Back in the day (yore, again, olden golden times) waaayyy back in high school, before rock n' roll was officially named that, we used to drive down to 18th & Vine in KC, to a used record store and buy 45rpm record singles for ten cents apiece. I drove the Butchmobile (they called me Butch back then, Guinotte was declasse) a 1949 lowered and loud Ford, primered and shuddering from mismatched carburetors, parked it outside this house of 'jump blues and rhythm & blues' and we'd spill out of the low and slow cruiser, into a vast mecca of vinyl. Stacks and stacks of records everywhere; old 78s, 45s, and exotics, all. And the joint was jumpin' with delighted music lovers.
I came upon "Drinkin' Wine Spo-dee-o-dee" by Stick McGhee and his Buddies, snapped it up. One dime. Possibly I discovered it before the Jerry Lee Lewises and rockers to come; at any rate I fell for it bigtime, played it slick probably, over and over. It goes for $30 and up on eBay, but mine wouldn't if I could even find it. I'm sure I wore it down smooth as a dinner plate.
Hank Williams Jr. got hold of it and his lyrics went:
Well down in New Orleans where everything's fine
All them cats is sippin' that wine
Drinkin' that mess is sure delight
Soon to be fightin' and fussin' all night
Drinkin' wine spodee-o, drinkin' wine
wine spodee-o, drinkin' wine
wine spodee-o, drinkin' wine
Pass that bottle to me
Anyway, Stick McGhee's version was primal and fun with a fine-ass groove. Had this guy been born just a couple of years later, and been healthier, you'd know his name along with Chuck Berry and Fats Domino and that whole cavalcade of mega-stars. Unfortunately, Granville Henry McGhee died at 44 of lung cancer in 1961. Booze, which often amplifies smoking, appeared often in his discography: Whiskey, Women and Loaded Dice; Double Crossin' Liquor; Drank Up All the Wine Last Night to name some. He was with Folkways, Gusto, King, Savoy and Atlantic labels, probably others in a too short, spotty career. He must have been well-regarded by peers; he did an album with John Lee Hooker: Highway of Blues.
The version of Drinkin' Wine that I bought, was "the clean version." The original, that he sang in the army went: Drinkin’ that mess is our delight, And when we get drunk, start fightin’ all night. Knockin’ out windows and learnin’ down doors, Drinkin’ half-gallons and callin’ for more. Drinkin’ wine motherfucker, drinkin’ wine! Goddam! Drinkin’ wine motherfucker, drinkin’ wine! Goddam! Drinkin’ wine motherfucker, drinkin’ wine! Goddam! Pass that bottle to me!
He recorded a version for Harlem Records, but the later Atlantic single shot up to Number 3 on the Billboard R&B chart. Born in Knoxville, TN, and spending most of his life in New York, McGhee was a big talent not fully realized. He retired in 1960 it is said because he lost his passion for music.
R.I.P. Mr. McGhee. You brought me and and a whole lot of others hours of fine sounds. I guess you could say it this way:
Give me the beat boys and free my soul
I wanna get lost in your rock and roll and drift away