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KING 4445; MAY 1951



In the lead-in to the previous review we apologized for not delivering an obligatory cheap shot to the record label for apparently choosing the wrong side of the record to promote and promised we’d make up for the lack of snarkiness next time out.

As this is the next time out then you’re in for some gratuitous attacks on everybody’s favorite targets, the record companies who are the unfortunate middlemen when it comes to getting the artists work to the public’s ears.

But rather than criticize them for which side of this single to push, we’re instead going to lay into them for holding this one back for two months so they could instead rush-release another Wynonie Harris record in the interim, screwing up the pedantic listings of these records more than seven decades after the fact.

Obviously holding grudges goes hand in hand around here with irrational complaints and second guessing.


My Heart Is Grieving
Like all companies King Records line up their releases a few weeks in advance… choosing which two songs will be paired together, sending the masters out to be pressed, printing up the labels, etc. King actually had all of those operations done in-house which made it easier to perpetrate a last minute switch without having bills come due for pressed singles that were now being held back.

This is unfortunate because for the second time with Wynonie Harris over the past eight months it allowed them to switch up the order of releases to capitalize on a rising song that they hastily had him record to try and jump on its sales while still hot.

Last fall they did that by putting out both Oh Babe and Teardrops From Your Eyes almost simultaneously (as both songs were covers where time was of the essence to get them out) while the already scheduled original song they had waiting got held back until December.

Okay, no big deal you think. What difference does it make when we hear it? The delay wasn’t long enough to render the stylistic performance out of date after just two months on the shelf obviously. The only problem comes with lunatics like us who use the label numbers to try to pinpoint when they were released and these were now out of sequence.

But now King is doing the same thing when they decided to shelve the scheduled A Love Untrue, already pressed as King 4445 and slated for a March or April release only to be pulled back so they could hurry out his version of Just Like Two Drops Of Water that for some inexplicable reason everybody and his brother was covering in the spring of 1951.

Though it paid off for them, as that song made some regional charts, it threw the label numbers out of whack for us. Earl Bostic’s Sleep and Tiny Bradshaw’s Two Dry Bones On A Pantry Shelf (King 4444 and 4447 respectively) were therefore released a month AFTER Harris’s cover song (King 4448), while a forthcoming Sonny Thompson record (King 4446) might have been released in April along with those two, or held back until May to coincide with THIS Wynonie Harris record.

None of which changes the fact that today’s record is hardly worth all this confusion.


Going Away From You
With its lurching tempo and a subdued Harris behind the wheel this was hardly the type of material that he made his reputation on.

Henry Glover worked up an interesting perspective with the song however as Harris is forced to adapt to the unusual role (for him) of somebody whose woman was cheating on him rather than the other way around which was Wynonie’s normal modus operandi when it came to relationships in song.

Unfortunately beyond that novelty aspect as it relates to his overriding persona there’s not much else to really get enthused about with a A Love Untrue.

The story itself is adequate, especially as it incorporates the title into the lyrics in creative ways and takes on a casual, almost conversational patter, but the majority of the lines are fairly obvious rhymes and hardly fleshed out with any supporting details beyond expressing sadness.

As for Harris, he’s not fighting against the slow pace or the dejected outlook, which is to his credit, and he does sound convincing as someone who is facing unexpected heartbreak showing that he was indeed a capable actor in roles outside his comfort zone. The problem is it doesn’t play to his vocal strengths to strip away the rhythm entirely and insist that he merely ride the gently undulating melody with no help in sight.

Which brings us to the other shortcoming, the lack of any firepower in the music.

With slowly churning horns, a modestly restless piano that never steps to the forefront and a sneaky guitar that clearly seems to want to take charge without being given the green light with which to do so, the song is very indistinct by nature. Though the modest arrangement is reasonably fitting for the nature of the song, it’s not enough to shore up Harris’s sluggish vocal which means the record sort of drags you along with it rather than sweeping you up in its wake.

It’s not exactly a chore to listen to, but it’s doubtful anyone would include this in a playlist for either Harris or for rock of 1951… no matter what month it eventually came out during.


I’ve Got To Go On My Way
In both reception and even aesthetic quality (though it was no great shakes itself), the Harris single that had been substituted for this one and was still selling well in parts of the country when this was finally released, was marginally better for whatever that’s worth.

To that end the decision was hardly the worst thing for any of them… other than for us who had to spend far too much time sorting all this out… but it does sort of reveal that King Records was stuck with what to actually do with Wynonie Harris by now.

He was still a vibrant artist at his best but no longer quite as shocking now that his usual hellbent approach had been fully absorbed – and now that other rock artists were unleashing their own brand of musical mayhem to the party – and as such he, more than most, was reliant on finding specific types of songs to connect with listeners.

A Love Untrue is clearly not it. Though the concept of the song is okay, as is the decision to deliver something slightly more subdued, they needed to find a more satisfying way to do so than this. He just doesn’t have the vocal flexibility to bring the kind of emotional despair necessary, nor is he adept at playing around with the melody within the context of a downbeat arrangement.

As a result Harris is left to dutifully follow the band’s lead, singing it with all the sincerity he can muster, while probably deciding which of the women he passed on the sidewalk on the way to the studio he can catch up to and accost when the session is over.

The record of THAT encounter, even sans music, would likely be more engaging than this flat affair.


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