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KING 4526; APRIL 1952



Well let me just say that it’s good to see Wynonie Harris is finally starting to look beyond the drunken carnal pleasures of the flesh before he’s condemned to a life of endless one-night stands with no steady job to support himself and the looming threat of untreated venereal disease, cirrhosis of the liver and angry husbands out for vengeance for defiling their wives in every town he runs wild in.

But then again it’s hardly surprising he’d be ready to cast off his sins and begin to repent. After all he’s seen that his records aren’t quite selling in the same numbers as they once were and sensing that rock ‘n’ roll is a young man’s sport he’s decided to try his hand in more sensible endeavors.

Sure, few among us would’ve have figured that he’d take his earnings and buy a dairy farm, but it’s an honest profession that will supply his neighbors with milk and butter and even occasionally some ice cream for nights he’s feeling particularly sporting.

Granted he’s going to have to change his daily routine and adapt a strict policy of early to bed and early to rise, but I think if he really puts his mind to it he can make a go of this new career.

If nothing else it’s proof that you’re never too old to change your ways.


Cows In The Meadow
If you’re looking for an entertaining way to spend a boring evening take a look at some of those archaic music forums that still dot the internet where members can post on any musical topic they want.

Scan down the thread titles and find one that is discussing any of the various Greatest Songs or Albums lists that music magazines occasionally put out. After a few pages of heated discussion you’ll see a pattern start to emerge… the grizzled old timers who praise any and every artist from their own youth (which seems to still be heavily concentrated in the mid-1960’s and 70’s, though often stretching before and after that for another decade in each direction) will get up in arms over the “newer” artists and their “so-called music” that make these lists.

That the “newer” music includes things from the 1990’s (thirty years ago!) tells you how stuck in the past they are, but invariably when there is actual discussion about the music itself rather than just broad dismissal of it for daring to have been made after they got out of school and their own lives went rapidly downhill, you’ll see that a central theme of their criticism is that the music of today is vulgar, dirty, obscene, vile, garbage (choose your favorite epithet!) because of lyrics they deem offensive.

Apparently they are all unaware that from the very start rock ‘n’ roll has glorified the obscene… made its name on it in fact… and in fact the patron saint of raunchiness is the very same artist who scored rock’s first chart topper, Wynonie Harris.

Keep On Churnin’ may actually be his most blatant ode to sexual depravity in a career filled with orgies and all of the STDs and paternity suits that followed, which is certainly saying something considering his notorious track record.

Though it might not contain any out and out profanity among the lyrics due to the puritanical blue laws of the day, it doesn’t require an unabridged urban dictionary to figure out the barnyard chores Harris is singing about are every bit as lewd and indecent as Cardi B’s glorious hit W.A.P., which was only the latest in a long line of great rock songs that uptight society took offense at.

If you want high art look up when you’re in the Sistine Chapel… rock ‘n’ roll has been in the gutter from the very start and the enjoyment of this brand of music is often trying to find the answer to the question “how low CAN you go?”

This low.


Here Comes Your Bull
To discuss Wynonie Harris and somehow not mention his off-color records, to say nothing of his every day perverted antics that gave those records their perceived authenticity in the eyes of his fans, would be a bit like having a film festival of X-rated movies and focusing on the dialogue and lighting.

Harris’s entire image was based on being the loud-talking, hard-drinking ladies man with an insatiable sexual appetite. To remove that, or downplay its importance in making him rock’s first star and the prototype for the brash strutting frontman that has existed ever since, would be to completely re-write rock ‘n’ roll’s ground rules.

The music’s appeal compared to the dainty pop of the day was precisely because it held nothing back. How can anybody claim otherwise when the churning rhythms, the pounding beat, the lusty and euphoric vocals are so blatantly indicative of something else entirely! I mean, that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Rock in its basest form has always been a musical representation of sex and to claim otherwise is to deny the obvious.

Wynonie Harris never denied it. He celebrated it and did so in such a way that you couldn’t very well claim you didn’t understand the connection, no matter how dense you were.

But here’s where we’ll give ample credit to the perpetually limp conservative moralists throughout history who publicly rail against such music in their attempt to make sure that everyone else’s sex lives are as sterile and unexciting as their own. For without them to set arbitrary limits on what is acceptable to sing about we wouldn’t get the roll call of creative and colorful euphemisms in Keep On Churnin’ that only makes it all the more enjoyable for those of us outside the monastery.

The genius of the song is that nobody with any knowledge of science can say that Harris is not accurately describing the precise method of churning butter, albeit with some sly commentary added for effect. “First comes the milk, then comes the cream, takes good butter to make your daddy scream”.

That’s the formula – sweet cream is taken from milk, then churned until it foams, which is buttermilk that then gets drained leaving you with butter itself. Look it up yourselves if you don’t believe me.

If YOU want to think that the tools he’s using for his activities are something different, that’s your problem. If you take offense to lines such as “keep on pumping make the butter flow”, whose mind is dirty? His or yours?


Wipe Off The Batter And Churn Some More
With Todd Rhodes’ band providing solid, if not more gratuitously raunchy backing, the record (pardon the pun) churns along at a steady clip and we know Harris is always at his best when he has a bobbing rhythm like this to ride along, letting his natural vocal cadences flow without any obstacles in their path.

Because this is about a normal day on the farm, which admittedly can be kind of tedious, it would’ve been nice to have an even more frantic sax solo to lift the energy – and to enrage those who are lactose intolerant as it were – but even without an explosive climax powerful enough to knock a lady’s eyebrows off, that’s no reason not to Keep On Churnin’ anyway. Practice makes perfect after all.

What’s not to like about this? You get a descriptive explanation of a culinary art that is clear enough for even the most inept student to follow along if you have the right equipment. It’s not often that rock ‘n’ roll can provide such a valuable lesson in perseverance and dedication to the task at hand as this.

The more you listen, the more you learn…. and the more you churn, the more butter will eventually come.

Of course to a lot of people out there that’s the whole problem, which is why they want to restrict the spreading of knowledge between willing participants who are eager to learn. Eventually though the moralists decrying such wholesome and healthful activities will die off, either because they get old and croak of natural causes, or because they get so upset over other people daring to have fun that they have massive coronaries and keel over before their time.

Or maybe, if we’re really lucky, they’ll all abstain from churning butter with someone of the opposite sex in protest and therefore won’t reproduce at all, leaving the world a better place without their kind to object the very definition of rocking and rolling.


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