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KING 4415; DECEMBER 1950



Oh c’mon now, Wynonie… stop it already. Just stop. You’re better than this.

I know, I know… record companies are in the business of selling records not making enduring art and if one song was a hit they’ll try and take certain elements from it to come up with a new song with similar appeal. The same basic theme using a familiar vocal style and maybe throwing in a sax solo that conjures up memories of the last one… all of those are understandable and at least somewhat defensible.

But THIS?!?!

A wholesale recreation of a song that was not yet seven months old being thrown into the marketplace with the intent on enticing the same fans to buy it while simultaneously hoping they don’t realize you’ve essentially tried selling them the exact same thing a second time?

No, that’s where we draw the line.


Rob Me Of All My Gold
Give them some credit, they sure weren’t making any bones about what they were doing with this but by the sounds of it Wynonie Harris was not on board their shallow grab for a few sticky nickels in the jukeboxes.

In June they’d released Good Morning Judge, a perfect record, maybe Harris’s best… certainly his best of the year… a song that tapped in to his notorious devilish charm as he went from one outlandishly comic predicament to another, all resulting in yet another trip before the county judge for his crimes.

It was funny, perfectly in character and rolled along musically in a way that made it feel you were in the passenger’s seat alongside him as he took this ill-advised joyride through the murky gray areas of various social legalities.

The record was immediately successful, already landing on regional listings of Cash Box less than a month after it came out and so in the midst of its rise, on July 12th, they entered the studio to cut a carbon copy of it called Put It Back, written by the usually infallible Henry Glover. Whether he was actually enthusiastic about this idea or if it was forced upon him, the results were going to be pretty gawdawful no matter what, simply because there’s not a single original aspect of it to be found.

With a fully invested Harris whipping things into a frenzy maybe they’d be able to sell this con job on sheer enthusiasm alone. Instead Harris delivers a lackluster performance, clearly disgruntled with their lack of effort in coming up with something new, interesting and exciting for him to sink his teeth into.

As a result any chance to slip one over on the public with it were promptly flushed down the toilet with Harris’s mailed in performance… which is only fitting because that sound you hear when you press play is something found floating in the toilet as well.


Don’t Go No Further, Stop It!
The one change that Glover made with this wasn’t for the best as he kicks off the record with a sickly sounding horn intro that utterly fails to launch this in the way it needed in order to get you worked up enough that when you hear what follows you might just be caught up in the excitement by then and look upon their trying to dupe you with a little more leniency.

Instead the horns sound about as weak as Harris does when he comes in singing new lyrics over the same melody with the same cadences. Not a single thing has been altered from the formula, right down to the structure of the song wherein each stanza presents a different scene, all presented independently of one another, which paint a picture of his troubles.

To be fair, that structure was a really good one and Glover does manage to come up with his best scenario for the opening section where a fortune teller tries to literally pick Wynonie’s pocket leading to his lone snarky retort on the record that manages to bring a smile to your face. The problem is however we still have the far better lyrics from a far better song on our mind that Harris had sung with far more enthusiasm.

Each of these sections ends with the command – delivered by him or towards him – to Put It Back, referencing whatever item was being filched in that encounter. The problem is that line itself doesn’t have any humor to it, something painfully shown by the two ensuing scenes which are neither interesting enough to make us care, nor told in an entertaining fashion as they don’t have even one good line between them.

Throw in the fact that Harris sounds as if he’s sounds positively somnambulic with his delivery and you have a good mind to march to Cincinnati and demand your money back.

Now let it be said that this kind of thing CAN, on rare occasion, be worthwhile. The best argument in its favor would surely be Big Joe Turner’s Shake, Rattle And Roll and its follow-up Flip, Flop And Fly, which is the same song with new lyrics. The difference there however is songwriter Jesse Stone actually came up with more lines than he could possibly use when crafting the original and had to cut it down to what you heard on the first landmark record. Then in need of a follow-up he simply went back and got some of the discarded lyrics, crafted a new chorus, and they issued that. Elvis Presley once sang the two on television combining the lyrics like it were a medley.

But that’s clearly not the case here. This is a lazy, halfhearted effort by people who should have more artistic pride than any of them show here.

Where You Know It Ought To Be
Had they framed this mess with a rip-roaring instrumental track maybe the glaring deficiencies shown elsewhere wouldn’t have been so apparent, but unfortunately that’s not the case.

The musical side of this record is inhabiting the same DNA as its predecessor except it’s been watered down to excess. That same lurching melodic pattern of Good Morning Judge, is something they can’t very well hide, nor does it seem they want to hide it.

Yet rather than just go all-in on that approach, even raising their game by doubling down on what worked aesthetically in the arrangement, they instead ease up on everything while tossing in a bunch of things – Sonny Thompson’s whimsical piano licks – that don’t add a single compelling sound to the mix.

Put It Down is not just a demonstrably weaker version of a great record, it’s almost a farce of the “original”. The horn riffs don’t have the same snap and drive to them, the clapping being done to accentuate the beat is lackadaisical, the rhythmic momentum that had carried the entire record the first time around is completely absent here. It sounds almost as if they slowed down the tape and it’s being played on the wrong speed.

The one and only redeeming feature is the sax solo, presumably our buddy Big John Greer, but even that stands out primarily because it’s in comparison to everything else which is tired and uninspired.

We probably could’ve saved ourselves about twelve hundred words and just cut to the chase by using that description in place of the entire review… tired and uninspired.

Your Future Looks Much Brighter
I’m sure that some people reading these things – particularly those who skim them or only look at the grades without bothering to read why the records got the scores they’re given – are upset about how much we trash these insipid attempts.

It’s still Wynonie Harris after all and paired with a good band, even on a cut-rate rendition of a record that never had any doubt about getting a ★ 10 ★ , would by definition have to be modestly acceptable. And it’s true, the record itself doesn’t sound quite as bad as the grade we’re handing out.

But while each person is indeed entitled to their opinion regarding a record’s merits and no one person’s views are more important than anybody else’s, the question has to be raised: At what point do you demand someone put forth a modicum of effort to give you your money’s worth? Moreover, when they don’t why are you willing to smile and blithely accept their attempts at ripping you off… or even defend them for doing it.

Don’t you place a higher value on yourself than that?

With this record they didn’t do anything other than callously and intentionally waste our time. They wasted the time – and money – everyone who bought it when it first came out, or those who dropped a nickel into a jukebox to hear an inferior rip-off of a song those same people had enthusiastically supported. They wasted the musicians time in recording this and they wasted Wynonie Harris’s time by forcing him to do something he clearly had no interest in.

Now years later they’ve wasted my time in having write about this garbage and your time for having to read about it, all because they didn’t bother even trying to come up with something creative.

If you treat people like their time and money are insignificant then you damn well better expect those same people to grab you by the wrist when you try and reach into their pockets to take their hard-earned dough, to forcefully tell you to Put It Back.

An honest attempt that falls short can always be tolerated but the only thing honest about this record is the title, one that hopefully everyone thinking of buying it heeded and after sticking it back on the shelf went to the next rack and bought the Ted Maksymowics Orchestra’s colorful rendition of The Happy Yodeler Polka that came out around the same time.

And why wouldn’t they buy that instead? At least Maksymowics gave a shit about what came out under his name.


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