Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Ahmet Ertegun, head of Atlantic Records, was asked in 1971 what it felt like to have The Rolling Stones recording for his company (Atlantic distributed the Rolling Stones Records label all through the 1970s). He said, "I think Mick Jagger would rather be recording for Excello, but we were the only company that recorded R&B in the 1950s that could give him a million dollars."

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


  1. This is one of my favorites Slim Harpo's tunes, i really enjoy playing that swamp blues style with my buddies, but i can`t uderstand wath i'm singin'. Can you put the lyric bro?. I really apreciatte it. Grettings, congratulations for your contributions and thank you very much for keeping the blues fire alive!

  2. As far as I can tell, these are the lyrics:

    Hey little girl, you lookin' good to me
    Move me baby, like a surgeon move a tree
    I don't wanna get myself in no spot
    I don't wanna start something I can't stop
    So I believe I'm gonna keep what I've got

    You love your man with a whole lotta soul
    Everything shines, it can't be solid gold
    But if you play with fire, you're gonna get burned
    You don't believe me, try it out and you'll learn
    That it's hot, I better keep what I've got

  3. Hey bro, you're the man!!! Thanks a lot, now everything is so clear... and makes more sense. Grettings from the good ol' Mexico.