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Just as there are rules, regulations and traditions in life which state you get more freedom and responsibilities as you come of age – be it driving, buying products and entering into legal contracts – by rights there should be equally stringent rules, regulations and traditions to take away those things as you get even older.

I’m not just talking about not letting your dotty half-deaf grandmother drive an automobile either, but rather let’s keep old people off the streets altogether during normal driving hours when they drive too slow and hold the rest of us up.

Or how about that as long as you’re deemed not responsible enough to vote until you’re 18 years old, then we should deduct 18 years from the average life span (currently 77) and keep anyone 59 or older from the polls as well just to make it fair, especially since many of them are not likely to still be around and suffering from the long term collateral damage brought about by the actions of the fascists that demographic tends to put into office.

Mostly though I’m talking about how people over the age of 30 shouldn’t be allowed to make music, including writing it or producing it, other than at an retirement community talent show.

Is that a little harsh? Well, when you listen to how the geezers here are hell-bent on destroying rock ‘n’ roll, I think you’ll be quick to agree that anyone creeping up in years needs to be carted off to the nursing home before they do any more damage to this music we hold so dear.


They Won’t Have To Embalm Me When I Die
With the top half of this single… heck, with the last release of Wynonie Harris in July as well… we criticized the likes of Henry Glover, veteran producer whose track record in rock has been fairly exemplary until recently.

But Glover is now 31 years old, which may not sound old to some of you who are twice that age, but when it comes to making new music in the current style designed to appeal to people maybe half that age, thirty-one is ancient.

Wynonie Harris is even older, 37 as we speak, and his former boss, the bandleader overseeing the backing musicians here, Lucky Millinder is 42! With that many candles on their respective birthday cakes you’d be better off booking their next session at the mortuary rather than a recording studio, it’d save time.

Is it any wonder Drinking Blues sounds the way it does, ten years out of date and completely at odds with the current rock audience, despite a fairly good composition written by Glover, the baby of the trio.

The fact that he DID write this however has us questioning whether he really is to blame for these stylistic misfires, or was he too trying to placate his own former boss, Millinder, by giving him an arrangement more suited to his band’s needs?

If so, Glover still can’t be let completely off the hook, for your main job is to give the artist in question the best possible backing, not the creaky old bandleader. Then again, with so much blame to go around we probably shouldn’t worry about which of them takes the fall for this, just as long as we can put them out to pasture together unless they vow to change their ways and visit the fountain of youth before they’re allowed back in the room again.


A Rough Way To Go
Here’s the head count for those of you keeping score at home… four trumpets, two trombones, two alto saxes… and a partridge in a pear tree who is probably about to whip out a cornet to join in.

We do manage to get two tenors in the mix, but no baritones and the entire rhythm section is so outnumbered they’d get ganged up on by the brass section and face a beating if they started to complain about the disparity.

That’s the problem with 1940’s jazz-based bands trying to adapt to a 1950’s rock mindset. Even if some of them are willing to make the adjustment in their playing style, they don’t have the personnel to pull it off effectively. Not that Lucky Millinder is about to let his charges become degenerate rockers even if one or two of them showed the interest, and so we get a song bold enough to call itself Drinking Blues winding up sounding as if they were drinking wine spritzers at a New Year’s Eve Party in Soho.

Faced with that kind of atmosphere it’s no wonder that Wynonie Harris, usually a rowdy drunk prone to commit seven different offenses before the cap is off the next bottle, sounds instead like a sleepy drunk who is about to pass out for the majority of the run time.

But even in his normal state of mind I’m not quite sure what good he could do with this song, despite some serviceable lines thrown in along the way. I mean, this is a guy so deep inside his own private bottle of long-term alcoholism that he can’t swim to the surface anymore. He claims he’s no longer even bothering with food, just guzzling whisky, which is a sign his liver is about the float into the toilet the next time he takes a piss.

Maybe that’s why Glover has the horns screeching like frightened seagulls at the city dump, hoping their noise might roust him from his suicidal thoughts. To think we once laughed along with Wynonie when he stumbled from one bar to the next, two girls on his arms and one clinging to his pants leg! The way he’s going we’re embarrassed to say we still know this guy.

There are a few tiny bright spots to be found here, with one even coming from the much derided musicians, as guitarist Skeeter Best has a few nice lines slipping through the haze in the second half. Meanwhile Glover shows he’s still got a way with words as the last couplet is particularly good even if Harris sings it like a defeated man.

But who’s surprised by that since he’s had to place his battered ego on the shelf after he saw the downward trajectory of his career now that he’s no longer able to out run, out yell, out spend, out party the younger generation.

What’s a rocker left to do but drink himself to death so he doesn’t have to face the ignominy of being schooled by someone ruling the current charts who was probably in diapers when Harris was first raising hell?


I Know Hell’s Gonna Blow Up
Long ago we told you the story of how Wynonie Harris quickly went from being merely a cog in the larger Lucky Millinder machine to seeing himself as the rightful star as his vibrant stage presence breathed life into the show in the mid-1940’s as Millinder’s preferred brand of music seemed to be slowing down commercially while the type that would define Harris was gestating in the womb.

Harris quit the band on the road, leaving Lucky high and dry and set out on his own and became a full-fledged star when rock ‘n’ roll arrived in toto.

They say revenge is a dish best served cold and finally, after eight years, Lucky Millinder paid back the brash egotistical Harris for his ungrateful actions, sabotaging Wynonie’s June session by forcibly dragging him back in time to right before the period where the singer came into his own.

In a non-contextual bubble Drinking Blues is hardly a bad record. Put this out in 1944 when the two were first together and it might even be a little above average for the time.

But this isn’t 1944, it’s 1952, and it’s not the pre-rock music landscape this needs to connect with, it’s rock ‘n’ roll and there’s no way for that to feasibly happen with this anachronistic record.

Maybe if Harris had unleashed the furor in his voice, pushed the tempo and gave it more of a beat by singing in a staccato delivery and insisted the band play along it might’ve at least given the appearance that he cared. But instead he rolled over and played dead, singing well enough technically for us to know that his boasts about drinking were untrue, yet wishing for once he was blotto all the same. At least then it might be a fun bad record instead of a bad and boring one.

At various times we’d been quite fond of all of you appearing on this release. Even Millinder’s early 1940’s sides were vital in inching us closer to rock ‘n’ roll, while Glover and Harris of course helped to define the genre when it came into its own.

But now… well, now we’re just going to have to get our black suit out of the closet, order flowers and head to the cemetery because the guys we once loved are dead and buried before they even hit middle age.

But then again, middle age in life is old age in music and this tells us they’ve long outlived their usefulness to us.


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