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KING 4445; MAY 1951



We take it for granted that rock ‘n’ roll was practically inevitable… that once it arrived on the scene it was an unstoppable force, destined to roll over the established musical styles which had become too stagnant, too conservative to really push the envelope as time went on, more concerned with holding the ground they’d already claimed than in exploring uncharted territory in search of something more.

Yet the odds against rock ‘n’ roll’s success at the time were far greater than it now appears. Take away any one element of its rise – maybe the recording ban that gave them a more barren field to run in during its first year – or eliminate a single key artist along the way, or remove just one monumental record from the scene and perhaps the whole thing would’ve sputtered and died before it ever became fully established.

Where would that have left someone like Wynonie Harris, an artist who was born to rock like few others?

Well, it would’ve left him right back where he started his career, singing songs that he was never fully comfortable with… a Wynonie Harris without the fuse having been lit.


Slap Your Papa, Tell Your Mama Bye-Bye
When first hearing this now, after absorbing all of the sides he and countless others have cut that are full-fledged rock ‘n’ roll you’ll do a double take, asking yourself if this is even Harris… or maybe wondering if it’s even being played at the right speed!

But then you check the recording date and it starts to make a little more sense.

I Believe I’ll Fall In Love was cut way back on December 28, 1947, the same day that Wynonie Harris ensured his status as a rock legend and began to change the world.

For that was also the day he laid down Good Rockin’ Tonight and embraced the music he was born to sing and in the process it revived his stalled career and with the popularity of that record – the first rock single to top the charts – fully established rock ‘n’ roll as the most exciting and potentially lucrative brand of new music in ages.

This older style heard here on the other hand became obsolete overnight and now, apparently just to get it off their shelves, King was throwing it out as the flip side to a single that seemed to be nothing more than a throwaway at a time when Harris’s career no longer hung in the balance.

Normally we wouldn’t review this kind of song, but how else can you appreciate what rock ‘n’ roll is in 1951 without hearing what might’ve been left to take its place had it failed to catch on back when this song was first laid down?


Make You Leave Your Happy Home
Though Harris was never known for his balladry, he wasn’t averse to trying them and could occasionally deliver a performance that was more than acceptable in that realm.

It might not have been his forte but give him a good song, a skilled band and solid arrangement to work with and allow him to inject some pathos into his performance and these records could at least be useful offsetting his inclination towards bawdy uptempo ravers if nothing else.

All of those qualities are technically present on I Believe I’ll Fall In Love. He wrote it himself and came up with a halfway decent story as he mediates on the ups and downs of love, resigned to its troubles and clearly wary of the pain it can cause, yet still intrigued by the joys it can bring when it goes right and willing to try it again despite being burned in the past.

The lyrics might be fairly modest in their scope but they’re accurate in their observations, especially the closing lines where he admits how love alters your behavior for both good and bad, showing a surprising amount of honesty for someone for whom out-sized bravado remained his calling card.

He sings this in such a slow, restrained fashion that it hardly sounds like the Wynonie Harris we know and love. Even on other slower songs he’s usually throwing in some exuberent roars to remind one and all just who he is, but not here. On this he’s almost lost in thought as if he’s actually reflecting on the sentiments, not simply giving a performance designed to impress.

In that way it works well and maybe more surprising is how the band matches him in this regard, not sounding outdated (at least for 1947) thanks to whichever saxophone takes the primary support (Hal Singer or Tom Archia), blowing in a manner that is full-bodied but still holding back slightly, emphasizing melody over power and adding the kind of textures to it that suggests uncertainty to match Harris’s vocal. The soulfulness of the solo in particular is the only thing about this record that makes it even remotely relatable to rock in 1951.

If you can look beyond its total inappropriateness for the genre as it now stands however it’s a reasonably good performance by all involved, yet it’s not a good rock performance because… well… because it wasn’t intended to be frankly. This was a song that was cut as an insurance policy in case rock ‘n’ roll didn’t connect with audiences and they needed something to fall back on.

Once they discovered that wasn’t going to be the case this was thrown in the back of the closet and when they finally exhumed it three and a half years after it was laid down, it no longer had any bearing on the current music scene.

Time had left this behind.


One Of These Days
Ultimately this record isn’t here because of what it is, but rather for what it shows us, which is just how thoroughly rock ‘n’ roll had transformed the music world in such a short time.

Had I Believe I’ll Fall In Love come out in the winter of 1948 as the B-side to the immortal record cut that same day it’d have fared better simply because it’s not THAT far removed from what had been recently acceptable while rock was still trying to get its footing.

A nice enough effort in a style that was rapidly losing its significance but not yet completely irrelevant.

But today, in 1951, it is nothing but a reminder that when it comes to music, especially rock ‘n’ roll, three years might just as well be another lifetime… on another planet… in another universe.


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