Tag 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 Good Rockin Tonight

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.

Wynonie Harris Good Rockin Tonight

Mr Blues

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.”)

Wynonie Harris Good Rockin Tonight

Lucky Millinder

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

Goin’ solo

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.

Wynonie Harris Good Rockin Tonight

Rockin’?

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.

Wynonie Harris Good Rockin Tonight

Covers

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

Wynonie Harris Good Rockin Tonight
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Little Richard Tutti Frutti 1955

Little Richard Tutti Frutti 1955

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. 

Little Richard Tutti Frutti 1955

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.

Little Richard Tutti Frutti 1955

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 1955

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
     to...
Tutti Frutti, aw rooty

Tutti Frutti, aw rooty.
Aw rooty simply being slang for "Alright"
Little Richard Tutti Frutti 1955

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 1955
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WOR-FM Rocks

WOR-FM Rocks

Sunday 31 July 1966
[The audio is NOT July 31, but Oct 8, 1966, the first day of DJs]

WOR-FM Rocks

WOR-FM Rocks

Federal intervention

In July 1964, the federal government, via the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), adopted a non-duplication rule prohibiting FM radio stations in cities of more than 100,000 people from merely running a simulcast of the programming from their AM counterparts. Stations fought the rule and delayed implementation.

WOR-FM Rocks

Writing on the wall

Station owners did not succeed in their fight and many decided to experiment with the still new but growing rock genre. Soon rock FM stations dotted the land.

WOR-FM Rocks

Finally rocks

WOR-FM rocks

And so on July 31, 1966 New York City’s WOR-FM began running a freeform-based progressive rock format for most of its broadcast day. Management was unable to come to an agreement with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (the union that represented on air talent). As a result, the DJ’s did not start until October 8.

WOR-FM Rocks

Not quite underground

Listening to the sample above from the first day of DJs playing (not particularly different from the previous months’ playlists), the listener will realize that the playlist was not particularly different from the AM pop radio playlists.

That difference would not happen until the FM DJs began to experiment play more album cuts of their own choice.

It was that difference, the question of choice versus the handing down from on high of a playlist, that soon separated FM “pop” stations using the Drake method of programming from the stations like WNEW-FM (also in NYC). WNEW-FM gave its DJs much more leeway when choosing what to play.

WOR-FM Rocks

Short-lived

After hardly more than a year of the new format with DJs, many of the original group left. Bill Mercer, or simply Rosko, was one of the more popular of WOR’s DJs. He brought a unique free style he brought to his shows. Fans loved him and it, but he realized that management did not want that style.

On October 2, 1967, less than a year after starting, Rosko announced his departure on the air. Click below to listen to a piece of it…

Rosko joined WNEW-FM shortly afterwards and the rest is another much more enjoyable history. NYT article

WOR-FM Rocks
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