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If we know what’s good for us, this is one we probably should skip over and just stick our heads in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist.

Not that it’s not a good record with a long colorful history which weaves through multiple genres and thus is important to know, but it’s just that the topic is a little dicey to talk about, even in the Twenty-First Century… maybe even more because it IS the Twenty-First Century when this kind of thing is much more widely frowned upon.

You see, even though we’ve thankfully gotten past the uptight attitudes towards sexuality carried over from the Victorian era and aided by the hypocritical religious nuts who want to deny the existence of arousal and physical pleasure between consenting adults, the fact remains there are still – rightly – a few topics under that banner that are taboo.

Number one on that list is pedophilia… something which this song in all of its many forms may just elevate to high art.


I’ll Treat You Fine And Make You Mine
Human beings, haunted by the realization of their own mortality, view youth as somehow being “pure”… so naturally when they’re adults they harbor fantasies of tainting that purity in an effort to recapture it in some way for themselves.

In 1937 bluesman Sonny Boy Williamson wrote and performed Good Morning Little Schoolgirl, essentially the same song as this one which came out fifteen years later under a different title with a few different lyrics that apparently earned it different writing credits.

No matter the details, the song was about an older guy seeing a younger, but by no means pre-pubescent, girl who catches his eye and he makes a play for her through the normal means… flattery, bribery and trying to convince her that he’s her only chance for a man, especially one who will be good to her. Of course you’d be right to question the validity of that claim when it’s clear that he’s legally an adult and she is not, which even then I surmise was if not illegal, at least immoral in most places (at least north of the Mason-Dixon line).

However, before we cast stones let’s point out that Sonny Boy really WAS closer to a boy in many ways than a full grown man when he cut that song at the age of 23, even if he sounds to our distant ears to be three or four times as old as that, something which most country bluesman fall prey to simply because of the primitive recording equipment and largely acoustic instruments give it an old-timey feel that is hard to shake.

Regardless of the moral implications it contained, the song became a blues standard – and one frequently adopted by rock acts in the 1960’s such as Grateful Dead and Ten Years After – thanks in large part to its catchy zig-zagging riff, even as the topic itself began to get a little more troubling as the age difference became harder to pass off as time went on.

Yet in 1952 when Peppermint Harris essentially remodeled the song as Hey Little Schoolgirl, keeping the same musical structure but transferring it to guitar and piano, the average age of first marriages for females in America was at the lowest it’d ever be – 20.3 years of age.

In other words barely two years after graduating high school. Since courtships before marriage tend to be longer than just a few weeks in most cases, chances are MOST would-be brides in real life were being hit on by their future husbands while they were little schoolgirls too.

Ride Around This Town
Harrison Nelson was twenty-seven years old when, as Peppermint Harris, he released this record, making the age difference a bit more unsettling than when Sonny Boy Williamson had prowled the playgrounds for a prospective wife.

Yet in large part thanks to Maxwell Davis’s rock arrangement – not to mention Harris’s more spry vocal – the years get scrubbed away just a little, though it’s still plainly obvious that this is an adult with a Lolita fetish.

(For those who DON’T know classic literature, Lolita is one of the great fiction books of the Twentieth Century, written by Vladimir Nabokov in 1955 and the title character became the catch-all term for underaged temptresses ever since).

Right about here we can stop, if you’d like. Hey Little Schoolgirl is topically inappropriate and your enjoyment of it purely as a musical experience could easily be misinterpreted.

But then again, rock will have countless more songs to follow which mine the same territory, Chuck Berry – a man with plenty of disturbing real-life parallels to the characters he wrote – will seem to specialize in this theme and we can’t very well avoid those, nor can we sidestep the events which brought down Jerry Lee Lewis’s thriving rock career. So let’s forge ahead.

It’s promising that we can report that Harris’s sleepy tone takes some of the edge off, making him sound less lecherous and more harmless – though that may just have been his plan all along. His overtures to this girl however retain the same formula that Williamson employed, though with the appropriate inflationary touches such as now offering the girl a Cadillac (at least that indicates she’s old enough to drive I guess!) if she’ll consent to go out with him.

Luckily we can sidestep some of the more delicate questions going forward by focusing on what Davis does with the arrangement, accentuating the prancing pace behind Harris’s vocals and then throwing in a non-threatening sax solo which likewise removes some of the predatory vibes the song might otherwise explore.

The good news is the record never fails to sound engaging and since that’s the primary requirement of good songs, it makes it hard to reject out of hand no matter what your conscience is telling you.


Don’t You Want Me To Thrill You?
Circling back to the concept of youth being something sought after in everybody – saying somebody has “a youthful spirit” or complimenting someone by saying, “You look so young!” – it’s easy to see how the idea behind this song makes a lot of sense. The older one gets, the more they lose their appeal, not just physically but also in how they view the world. Worn down by adult responsibility, let down by their own failure to live the life they dreamed of when they were younger, adulthood is often just one extended slide into the graveyard for bitter disillusioned people.

By contrast someone just starting out down that path in life, hopefully old enough to not still have a curfew anyway, still largely has their carefree zest for life along with a sense of adventure, optimism and idealism and it’s not wrong to want THOSE things in a partner, no matter their date of birth.

If you also keep in mind that girls married much younger in 1952 than in 2023 – by ten whole years! – it shows how the context of the time it was created gives it a slightly different interpretation than it has today.

The problem with Hey Little Schoolgirl though is even with those explanations, along with the good riff and the psychology behind desperate come-ons trying to cover themselves with laid-back swagger, the song is not so overwhelmingly appealing to completely override the fundamental issues of vastly different life experience making the premise unworkable, or at least uncomfortable, the more you think of it.

Maybe the best solution would be this… if you can still look, act and sound young enough not to raise an eyebrow propositioning a girl, then you can get away with it. If not though, maybe it’s best to let the girl come on to you instead.

In other words, for most men it’s okay to glance as she walks by, but instead of stopping to talk, just keep on walking yourself.


(Visit the Artist page of Peppermint Harris for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)