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KING 4402; OCTOBER 1950



For some people the spotlight is never bright enough, the applause never loud enough, the praise never flattering enough and the success never prodigious enough to suit them.

Their lofty opinion of themselves in normal circumstances would be off-putting, even objectionable, yet when it comes to rock artists those same arrogant traits can be strangely appealing.

Though few well-adjusted people would want to admit to admiring showboating strangers from afar, the general public does tend to use musicians as a surrogate for the behaviors they themselves need to repress to exist in society.

Arguably nobody in rock’s long history was more suited for that role than Wynonie Harris who with this record reminds anybody who somehow hasn’t gotten wind of his accomplishments and overall reputation, just how great he thinks he is and by extension how great you should think he is as well.

Somehow, though it runs counter to every human instinct, you love him all the more for it.


Get Your Business Straight
After reviewing nearly 1,200 records over rock’s first three seasons one thing has become obvious to me… some artists are easier to write about than others.

It’s not just that they have better records to analyze, a more interesting back story, or lots of new topics to cover, such as jumping from one label to another or working with various interesting sidemen. All of those help of course, but what tops all of that when it comes to finding new ways to discuss the same old artists for the tenth, twentieth or thirtieth time is how colorful they were in everyday life.

No artist was ever more colorful than Wynonie Harris and thus no artist has been as much fun to cover here than him.

I suspect this was no less true back in 1950 either as the anonymous hacks working for the trade papers whose hundred and fifty word blurbs on the latest records included such insightful gems as “Wynonie goes off the deep end” when referring to this single, something they surely weren’t thinking of writing when reviewing the latest Percy Faith record.

But the same imaginative spirit pervaded different kinds of writers too, those who were far more intimately involved with Harris’s recording career such as Henry Glover, King Records’ top producer who also wrote his fair share of material, including the rousing Mr. Blues Is Coming To Town for the notorious man of the hour.

One listen to this and you can just picture Glover smiling as he came up with fanciful scenarios for Wynonie to unveil to the world making his job a whole lot easier and more enjoyable than trying to come up with suitable material for a parade of interchangeable acts with far less notable personal characteristics to draw from.

There’s no such problem here, for while not only does this contain autobiographical references to Harris himself in the lyrics to make it utterly unique but also because there is nobody alive but Wynonie himself who could convincingly pull off the attitude with which this tale is meant to be told.


Do You Know That Noise?
Even though he didn’t write it – or speak it – leave it to the most boastful rocker of all time to have his presence announced in such a theatrical fashion when the record opens, as someone sounding like Eddie “Rochester” Anderson on steroids is drumming up excitement for Harris to make an appearance, making this one of the first examples of that type of cinematic approach in rock.

The other voice gives way to the ever-impatient Harris who barges in, proclaiming his imminent arrival on the scene… or maybe it’s a warning… advising those interested (and who wouldn’t be he presumes) that he’s not quite sure how he’ll get there but you better keep any eye out for him as he’ll be dropping by your town to do perverted things with your women while drinking obscene amounts of pure grain alcohol, smoking anything that might substantially increase that buzz and wreaking havoc on the community in a myriad of other ways.

Okay, so not ALL of that is spelled out in the lyrics, but by this juncture Glover knows it doesn’t have to be and Mr. Blues Is Coming To Town will still work just as effectively. That’s the benefit of writing for Harris who comes with a ready-made image meticulously crafted over the previous half decade in the public eye. His records established his persona as a hard-drinking insatiable womanizer and his real-life antics on the road only bolstered that reputation with countless urban legends following in his wake.

As such there’s not much of an actual “story” needed to sell this record and in fact what Harris is mostly doing is selling himself instead, tossing off one brash claim after another, all delivered with that devilish grin and twinkle in his eye which is disarming enough to ensure you’re not put off altogether by his braggadocio.

In spite of the lack of plot there are some really good lines to be found, most notably his claim that if he finds another man slipping out one of his many girlfriends back door he’s going “roll over him with my Cadillac” thereby confirming in just one line all of the relevant information he deems important – the fact he’s a ladies man with multiple casual sex partners, the fact he takes a dim view to competition in this department and is ruthless enough to deal with it in a violent manner AND the fact he’s driving a Caddy which tells you how much dough he’s got!

So much for modesty.

It might be a better record if he elaborated on his plans a little rather than just keep reiterating his primary desire, but then again if he did delve into the details we might need to round up bail money and hire a good lawyer to get him off so maybe it’s best this record is essentially just a bold print headline and leave the investigative reporting to somebody else.


Drive Up To Your Front Door
Over the last few years Harris has been assisted in his musical debauchery by a wide array of semi-famous names, many of them solo artists in their own right and here he adds another name to that list in pianist Sonny Thompson, the guy who bested Harris in the unofficial year end tally for most impactful rock artist of 1948.

But as we know Thompson hadn’t set out to achieve recording stardom under his own name to begin with and this return to a sideman role probably suited him just fine. He gets a prominent role here too, taking center stage on the intro, then providing the rhythmic bottom behind Harris during the verses and getting a rather showy solo mid-way through the record. That part is a little indulgent at times, but creative enough to tolerate it.

The other solo star making his first appearance with Harris is somebody else with whom he might have a beef as Big John Greer and he both covered Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee back in the spring of 1949, though since Harris’s bested Greer’s on the charts chances are Wynonie used this opportunity to rub it in.

If that’s the case though you’re glad to see Big John was… well, rather big about it, not undercutting Mr. Blues Is Coming To Town by offering up some weak sauce. Instead the assemblage of saxes and a trumpet duel it out pretty convincingly during the first break, all of them contributing to a fairly vigorous exchange.

Greer’s solo isn’t taking on a scorched earth policy unfortunately, but that was never his style and what he does offer up is suitable enough – with a nice assist by Bill Graham on baritone at one point – to get this churning.

It could certainly be more raucous if they’d been so inclined, boosting the energy even more which as we know is the kind of challenge that someone as competitive as Harris couldn’t possibly turn down, but the record works well enough as it is and chances are nobody is going to be asking for their money back when it’s over.

Don’t Be Surprised If You Find Me In Your Morning Mail
Though nobody knew it at the time, King Records was in a state of transition now as their impressive roster that had served them so well in the late 1940’s rock scene were soon about to cede the spotlight to acts just over the horizon.

Harris of course was the biggest star in their sky and not bashful about saying so but sometimes King’s questionable decisions when it came to releases were an impediment to his progress as this time around they were releasing Mr. Blues Is Coming To Town on the heels of another solid record just a month earlier.

Then just as this hit the market they rushed Harris back into the studio to cut not one but two new A-sides that were covers of rising hits, releasing them both within days, meaning in the span of five or six weeks he had four new singles on the market.

As it turns out this one, maybe the best of the lot, got lost in the shuffle. But thankfully, all these years later, you’d never know it the way Harris keeps carrying on, always endearing yet full of himself to the end.


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