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.

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.”)

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.

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.

Richard Penniman died on May 9, 2020. He was 87. [NYT obit]

Little Richard Tutti Frutti 1955
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Atlantic Records Ahmet Ertegun

Atlantic Records Ahmet Ertegun

Remembering and appreciating
July 31, 1923 – December 14, 2006
Atlantic Records Ahmet Ertegun
Ahmet Ertegun (photo by Timothy White)

When I was a kid listening to (and looking at) an Atlantic Records album or single, the words Ahmet Ertegun regularly appeared. To this Boomer, it was an odd set of words. A person? An expression? A technical term?

Little did I realize how much Ahmet Ertegun (a person!) shaped my sense of American pop music and how much I am indebted to him for being a beacon guiding me to great music.

Atlantic Records Ahmet Ertegun

Ahmet Ertegun crosses Atlantic

Ahmet Ertegun was born in Istanbul, Turkey on July 31, 1923. With his family (his father was an ambassador) he would eventually emigrated to the Washington, DC in  1935, but while living in Great Britain, Ahmet and his older brother Nesuhi had attended concerts by American musicians like Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington. They loved that sound.

In the United States, Ahmet and Nesuhi continued to search out such  music. Ahmet later said, “I began to discover a little bit about the situation of black people in America and experienced immediate empathy with the victims of such senseless discrimination, because, although Turks were never slaves, they were regarded as enemies within Europe because of their Muslim beliefs.” (from: Greenfield, Robert (January 25, 2007). “Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun signed everyone from Ray Charles to the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin“. Rolling Stone.)

After an initial failed record label start in 1947, Ertegun began Atlantic Records with Herb and Mariam Abramson. He signed Ruth Brown in 1949 and she had a hit in 1950 with “Teardrops From My Eyes.”

Atlantic Records Ahmet Ertegun

Success sparks bonfire


Ahmet Ertegun even wrote some songs. The Covers’ “Fool Fool Fool” was one of his hits.

Atlantic Records Ahmet Ertegun

Atlantic signed Ray Charles in 1952

Atlantic Records Ahmet Ertegun

Wexler, Dowd, & the Drifters

While Herb Abramson served in the military, Ertegun  brought on Jerry Wexler,   and  audio engineer Tom Dowd recorded numerous hits including The Drifter’s “Save The Last Dance For Me.”

ATCO, a spin-off of Atlantic, began in 1955. It had the hit “Splish Splash” with Bobby Darin.

Atlantic Records Ahmet Ertegun
Jerry Wexler, Nesuhi Ertegun, Bobby Darin, and Ahmet Ertegun. [William “PoPsie” Randolph/ Atlantic Records Archives]
Atlantic Records Ahmet Ertegun

Blues the base

Atlantic Records continued to produce the type of music that had attracted Ahmet Ertegun from the beginning: Otis Redding, Percy Sledge, Solomon Burke, Wilson Pickett, and Aretha Franklin. But the west coast music scene attracted him, too.

He signed Sonny and Cher and  Buffalo Springfield.

Though sold to Warner Brothers in 1970, Ertegun remained with the label and  signed The Rolling Stones to Atlantic Records, The  70’s also brought Led Zeppelin, Yes, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Cream, and Bad Company to Atlantic.

The 80s found Rush, Genesis, AC/ DC,Twisted Sister, Skid Row, Debbie Gibson, and Phil Collins on Atlantic.

Atlantic Records Ahmet Ertegun

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

In 1983 with Jann Wenner, the founder and editor of Rolling Stone, Jerry Wexler, Seymour Stein, Allen Grubman, and Bob Krasnow, Ahmet Ertegun helped establish the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. They approved the Hall’s construction plans in Cleveland, Ohio. Ahmet was inducted into The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

On October 29, 2006, while attending a Rolling Stones benefit concert at the Beacon Theatre in NYC, Ertegun tripped and fell. He was brought to the hospital and though  initially in stable condition, he  took a turn for the worse and slipped into a coma.

Ahmet Ertegun died on December 14, 2006 ( NYT obit)

Atlantic Records Ahmet Ertegun
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