Pioneering Pop: Car Keys as Percussion

In November 1952 Wynonie Harris – with Sonny Thompson’s ensemble serving as his backing band – recorded three songs at Cincinnati’s King Studios, the most compelling one being “Greyhound.”

Wynonie Harris

Greyhound – Wynonie Harris

[Pssst:  Click on the triangle above to play “Greyhound” by Wynonie Harris.]

I love the driving rhythm that is augmented by a nice jingly set of car keys.  According to the liner notes in the Wynonie Harris CD anthology – Women, Whiskey & Fish Tails – this Amos Milburn cover became the highlight of Harris’s stage act:

“Purvis Henson, tenor saxophonist with the Buddy Johnson band, which backed Wynonie during a tour of the Midwest and South in the summer of 1953, remembers that Wynonie would start clapping his hands until the audience joined in, while the band played the chugging riff behind him.”

Could Wynonie Harris’s 1952 recording be the first pop recording that features car key percussion?

Bonus video link to a 78 recording of Amos Wilburn’s original version of “Greyhound” that features great bus sound effects – but alas, no car keys.