Wynonie Harris (August 24, 1915 – June 14, 1969) was an American blues shouter and rhythm-and-blues singer of upbeat songs, featuring humorous, often ribald lyrics. He had fifteen Top 10 hits between 1946 and 1952. Harris is attributed by many music scholars to be one of the founding fathers of rock and roll. His Good Rocking Tonight is especially mentioned at least as a precursor to rock and roll.
During the 1942–44 musicians' strike, Harris was unable to pursue a recording career, relying instead on personal appearances. Performing almost continuously, in late 1943 he appeared at the Rhumboogie Club in Chicago. He was spotted by Lucky Millinder, who asked him to join his band on tour. Harris joined on March 24, 1944, when the band was in the middle of a week-long residency at the Regal in Chicago.
They moved on to New York City, where on April 7 Harris took the stage with Millinder's band for his debut at the Apollo Theatre, in Harlem. It was during this performance that Harris first publicly performed "Who Threw the Whiskey in the Well" (a song recorded two years earlier by Doc Wheeler's Sunset Orchestra).
After the band's stint at the Apollo, they moved on to their regular residency at the Savoy Ballroom, also in Harlem. Here, Preston Love, Harris's childhood friend, joined Millinder's band, replacing the alto saxophonist Tab Smith. On May 26, 1944, Harris made his recording debut with Lucky Millinder and His Orchestra. Entering a recording studio for the first time, Harris sang on two of the five cuts recorded that day, "Hurry, Hurry" and "Who Threw the Whiskey in the Well", for Decca Records. The embargo on shellac during World War II had not yet been rescinded, and release of the record was delayed.
Harris's success and popularity grew as Millinder's band toured the country, but he and Millinder had a falling out over money, and in September 1945, while playing in San Antonio, Texas, Harris quit the band. Three weeks later, upon hearing of Harris's separation from the band, a Houston promoter refused to allow Millinder's band to perform. Millinder called Harris and agreed to pay his asking price of one hundred dollars a night. The promoter reinstated the booking, but it was the final time Harris and Millinder worked together. Bull Moose Jackson replaced Harris as the vocalist in the band.