Wynonie Harris (August 24, 1915 – June 14, 1969)
No blues shouter embodied the rollicking good times that he sang of quite like raucous shouter Wynonie Harris. "Mr. Blues," as he was not-so-humbly known, joyously related risque tales of sex, booze, and endless parties in his trademark raspy voice over some of the jumpingest horn-powered combos of the postwar era.
The shouter debuted on wax under his own name in July of 1945 with backing from drummer Johnny Otis, saxist Teddy Edwards, and trumpeter Howard McGhee. A month later, he signed on with Apollo Records, an association that provided him with two huge hits in 1946: "Wynonie's Blues" (with saxist Illinois Jacquet's combo) and "Playful Baby." After scattered dates for Hamp-Tone, Bullet, and Aladdin, Harris joined the star-studded roster of Cincinnati's King Records in 1947. There his sales really soared.
Few records made a stronger impact than Harris' 1948 chart-topper "Good Rockin' Tonight." Ironically, Harris shooed away its composer, Roy Brown, when he first tried to hand it to the singer; only when Brown's original version took off did Wynonie cover the romping number. With Hal "Cornbread" Singer on wailing tenor sax and a rocking, socking backbeat, the record provided an easily followed blueprint for the imminent rise of rock & roll a few years later (and gave Elvis Presley something to place on the A-side of his second Sun single).
After that, Harris was rarely absent from the R&B charts for the next four years, his offerings growing more boldly suggestive all the time. "Grandma Plays the Numbers," "I Like My Baby's Pudding," "Good Morning Judge," "Bloodshot Eyes", and "Lovin' Machine" were only a portion of the ribald hits Harris scored into 1952 (13 in all) -- and then his personal hit parade stopped dead. Changing tastes among fickle consumers accelerated Wynonie Harris' sobering fall from favor.
Records for Atco in 1956, King in 1957, and Roulette in 1960 only hinted at the raunchy glory of a few short years earlier. The touring slowed accordingly. Chess gave him a three-song session in 1964, but sat on the promising results. Throat cancer silenced him for good in 1969, ending the life of a bigger-than-life R&B pioneer whose ego matched his tremendous talent.