Wednesday, April 6, 2011
SLIM HARPO - I'M GONNA KEEP WHAT I'VE GOT
This record makes me think of that quote every time I give it a spin. I'm not gonna tell you anything about Slim Harpo (born James Moore on January 11, 1924, passed away from a sudden heart attack on January 31, 1970), there's a lot of info out there on the internet, plus you can read everything you need to know on The Hound's excellent blog. Here's his post about Slim Harpo.
I AM gonna tell you that Slim Harpo should have been pretty P.O.'d at ole big lips Jagger for basically ripping off his whole vocal style, though, to their credit, the Stones made no bones about where their sound came from - Jagger's muse was Slim, Keith Richards' was Chuck Berry and/or whoever the guy was that played guitar for Nolan Strong and The Diablos, and Brian Jones was infatuated with Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller, not to be confused with the original Sonny Boy Williamson, who died in 1948). As for Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman, who knows? The Stones recorded several Harpo tunes, ("I'm A King Bee", "Shake Your Hips") and even named their first "live" LP in homage to the B-side of Harpo's first single.
The 45 I've posted here, released in 1967, almost never gets mentioned as one of Harpo's great records. I don't know why. All of Slim Harpo's great records have things a million other blues records have - harmonica, guitar, drums that sound like they're in another building - but what made Slim's records different was his dedication to groove. Listen to Slim's records like "Shake Your Hips" or "Baby Scratch My Back" or any of the others (which can be heard on the sadly out-of-print but still available "Hip Shakin'" 2-CD set on Excello/AVI) and you'll hear what I mean - these records go nowhere musically but the groove is so irresistable that you don't care. This one has a groove SO deep you'll never get out of it, provided mainly by whoever played bass on this record, though that "slap-whacka-slap" guitar part can't be denied. It's a very Stonesy groove, but MUCH better. I have a feeling Slim finally got sick of everyone saying, "hey man, you know what those limeys been doin' to you?" and decided to show Mick and Keith how it was REALLY supposed to be done. You don't mess with Slim Harpo.
My favorite story about him can be found in the liner notes by Tim Warren on one of his "Back From The Grave" garage comp LPs - a teenage garage group called The Mustangs decided to cut Harpo's "I'm A King Bee" (they probably only knew the Stones' version), but the owner of their label got uptight about the lyrics, so said owner wrote to Slim asking him to "clean up" the lyrics so the group could record a new version and put it out. Slim responded by sending back new lyrics that were INCREDIBLY filthy! Needless to say, the Mustangs' version of "King Bee" never saw the light of day.....
Slim Harpo - I'm Gonna Keep What I've Got (Excello 2289) - 1967