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When two of the biggest names in early rock ‘n’ roll are paired up on a two-part record released at a time when each artist was at their peak (or just about to reach that peak) you’d think that’d be the kind of thing that might draw a little bit of attention at the time, or at the very least would be looked back upon as a major benchmark in rock history that would reverberate through the years.

So why then did this disappear without a trace when it was released and has rarely been talked about much since?



Give You A Treat
Today virtually every worthwhile song has a guest rapper or vocalist adorning it, but while the “Featuring” designation has really just taken hold over the last couple of decades the pairing of two major artists on record actually enjoyed its initial heyday back in the 1940’s.

This was primarily a pop music innovation, one of the few noteworthy concepts that staid brand of music can be legitimately credited with in fact. Bing Crosby, as with almost every pre-rock trend, was a devotee of this practice, beginning way back in the early 1930’s with The Mills Brothers, before pairing up most frequently over the years with The Andrews Sisters (notching an astonishing 13 Top Ten hits with them). He wasn’t tied to them exclusively by any means, finding plenty of time to also cut records with everyone from Louis Armstrong and Frank Sinatra to Les Paul and Louis Jordan.

He was hardly alone though as you had plenty of notable pairings who were scoring huge hits in the era we’re in now, from Dick Haymes and Helen Forrest to Gordon MacRae and Jo Stafford. It wasn’t always the same pairings each time out either, as Buddy Clark was cutting sides with both Doris Day and Dinah Shore while Margaret Whiting was two-timing in the studio as well with Jimmy Wakely and Johnny Mercer.

So it’s only natural that the independent companies focusing on an entirely different audience would pick up on the trend and hope to draw in listeners curious to hear how two notable names would sound singing together.

For a brief time Aladdin Records had under contract two names who’d once been big – and soon would be again – but who had recently fallen on hard times as the styles around them were shifting but not yet settled.

The time was July 1947, a key date in music history for that’s the month that Roy Brown cut the first rock record after having just offered the song to none other than Wynonie Harris who turned it down. We know how that story turns out, with Harris reconsidering after Brown’s record launched an entire movement that fall and by the next winter Harris’s version of Good Rockin’ Tonight would be released and soon hit #1 on the charts confirming rock’s place in the world.

But we’re not quite there yet and while there’s little question that both Wynonie and Big Joe were born to be rockers, in fact you could legitimately claim they’d been singing it before it officially existed, the budding style was only now codifying into something tangible when they were brought into the studio together at the same exact time Roy Brown was lighting the fuse that would soon explode.

So while messrs. Harris and Turner might not get credit for setting off the big bang themselves, if nothing else you’d think these two men would have more of a say in how it developed… but as we know it didn’t quite work out that way.


If It Takes Me All Day Long
A couple of things have conspired to dim the historical legacy of this song, besides merely the fact that it wasn’t a hit of any kind.

The first is that while the record was cut in the summer of 1947 it wasn’t actually released until the fall of 1949. By that time not only were Harris and Turner both under contract elsewhere, which seemed to rule out any concerted push by Aladdin to promote it, but during the past two years rock ‘n’ roll had gone from a vague concept to a full-fledged movement and as such this record was no longer peaking around the corner to the style about to be launched, but rather was now looking back at a style which had already long since taken hold.

But the other factor in its diminished importance might be that there were TWO versions of this song cut on that eventful day, and we don’t mean the Part One and Part Two designations the single was ultimately given.

No, it was this song that had another take laid down which painted a far different picture than what ultimately saw release and in that other rendition the cutting edge components in the released version, including the lyrics that form the linchpin of the entire premise that this was ahead of its time, are conspicuously absent. Armed with that knowledge suddenly the end results of what you have before you now seem a bit more lucky than assured.

But in fact those divergent paths laid before them at the time might actually prove to be the best window into the era we could get, for in many respects The Battle Of The Blues (Part One) is a perfect encapsulation of all the moving parts still tinged with uncertainty that helped give birth to rock ‘n’ roll in the first place.


Been Out All Night, Don’t Want To Go Home
Though Wynonie Harris thought of himself as the greatest, most dynamic, crowd-pleasing artist in the history of recorded music, the one – and only – performer he held in even higher esteem than himself was Big Joe Turner.

This is hardly surprising as Turner was the guy who first showed the world how to really rock a song using a volcanic set of vocal chords and an innate sense of rhythm that formed the foundation of almost everything that followed, something which was plainly evident on the rousing call to arms, Battle Of The Blues (Part One).

Turner’s vocal enthusiasm (on both versions in fact) is contagious and the verses he sings are spot-on in their descriptive power. It’s nothing more than generalized lust he’s crowing about, focusing on one girl without ever telling us who she is, not that it really matters, for his main interest is sex regardless of which girl he gives it to.

The chorus for his section however – as engaging as it is to hear – comes across more as gibberish, probably to sidestep the blatantly X-rated specifics of the situation, as he declares “Pachie, pachie, pachie, pachie, pachie all the time”. I can only assume that he means balling, but since this was hardly going to be a record suited for the airwaves anyway, not that there was any radio station in America that would’ve played black artists like these two at time, he should’ve just used the actual words themselves, only pulling up on any with a “ck” in the middle so he’d be sure to avoid jail time for outright obscenity.

Whether he IS balling or not, he’s certainly having a ball as he sings with gusto, barreling along like a man possessed.

When Harris comes in he initially seems either unwilling or unable to fully upstage Big Joe, his first lines coming across as somewhat subdued compared to Turner’s unhinged bellowing, but Wynonie gets up to speed quick enough and though his verses are start off as more a tribute to Turner he quickly turns the attention to his favorite subject, himself… but along the way he throws one more crucial element into the mix that makes this record stand as a beacon of the future.


Now You Listen To Mine!
There have been so many studies done on when the term “rock ‘n’ roll” was first used on record that it’s obscured the larger point which is the words themselves are essentially worthless… it’s the meaning of those words and the manner in which they’re delivered – not to mention WHO is the one delivering them – which is the only relevant point.

When Roy Brown shouted Good Rocking Tonight in J&M Studios at this very moment in New Orleans he defined what it meant from that point forward. But he wasn’t the only one who did at the time… so too did Wynonie Harris who closes out his refrain with a a chorus far more prescient than Turner’s “Pachie” subterfuge (although ONLY on this take, the alternate version has him echoing Joe’s insipid “Pachie” lines instead, which along with his vocal stumbles in the verses made it the obvious track to be cast aside).

What Harris does here is state the credo of the music that will go on to shape the rest of the century and beyond in no uncertain terms – “Well I’m rockin’ and rollin’, rollin’ and rockin’ all right, come on and rock and roll with me all night”.

Do you think there was something in the air in the summer of ’47? It’d be kinda hard to dispute it after hearing Harris lay out the blueprint so succinctly, adding for good measure, “Rock me baby, gimme a boogie beat…”, just so the musicians know their role.

The band for their part is energetic and efficient with the horns taking the lead, dovetailing each other with the higher registers getting more of a role than they might’ve been asked to do by the time Battle Of The Blues (Part One) came out in the fall of 1949. Still, while it’s a little tame compared to what would transpire in the ensuing 26 months you can’t fault their drive and when they close things out with some raucous drum work you have no complaints.

Sure Sound Fine
For some reason however, as good as this clearly was Aladdin held this back and allowed other artists to dictate rock’s early narrative. Then, even after this type of music was firmly established and had proven its commercial mettle they continued to sit on it as they parted ways with both Harris and Turner.

When they finally got around to righting their wrongs and put it out, probably hoping to take advantage of Harris recently scoring another #1 hit with All She Wants To Do Is Rock, Aladdin Records didn’t see fit to really push this, or to slap a more appropriate name on it for that matter to better hype the record for the current audience.

But don’t let the poor decisions surrounding Battle Of The Blues (Part One) dissuade you, two years old or not this is modern and up to date enough to pass muster in the rock world of 1949.

Though it missed out on the glory, both at the time and in the years since, maybe its most important contribution to history is offering proof positive that some monumental artists didn’t even need to wait for the style to be officially introduced to show the world how to rock ‘n’ roll… they had it in them all the time.


(Visit the Artist pages of both Wynonie Harris and Big Joe Turner for the complete archive of their respective records reviewed to date)