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KING 4226; MAY 1948



When King Records signed Wynonie Harris to a recording contract just after Thanksgiving 1947, company founder Syd Nathan traveled to New York where Wynonie was appearing in order to get his name on the contract quickly so they could get him in a studio before the recording ban took effect at the end of the year.

Nathan, who we’ve met before, was a short, near-sighted, frumpy-looking, cigar-chomping loudmouth.

Harris was a tall, good-looking, booze-guzzling loudmouth.

Both were colorful to say the least but the one who left the lasting impression in their first meeting was Harris, particularly on Stella Nathan, Syd’s wife, who was shocked and flustered when upon arriving at his hotel room to introduce themselves to the label’s newest signee a beautiful coffee-colored woman answered the door completely nude and ushered the couple in, then laid down – without covering herself up at all – on a bearskin rug that somehow had found its way onto the floor of the hotel room (maybe Harris killed the bear himself and tore its hide off with his teeth – I wouldn’t put it past him).

Harris, lounging on the bed while watching the scene unfold in a bemused leisurely way as Stella Nathan “nearly passed out” at the sight, waited until the stunned silence had reached its apex and then said to his voluptuous naked companion, “Lollypop, go get Mr. & Mrs. Nathan a drink”, and the girl, a maid at the hotel who apparently wasn’t averse to going the extra mile for a tip, got up to retrieve the refreshments while the legend of Wynonie Harris added yet another chapter.

I think it goes without saying that if anyone was equipped to deliver the goods on a song called Lollipop Mama it was surely Wynonie Harris.


Never Know When To Stop
For those who’ve been with us from the start I probably don’t need to remind you that this already our third review of Lollipop Mama here on Spontaneous Lunacy and thus far the composition itself has outshone both of the versions put on record.

Our first encounter with the song came on the B-side to Roy Brown’s debut, which marked just our second review and our introduction to rock itself. It was Brown who’d written it of course, but he found himself saddled with an unsympathetic band who were unfamiliar with his style and consequently made him adapt to their strengths rather than letting his approach dictate their playing and so the resulting side was too stilted and unconvincing, especially considering its bawdy subject matter.

Brown’s former singing partner in New Orleans clubs from earlier that summer, Clarence Samuels, was soon snatched up by Aristocrat Records out of Chicago when Brown’s early success led other companies to the Crescent City to try and find rockers of their own to exploit. Naturally Samuels was well-versed with the material they’d performed on stage together so right away they had him take a stab at the song as well. His version, from December 1947, was a bit stronger, for even though Samuels was a much more limited singer than Brown he was working with a better band for this type of material and thus with their help he was able to inject it with the ribald intent the song called for.

But few artists in rock history had quite the grasp on “ribald intent” as Wynonie Harris. Thus it would seem we’re all but assured of having to hose ourselves down after hearing him roar his way through this one.

Sadly, that turns out not to be the case. Not quite anyway.


The Fuzzy End Of The Lollipop
Despite probably having the best musicians behind him of all three versions, they too seem a bit lost in how to properly approach this to aid in Harris’s cause.

To start with the beat isn’t emphasized enough (are the drums even mic’ed properly?) and thus the piano is forced to shoulder the load of carrying the entire bottom of the arrangement, never breaking stride, but never getting the chance to shake it up either. The snake-charmer horns lack a truly raunchy solo, choosing instead to tootle along more whimsically, more amused at the salaciousness of the song rather than aroused by it.

The arrangement itself is the weak spot, as if the band were handed the lead sheets ten minutes before Harris stepped to the mic (which is not unthinkable, nor even unlikely considering the circumstances) and as such they came up with something not just simple, but simplistic. For the most part it lacks creativity and excitement, especially considering the overall skill of the musicians involved.

Had they taken the time and come up with a funkier stop/start progression that suited the lyrics, worked out a few raunchy solos to extend the song and better showcase the virtuosos backing Harris, forcing the always ultra-competitive Wynonie to ramp up his own delivery to match their newfound urgency, they might’ve had something truly special. But they did none of that and so it’s all left to Mr. Blues himself to elevate it.

As we’ve teased twice already, if anyone was capable of injecting it with the necessary components to make it really sizzle, surely he was.

So that’s why the most disheartening aspect of it all is Harris’s vocals which are somewhat laid back, even lackadaisical, almost as if he’s not sold on the viability of the song itself, which is rather surprising considering the topic he gets to sink his teeth into and the possibilities it offers to advance his lady-killer reputation on record.

Maybe he was balking at simply becoming Roy Brown’s shadow, with Lollipop Mama being the second Brown song they tackled that day, and so he gives it a half-hearted effort in protest.

Or knowing Harris, maybe the young girl he made crude and possibly criminal advances towards ten minutes earlier outside the studio, which resulted in threat of a beat-down by her prim mother, had managed to slip away from her mom and gotten word to Wynonie that she was indeed available for a quickie in the alley and he just was in a rush to get out there…

Hell, maybe her mother sent word to him that SHE was ready, willing and able herself… Knowing Harris it might’ve even been a threesome with both mother and daughter that awaited him and so he wasn’t about to waste time on honing a mere song about oral sex to perfection when the real thing was just on the horizon.

the reasons though – X-rated or not – he comes across as if he’s simply going through the motions, delivering just enough of what’s expected without adding much to it.


I’m So Afraid My Lollipop’s Gonna Melt Away
Make no mistake about it, despite my criticisms for not living up to what it might’ve been, it’s STILL the best version of the three. Harris’s lack of enthusiasm is relative. At his best Harris of course was a whirling dervish of horniness and sadly that’s not in evidence here, though compared to most mortals this delivery would lay them to waste. It’s just that our expectations with Wynonie are a lot higher – especially with this type of material – and so we’re hoping for an Atom Bomb caliber impact and instead we get some nice fireworks instead. They’re still noisy, still give you a decent start when they explode and make for some nice pictures in the nighttime sky, but they just aren’t knocking you on your ass.

But I think the most likely reason this falls short of what it could be has nothing to do with anything salacious and more to have to do with simply timing.

That last session of the year Harris cut for King Records produced two covers of Roy Brown tunes, both sides of Brown’s debut in fact. The other of course, it should go without saying, was Good Rockin’ Tonight, the song which propelled Harris to the top of the rockpile as it were when it came out in the winter of ’48.

That performance, by Harris and the band alike, was just about perfect in every way and what’s more it was far ahead of the curve, not only for February when it appeared, but certainly for the waning days of December 1947 when it was laid down. Lollipop Mama, cut the same day, in fact the next song they tackled after Rockin’, was also ahead of its time for December 1947. But… once Good Rockin’ Tonight came out eight weeks later the ground rules suddenly changed overnight. THAT immediately became the new standard to live up to and it was Harris who’d been the one to raise the bar. A bar HE’D now be expected to reach his next time out as well.

So when this was eventually released a few months later after everyone had already heard and been dazzled by Good Rockin’ Tonight, the slightly tamer style they offered up here, which would’ve been more than enough to arouse our interest back in January or February, was now competing with what Harris had previously released and it doesn’t quite cut it anymore.

In effect we’re being asked to forget what we’ve already heard, to put the advances they offered with the previous record out of our minds completely and listen to this as if it was still last winter and we just can’t do that. The genie won’t get back in the bottle now, we’ve already seen her, HEARD her, and so we want to see and hear more of the same, particularly when it’s the same artist who unleashed her in the first place!

Instead we’re offered up a tamer more sedate version of that model. Oh, it’s still plenty good, better than most of what else was around in the spring of 1948, and it’d spend two months in the Top Ten that summer, so clearly the audience was in agreement on that anyway, but I doubt ANY of them would say that it was anywhere near as good as what Harris himself had already done.

Was it still better than average for rock as a whole at this point in time? Yes. Is it the best version of the song to date? Without question. But did we expect a little bit more going into this based on what we’ve already heard from Wynonie? Yup, and so we have maybe our first real case of heightened expectations in rock leading to something of a let down.

The lesson learned is once you’ve gone all the way with someone it’s a little tough to get really aroused by a mild peck on the cheek anymore.


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

Spontaneous Lunacy has reviewed other versions of this song you may be interested in:
Roy Brown (September, 1947)

Clarence Samuels (December, 1947)