which was a cover of a 1963 single by Paul Revere & the Raiders.
Even with strong promotion, ‘Liza Jane’ failed to chart and quickly faded from the airwaves. In 1978, it was re-released as a single by Vocalion’s parent company, Decca, to capitalize on Bowie’s fame.
Over the next year, Jones would ditch the King Bees and have a go at it with the Mannish Boys, then Davy Jones and the Lower Third, before finally going solo. In early-1966, Jones changed his name to Bowie, but still wouldn’t find commercial success until ‘Space Oddity’ reached No. 5 in the U.K. in 1969.