I’ve been vaguely aware since high school — thanks to a cassette tape played aloud on the school bus — that there were raunchy and explicit songs in the blues era that never got played on the radio. But they weren’t exactly accessible in the pre-internet era.

These days, of course, there’s YouTube:

With YouTube, it became possible to write a nifty little essay like Dirty R&B, with live links:

I can’t remember the first time I heard Wynonie Harris, but I suppose it was when I was big into Lindy Hop, stepping out decked head to toe in vintage clothing during San Francisco’s ’90s swing revival. I do remember the song:

Keep on churnin’ till the butter comes
Keep on churnin’ till the butter comes
Keep on pumpin’ make the butter flow
Wipe off the paddle and churn some more

The song opens with a jump blues walking bass line from the upright bass—a bouncing horn section dancing in time right alongside it—and then a solo sax snakes down right into the lyrics. Harris’s voice is gritty and gravelly, a real blues shouter’s voice that earned him the nickname of Mr. Blues. He’s not just singing about wanting a fine brown cow — you can tell from the way he sings he’s going out and filling up his pail every night.

Harris recorded “Keep On Churnin’ (Till The Butter Comes)” on January 9, 1952, with the Todd Rhodes Orchestra. As far as double entendres go, it’s a lot less double and a lot more entendre, and the first time I heard it, it knocked my socks off.

See also: The Ins And Outs Of Dirty Records

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