Wynonie Harris Biography

24 August 1915, Omaha, Nebraska, USA, d. 14 June 1969, Los Angeles, California, USA. This stylish, flamboyant blues shouter enjoyed several R&B hit singles in the immediate post-war period. As a youth Harris played drums in and around his home town before moving to Los Angeles in the early 40s. There he played, danced, sang and worked in several non-musical capacities in various clubs and theatres, also appearing in a movie, Hit Parade Of 1943. Along with many other singers of the time, Harris was heavily influenced by Louis Jordan and, after a spell with the Lucky Millinder big band in 1944, he went solo as an R&B singer. He had already had a minor hit with Millinder, ‘Who Threw The Whiskey In The Well?’, and followed this with a string of bestselling, double-entendre laden R&B hits, working regularly with jazz-orientated groups, including those led by Illinois Jacquet, Lionel Hampton and Charles Mingus. His hits included ‘Wynonie’s Blues’, ‘Playful Baby’, ‘Good Rockin’ Tonight’ (number 1), ‘Lolly Pop Mama’, ‘Grandma Plays The Numbers’, ‘I Feel That Old Age Coming On’, ‘Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee’, ‘All She Wants To Do Is Rock’ (number 1), ‘I Want My Fanny Brown’, ‘Sittin’ On It All The Time’, ‘I Like My Baby’s Pudding’, ‘Good Morning Judge’, ‘Oh Babe’, ‘Bloodshot Eyes’, and ‘Lovin’ Machine’.

Unfortunately for Harris’ long-term career prospects, audiences were turning towards the emerging and very much younger rock ‘n’ roll singers. Essentially a contemporary urban blues singer with an extrovert, jumping style, Harris had the misfortune to appear at a time when the music scene did not embrace his particular style of blues. In the early 50s, ‘Mr Blues’ was forced to retire, but attempted a comeback in the early 60s and again in 1967. The times were a little more receptive to Harris’ undoubted talent, but by that time he had developed lung cancer, from which he died on 14 June 1969. His son, Wesley Deveraux, is a good popular singer who has inherited his father’s feeling for the blues.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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