Saturday, 17 October 2009
Rockin' Song of the Week No.78 - Wynonie Harris
Wynonie Harris - Quiet Whiskey
King 4685 (1953)
"As a statement of fact, clean of any attemp to brag about it, I'm the highest paid blues singer in the business. I'm a $1,500 a week man. Most of the other fellows sing for £50 to $75 a night. I don't. That is why I'm no Broadway star. The crooners star on the Great White Way and get swamped with COca Cola drinking bobby-soxers and other jail-bait. I star in Georgia, Texas, Alabama, Tennessee and Missouri and get those who have money to buy stronger stuff and my records to play while they drink it.
I like to sing to women with meat on their bones and that long, green stuff in their pockets. You find them mostly down south. As a matter of fact, I like all kinds of women, regardless of what colour they are or what size and shape they may have. Just as long as they're breathing, that's me!"
So said Wynonie Harris in 1954. He was Mr Blues, the good rockin' daddy who was the complete embodiment of rhythm and blues. You get the idea that every night was party night for Omaha, Nebraska's finest. A hot sweaty night in the deep south, the band playing a two hour rockin' set with Harris shouting the blues, eyeing the women as they danced a grinding boogie with their lovers, all the while playing eye-sex with Mr Blues up on stage. At the end of the night one of those teasers would end up backstage, drinking whiskey, smoking a cigerette and getting a table ender.
I think the first time I became aware of Wynonie Harris was through his version of Good Rockin' Tonight. There was a band from North Wales who played in Aberystwyth a lot in the 80's, the Blues Bunch, who played a lot of Wynonie songs and then in 1990 I got the great Charly CD, Good Rockin' Tonight. It featured 20 songs from the King and Federal years, 1947 to 1953.
I think my favourite is Quiet Whiskey, with the wonderful spoken intro, "Whiskey, whiskey, on the shelf, you were so quiet there by yourself. Things were fine til they took you down, then opened you up and passed you around."
The song swings like a gigalo's schlong with Charles Thompson on piano and Mickey Baker on the guitar. But it's the twin sax attack of David Van Dyke and the legendary Red Prysock that take the plaudits.
Recommended listening: The two CD's I've got are the Charly one mentioned above and the Ace CD Whiskey, Women and Fish Tails, both of which are excellent. My favourites songs if pushed are Christina, Greyhound, I Don't Know Where To Go and the more obvious classics, Lovin' Machine, Bloodshot Eyes and Mr Blues Is Coming To Town.