Category Archives: Roots of rock

Wynonie Harris Good Rockin’ Tonight

Wynonie Harris Good Rockin’ Tonight

R & B #1 song
October 5, 1948

Wynonie Harris Good Rockin' Tonight

Roots of Rock

Before there was Rock 'n' Roll, there was Rhythm & Blues. We don't call rock R & R (that's something else), but we do call the latter R & B and when Wynonie Harris sang R & B, it was rock and roll.

Wynonie Harris

Most seem to agree that Wynonie Harris was born in Omaha, NE. What the actual date and year were is not as definite. On August 24, 1915? 1920?  Not that important I suppose.

Harris initially found success in his hometown at Jim Bell’s Harlem,club. He danced. Played drums. Sang. 

In 1940 he moved to Los Angeles and continued to find success as a live performer. In 1944, while in Chicago, bandleader Lucky Millinder hired him as his band's new singer. 

Harris's nickname was Mr Blues, not because of soulful singing as his lyrics which some thought smutty and indecent. ("I like my baby's puddin' I like it best of all...She promised she wouldn't give no one her puddin' but me.")

Harris first appeared on stage with Lucky Millinder and his Orchestra on April 7, 1944. One of the songs he sang was "Who Threw the Whiskey in the Well."   He recorded that song with Millinder in May though Decca did not release it until April 1945 because of the war shortage of the shellac used to press records. 
The song was a big hit with both black and white audiences, a rare thing in the 1940s. 

Wynonie Harris Good Rockin’ Tonight
Harris quit the orchestra (money issues) and moved back to Los Angeles. Over the years he signed with various labels, but Harris continued to sing powerful songs that, unless one looks at the songs' dates, are surely great rock songs.

One of his biggest hits was Good Rockin' Tonight written by Roy Brown. Brown offered the song to Harris who refused it. Brown recorded it himself and had a hit with it.

Then Harris recorded it in his style which gave the great song even greater energy. In this case, the rockin' referred to is music, not sex as the term rock and roll is a euphemism for. 

In 1954 Sam Phillip's Sun Records released the 19-year-old Elvis Presley's cover of the song. It was Presley's second release. It was not a hit for him.

Many others have covered the song. Carl Perkins, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, and Ricky Nelson among them, but did you know that the Doors, minus Jim Morrison, covered it?

Wikipedia link about Good Rockin' Tonight
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Little Richard Tutti Frutti

Little Richard Tutti Frutti

Recorded in New Orleans September 14, 1955

Little Richard Tutti Frutti

Richard Wayne Penniman

Richard Wayne Penniman was born on December 5, 1932, in Macon, Georgia. His father was a church deacon Like many young black children, singing in church was a part of life.

The Penniman family joined various denominations, but Little Richard, a nickname kids gave him as a youth, preferred the Pentecostal churches because of their live music. Richard's strong voice sometimes got him in trouble with the other singers.

In high school he played the saxophone. He also worked at the Macon City Auditorium where he heard many of his favorite performers such as Cab Calloway and his favorite, Sister Rosetta Tharpe. 

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

On October 27, 1947, Sister Rosetta Tharpe heard 14-year-old Little Richard singing two of her gospel recordings before her concert at Macon City Auditorium. She invited him to sing onstage. The crowd loved his performance and Tharpe paid him for it.

Little Richard was in show business.

Show business slow

At first he sang locally because he was still in school, but he gradually put school second. In 1948, he joined Dr Hudson's Medicine Show where he sang some secular songs for the first time.  He considered rhythm and blues sinful. 

After being part of several traveling shows which exposed more and more to that rhythm and blues, Little Richard befriended the energetic performer Billy Wright. Little Richard's performances also become more energetic.  

In 1951, Wright's connections got Little Richard a recording session whose demos impressed RCA records enough to offer him a contract. Though he had a local hit ("Every Hour" in Georgia), there wasn't an follow up success and he left RCA in 1952. 

 Little Richard's father died shortly afterwards. That and the lack of financial success as a musician forced him to find any jobs available such as a dishwasher.  He continued playing music, more and more rhythm and blues and in February 1953 signed with Peacock Records but was again dissatisfied with that relationship. 
In 1955 Little Richard sent demos to Specialty Records where owner Art Rupe felt Little Richard could be another Ray Charles. Rupe began that quest in his New Orleans studio.

Little Richard Tutti Frutti

But it was in a nearby bar during a studio break that lightning struck. Little Richard played "Tutti Frutti." It was a song whose lyrics were not suitable for recording and certainly not air play.

They changed the original...


Tutti Frutti, good booty

If it don't fit, don't force it

You can grease it, make it easy
Tutti Frutti, aw rooty

Tutti Frutti, aw rooty.
Aw rooty simply being slang for "Alright"

Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom

Apparently having a girl named Sue who knew just what to do was just fine to say. 

He recorded Tutti Frutti on this date in 1955 and Specialty released it in November. 

It is considered by many to be one of the greatest rock and roll songs. Period.

It is hard to argue with them.

Little Richard became a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, the first year of the Hall.

Rolling Stone magazine lists it at #43 of the best songs of all time.

Little Richard Tutti Frutti, Little Richard Tutti Frutti, Little Richard Tutti Frutti, Little Richard Tutti Frutti, Little Richard Tutti Frutti, Little Richard Tutti Frutti, 

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ABC’s American Bandstand

ABC’s American Bandstand

August 5, 1957
First ABC broadcast of “American Bandstand”

ABC's American Bandstand

First Bandstand

In March 1950 WFIL-TV in Philadelphia broadcast Bandstand. Bob Horn, also a radio DJ, hosted the show. It was not a dance show. It featured short musical films and only occasionally had guests. Think black and white MTV. 

It was a time when television, the new media kid on the block, selected a successful radio show and literally visualized it.

By the way, I've placed the more familiar music theme, "Bandstand Boogie," by Larry Elgart over this blog, but the first theme song for the original Bandstand was Artie Shaw's "High Society." 

Dancing Bandstand

The Bandstand show that Boomers remember today, with teenagers dancing to hit records, came into being on October 7, 1952. Bob Horn continued as host with Lee Stewart. Stewart left as co-host in 1955.  The short music films continued to be part of the show. 


In July, 1956, WFIL and The Philadelphia Inquirer were doing a series on drunk driving.  In July, 1956, police arrested Horn for drunk-driving. 

On July 9, 1956, Dick Clark took over as the host 

ABC’s American Bandstand

Broadcast companies are always searching for the next hit.  A year after he became host of Bandstand, Dick Clark pitched his show to ABC. The network did not say "Yes" immediately, but eventually did. I'm sure they were happy they did.

August 5, 1957

On this date, ABC did the first national broadcast. Since it was now a nationally televised show, the name changed to American Bandstand. Duh!

The  more popular Mickey Mouse Club interrupted the for half an hour in the middle. The first guest was the Chordettes and the first record danced to on the show was Buddy Holly's "That'll Be the Day."

The show  moved to Los Angeles in 1964. It had already switched from a daily to a weekly Saturday show in which it continued as until 1987.



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