Mr. Blues : Wynonie Harris - part one©2006JCMarion


Wynonie Harris was born in July of 1915 in Omaha, Nebraska. In his teens he seemed to fit the cliche as a "born entertainer" around his home town . He was a singer, dancer, comedian, and drummer, but in a thoughtful moment in his life he decided to enter the field of medicine and so enrolled at Omaha's Creighton University as a pre-med student. Once he discovered the sound of the boogie woogie and blues stylings that were beginning to come into prominence in the mid thirties, medicine became an afterthought. He appeared around the Omaha area (at such spots as Bell's Club Harlem) and also spent some time in Kansas City which at the time was a hotbed of musical inspiration. About 1940 Harris decided to go West young man, and wound up in Los Angeles where the night club circuit was beginning to hit its stride along Central Avenue, the heart of the Black community.

After an appearance at Chicago's Rhumboogie in the early forties, he is heard by Lucky Millinder who was looking for a replacement for Sister Rosetta Tharpe as vocalist with the band. In the Spring of 1944 the Millinder band records "Who Threw The Whiskey In The Well" with Harris on vocal (Decca # 18674 with "Hurry Hurry" on the flip side). The record turns out to be a smash number one on the R & B charts. This gives Harris the push to go out as a solo artist. After leaving Millinder he records for Philo Records (soon to become Aladdin) in Los Angeles in the summer of 1945 with a combo led by Johnny Otis with "Around The Clock Blues - Parts 1 and 2" on # 103 which turned out to be his second top ten seller. The Johnny Otis band was often part of the line up at the Club Alabam, The Barrelhouse, and other legendary night spots along Central Avenue. Philo / Aladdin released "Cock-A-Doodle Doo" and "Yonder Goes My Baby" on # 104 followed in early 1946 by "Mr. Blues Jumped The Rabbit" and "Whiskey And Jelly Roll Blues" on # 171 as Wynonie uses his "Mr. Blues" nickname for which he is known throughout R & B circles. In November of the year "Rugged Road" and "Come Back Baby" are recorded on # 172. During the summer of 1947 Wynonie records "Big City Blues" and "Ghost Of A Chance" on # 196 followed by "Hard Ridin' Mama" and "You Got To Get Yourself A Job, Girl" on # 208. The next two years saw Harris record for a number of other independent labels starting with Apollo Records - "Young Man's Blues" / "Straighten Him Out" on # 360; "That's The Stuff You Gotta Watch" / "Baby Love" on # 361; "Somebody Changed The Lock On My Door" / "Wynonie's Blues" (which was a top seller on the R & B charts) on # 362; "She's Gone With The Wind" / "Here Comes The Blues" on # 363; "Poppa Treetop" / "Playful Baby" (another top ten seller) on # 372; "Everybody's Boogie" / "Time To Change Your Tune" on # 378; "Young And Wild" / "Take Me Out Of The Rain" on # 381; and "Rebecca's Blues" and "I Got A Lying Woman" on # 387. Harris also had a shot with Lionel Hampton's Hamp-Tone label and a couple of recordings for Nashville based Bullet Records - "Dig This Boogie" and the wonderfully named tune "Lightning Struck The Poor House" on # 251, and "Drinking By Myself" and "My Baby's Barrelhouse" on # 252.

In late 1947 Wynonie Harris decided to sign on with King Records owned by Syd Nathan and headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio. His first effort for the label was "Wynonie's Boogie" and "Rose Get Your Clothes" (great title)! In early 1948 Harris took on his own version of a tune by a young R & B artist named Roy Brown that was originally offered to Harris. "Good Rockin' Tonight" was the clarion call of the coming revolution in the musical tastes of America and the world. It was released on King # 4210 (with "Good Morning Mr. Blues" on the other side) It was a huge seller and a number one on the R & B charts. This was followed by "Love Is Like Rain" / "Your Money Don't Mean A Thing" on # 4217,and another top ten R & B seller "Lollipop Mama" with "Blow Your Brains Out" on the flip side of #4226. Wynonie rocked into 1949 (which turned out to be a monster year for Mr. Blues) with "Blowing To California" and "Bite Again" on # 4252, followed by a huge double sided hit record "I Feel That Old Age Coming On" and "Grandma Plays The Numbers" on # 4276. Another top seller on the R & B charts for Harris was his version of "Drinking Wine Spoo-Dee-Oodie" (also a hit for Stick McGhee on Atlantic) with "She Just Won't Sell No More" on # 4292, and still another top seller - "I Want My Fanny Brown" and "All She Wants To Do Is Rock" on # 4303 with both sides charting in the top ten.

In January of 1950 Harris gets together with the Dud Bascomb Combo for an extended engagement in Philadelphia at the Club 421. That same month King releases "Sittin On It All The Time" and "Baby Shame On You" on # 4330. By February the record is a top seller on the West Coast especially in California, and hits the top ten nationally. In rapid fire succession, King releases another side by Harris in late February with "I Love My Baby's Pudding" (another national top ten hit) and "I Can't Take It No More" on # 4342. In March at the Royal Theater in Baltimore features Wynonie Harris with his old mentor Lucky Millinder and his orchestra. In April "I Love My Baby's Pudding" is a big seller in Georgia and Florida. In May Harris plays the Paradise Theater with Erskine Hawkins ("Tippin In")and his band. In June, Harris joins Annie Laurie, Stick McGhee, and the Eddie Durham band for a string of one nighters through the South and part of the Midwest. In July Harris records "Good Morning Judge"(a top ten seller with "Stormy Night Blues")on King # 4378 and it immediately sells big on the West coast. In October "Mr. Blues Is Coming To Town" and "I Want To Love You Baby" is released on King # 4402. In November Aladdin Records releases an LP called "Blues After Hours" featuring some tunes recorded earlier by Wynonie Harris. Later that same month Wynonie and Lucky Millinder get together for King Records with two new records. On # 4418 "Oh Babe" (a top ten hit, also recorded by Louis Prima) features a vocal by Harris with the flip side of "Silent George" features Myra Johnson on vocal. On # 4419 as listed by Lucky Millinder, Harris does the vocal on "Teardrops From My Eyes" ( a cover of Ruth Brown's Atlantic hit), while the flip side is "Please Open Your Heart" with vocal by Lee Richards. The year ends as "Oh Babe" becomes a big seller in both Dallas and Houston Texas.

Wynonie Harris starts off 1951 with a new record for King - "Put It Back" and "Triflin' Woman" on # 4415. This is followed in short order by "I Believe I'll Fall In Love" and "A Love Untrue" on # 4445 and "Just Like Two Drops Of Water" and "Tremblin" on #4448. In July Harris undertakes his first trip to the West coast in three years which features an appearance at the annual Cavalcade Of Jazz concert at L.A.'s Wrigley Field which will headline Lionel Hampton, and also feature Billy Eckstine, Joe Liggins, Roy Brown, and Percy Mayfield. The tour of one nighters will also feature Stick McGhee, Annie Laurie, and the band of Eddie Durham. In June "Tremblin" is a hot seller in Georgia and Northern Florida. In July "Confessin The Blues" and "(Don't Roll Those) Bloodshot Eyes (At Me)" on King # 4461 is released. "Eyes" is an immediate best seller along the West Coast especially in Los Angeles, and soon becomes another national top seller. Harris plays a week at the Earle Theater in Philadelphia with Lil Green and the Joe Thomas band. In late September King releases # 4468 with "Man Have I Got Troubles" and "I'll Never Give Up" as Wynonie continues his prolific recording career with the label. In November Harris headlines at the Regal in Chicago along with Mabel Scott and Gene "Jug" Ammons. In December Harris goes into the recording studio with the Todd Rhodes band and records "Lovin Machine" and "Luscious Woman" on # 4485. Wynonie closes out the year with an engagement at Detroit's famous Flame Show Bar.

to next page . . . . . . . . .

back to title page . . . . . . .