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"Honey Hush"written by Big Joe Turner (although he assigned the rights to his wife, Lou Willie Turner), was recorded in May 1953 in New OrleansLouisiana and released that August by Atlantic Records. It was a number-one song on the U.S. Rhythm and Blues chart for eight weeks, and number 23 on the pop chart.


Recording[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Turner, a big Kansas City blues shouter, had been spending all his time out on the road, while Atlantic's Ahmet Ertegün was getting nervous that his backlog of Turner recordings was running low. When Turner was near New Orleans, Ertegün insisted he record. Atlantic's New Orleans recording studio was booked up, so Turner recorded some sides in the studio of a radio station, WSDU. He did not have his own band but was able to round up the raucous trombonistPluma Davis and his band, The Rockers, as well as the wild boogie rhythm pianist, James Tolliver.[1] Other musicians on the recording were Lee Allen on tenor saxophone and Alvin "Red" Tyler on baritone saxophone.[citation needed]

Song[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Like the session, the song is largely adlibbed traditional blues verses with various incongruous lines thrown in, to a standard 12-bar blues. It opens with the bold statement, "Aw let 'em roll like a big wheel in a Georgia cotton field, Honey hush!" The title in this song Turner revealed his typical attitude toward a woman who will not do what he tells her to do, while the tailgate trombone gives the woman's raucous answers back. Although his songs talk about relationships as misery, his emotion in the song is upbeat. To quote Arnold Shaw in his book Honkers and Shouters[2]

"Love ain't nothin' but a lot of misery," he would declare, exhibiting no emotion in his characterization of the female as demanding, unprediciable, and untrustworthy. But unlike his predecessors in the blues, he did not cry or get uptight over it."

The spirit of the song is the good-natured optimism that characterized his work.[3] His lyrics are sexually suggestive and aimed at an adult audience and his vocal style is that of an urban blues shouter - intimate and relaxed.[4]

Come in this house, stop all that yakkety yak. (twice)
Come fix my supper, don't want no talkin' back.
Well you keep on jabberin', talk about this and that, (twice)
I got news for you, baby, you ain't nothin' but an alley cat.

At the end of the song he is reduced to threats of violence against women:[1]

Well you keep on jabberin', talk about this and that, {twice}
Don't make me nervous, 'cause I'm holding a baseball bat

and as he fades out, he turns to the war cry of the Lone Ranger:[1]

Hi-yo, hi-yo, Silver

Legacy[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The advent of rock and roll narrowed the content of songs to adolescent preoccupations and made simple the complicated rhythms of rhythm and blues. The explicitly sexual content was too adult, as was the singer's strong voice tone as well as his raw assumptions about life. A year later, in 1954, a Turner song very similar to this one, "Shake, Rattle and Roll," with its boogie-woogie rhythm and squawking saxophone was cleaned up by Bill Haley to become a huge hit as rock and roll changed the face of music. Turner turned to recording songs by rock and roll writers, but his blues shouter voice betrayed him and his career faded.[3]

However, not long after the rock and roll craze hit, a new audience of intellectuals, college students, and eventually beatniks, and then another with European blues fans joining in, gave singers in partial retirement or obscurity new opportunities although they had to clean up some to fit the new role of authenticity, fueled by the writings of Samuel Charters, demanded by these new audiences. For urban blues singers, having grown up in cities, it was convenient to be labelled as country singers to fit the criteria of purity.[4]

In 1959, Turner re-recorded "a much tamer, lamer, teenage rock'n'roll version"[1] of "Honey Hush" for Atlantic which was a mild hit and his last one. Turner returned to performing with jazz combos as the rock and roll founders settled in to please the suddenly important teenage market.[5]

Covers[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Early covers include the 1956 version by Johnny Burnette's The Rock and Roll Trio. The song has since been covered by - among many others - Jerry Lee LewisScreaming Lord SutchFoghatPaul McCartneyCoco Montoya,Fleetwood MacGeorge JonesElvis Costello and NRBQ.

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