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With just three months to go in the calendar year we suddenly look up and see, much to our surprise, that the King Of Rock ‘n’ Roll of the 1940’s (disputed but definitely in the running) Wynonie Harris has had fewer releases in 1952, and fewer hits (zero), than his most obvious disciple, H-Bomb Ferguson.

Yes, times have definitely changed.

But as is always the case in music, particularly this brand of music and more specifically this artist, one potent release can change perceptions overnight.

One sizable hit can get you back in the headlines and, though it’s getting less likely by the day, one really memorable song that displays Harris’s smarmy charm and hell-raising spirit in full glory can even possibly have him claiming once again that he rules this kingdom.

A quick look at this deliciously witty and oh-so-promising title and maybe that idea doesn’t seem so far-fetched after all.


Left Those Apples Alone
Though commercially speaking the prediction would turn out to be accurate, surely no devoted rock fan was ready to say that Wynonie Harris was finished as an impactful performer in these circles.

Yet even his most ardent admirers would have to say his momentum has stalled after being such an irrepressible force in the rock world since its inception.

The real question though is… why?

In the two and a half years he was rocking in the late 1940’s he scored seven national hits (an eighth was released in 1949 but charted in early 1950). Since the new decade dawned he’s gotten five on those charts in an extra year’s time, and one was the aforementioned carry over from late ’49.

Yet by our admittedly subjective tally, he’s actually released more impressive records this decade than last, with seven hitting the green numbers compared to five last decade. That’s not something he can take to the bank and get a loan with, but it at least shows that he hasn’t lost his fastball yet.

So obviously you think the answer has to be he’s no longer one of the only fire-breathing rockers on the scene as he was back then and so with more competition he’s getting lost in the shuffle, even if he’s still releasing some good records along the way.

Then there’s the fact that with younger audiences comes newer tastes who don’t worship – and in some cases don’t even really know – the big names that started all this fuss. As a result the current generation of rock fans are gravitating towards more youthful acts rather than still clinging to the old guard.

In other words it makes sense… sort of.

The reason we aren’t just passing it off as an inconsequential quirk owing to any of those valid explanations however is because of records like Adam Come And Get Your Rib, a song that has all the makings of one of his classic sides… a memorable title, some vivid lyrics that gleefully pervert a Biblical tale and some sexual innuendo thrown into the bargain as a cherry on top of the sundae.

Yet somehow the record never lives up to its promise and in fact, with all of those enticing components staring us in the face, it may actually have to be considered one of his biggest let-downs even though it’s not all bad.


Take What’s Rightfully Your Own
A few reviews back we lambasted OKeh Records for saddling Annie Laurie with the most ill-conceived, outdated, non-rock arrangement on I Feel So Right Tonight, featuring blaring brass section in lieu of more appropriate – and far fewer – reeds which all but destroyed a really good composition.

Now the same fate befalls Wynonie Harris.

Both records were produced by their writers so there can be no shifting of the blame for these decisions, which is even more baffling since both sets of composers wrote really good, and very appropriate, rock songs for their artists.

The only difference might be that Howard Biggs and Joe Thomas, while having a good track record in rock, also showed far more inclination over time to lighten things up, seeking pop acceptance far more than we’d like to see, whereas Henry Glover at King largely did away with those touches from the start and consistently focused on ramping up the rock attributes.

But not here. Here the trumpets – 147 of them to be exact – are blasting away throughout the record, sending Wynonie Harris, co-writer Fred Weismantel and Adam himself scurrying for cover in the process.

Weismantel is an interesting figure, someone whose name alone suggests he was out of place writing rock tunes, especially when you learn he got his start with Count Basie, but he’s shown a sly wit and hasn’t exactly shied away from expressing ribald sexuality in his cuts, such as Bull Moose Jackson’s famed Big Ten Inch Record of recent vintage.

He doesn’t quite match that reputation on Adam Come Get Your Rib but the lyrics are definitely not the problem here, as he gives Harris a good story to work with, railing about a deceitful woman and essentially saying the entire gender was a mistake, thus tying it back to the idea that woman came from Adam’s rib which is one of those fairy tales that for years was found in the bedside nightstand of every cheap flea-ridden motel on the side of the highway in order to cure insomnia or distract you from the beg-bugs snacking on your flesh.

It’s a good concept though and while the song IS a little wordy for someone who usually has trouble wrapping his tongue around lyrics of more involved storylines, Harris doesn’t trip up here even if he doesn’t quite take as much delight as we’d like to see with the line about how Adam “shouldn’t have gave ‘em your bone”, which can be taken two ways. (At LEAST two ways, if you catch my drift… wink-wink!)

So while it’s not the best performance of Wynonie Harris’s career by any stretch of the imagination, he’s not the problem.

For that we turn to the usually infallible Henry Glover.


Leave Your Spare Rib Where You Found It
I don’t know WHAT this fascination with those annoying high-pitched horns… and not just one, but entire banks of them lining the stage. Maybe that was seen as the epitome of class back in Glover’s day, a sign that you had made it really big when you could afford to have that many musicians in your ensemble (and let’s not forget Glover himself was a trumpet player for Lucky Millinder years ago) but in rock ‘n’ roll they were an anathema.

We thought by now everybody knew that!

Unfortunately of late, maybe because rock’s commercial success gave some stubborn producers still dreaming about bringing back the sounds of their own youth the freedom to indulge their fantasies, this gawdawful sound has been making a comeback of sorts.

It won’t last thankfully because rock fans were having none of it, but that’s no consolation to Wynonie Harris who has to suffer through it for almost two and a half minutes which practically reduces Adam Come And Get Your Rib to a pile of worthless bones laying on the studio floor.

The sax that gets a bit of a showcase works fine, but then the brass butts in and their screeching drowns it out, subverting not just the musical track, but also the attitude the record desperately needs to work.

Without that attitude to fall back on, Harris’s enthusiasm wanes and instead of turning a good song into a solid record, maybe even a minor hit which might have reversed his fortune and given him – and King Records for that matter – some renewed enthusiasm about his career direction, the record begins to unravel.

It’s not awful, mostly thanks to Fred Weismantel who gets the bulk of the credit, while Harris gets a pass but is spared most of the criticism because Henry Glover selflessly demanded taking it all himself for thinking that the one thing a suggestive rock record was missing in 1952 was horn charts from 1942!

If that proves one thing it’s that it wasn’t women who were nature’s mistake, it was the men.


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