Amos Milburn-Texas TNT
Continuing the series of R & B pioneers that emerged from Texas and Oklahoma and moved on to Southern California in the mid forties, Milburn hailed from the Houston area and at one time was known by the unusual sobriquet of "The He-Man Martha Raye"! After military service in the Second World War Milburn formed a six man unit and began to get name recognition in the area with extensive night club work. Soon his fortunes were guided by one Lola Cullum who secured a recording contract with the new Philo Records label in Los Angeles in 1946. This label was the beginning of the Aladdin Records Company after the name change to avoid confusion with the Philco Corporation. Soon Milburn was in the recording studio and a long association with the label began.
The first recordings by Milburn were Aladdin #159 - "After Midnight" / "Amos's Blues"; #160 - "Darling How Long" / "My Baby's Boogie" and #161 - "Don't Beg Me" / "Down The Road Apiece". This last jumping boogie tune gave Milburn his first taste of fame as his style found a receptive audience among the R & B fans of the Los Angeles area. Following was "Amos' Boogie" parts one and two on #173, and "Operation Boogie" and "Cinch Blues" on #174. At a later session, the Aladdin house band featuring Maxwell Davis on tenor provided instrumental support on the next releases by the label. "Money Hustlin' Woman" and "Real Gone" appeared on #191, "My Love Is Limited" and "Blues At Sundown" on #201, and "Sad And Blue" and "That's My Chick" on #202. "Train Time Blues" and "That's My Boogie" was released on #206, and "Pool Playing Blues" and "I Still Love You" on #211.
By late 1947 Aladdin records had revised their numbering system, and the next release by Amos Milburn was Aladdin #3014 - "Chicken Shack Boogie" and "It Took A Long Long Time". The jump boogie side "Chicken Shack" was a huge success and would be Milburn's signature tune for the rest of his life. The follow up was also a huge success, but this time it was a bluesy ballad much in the style of Nat Cole and Charles Brown called "Bewildered" bw "A & M Blues" on #3018. In mid 1948 Amos Milburn was now a top draw on the R & B circuit. His two successive hits also put the Aladdin label on the map as one of the big four of the post war years on the West coast (with Imperial, Modern, and Specialty). "Jitterbug parade" and "Hold Me Baby" came out on #3023, and on #3026 were "Middle Of The Night" and "Pot Luck Boogie" Because of the success of Milburn's two huge hits, the sales of the last two records were obscured by the continued sales of the earlier releases.
In 1949 Milburn hit it big again with "Rooming House Boogie" on #3032. This solid hit is followed up on #3037 with the seasonal "Let's Make Christmas Merry" bw "Bow Wow" and #3038 with his version of "Driftin Blues" and "Real Pretty Mama" written by Dootsie Williams. In January of 1950 Aladdin #3043 pairs "Tell Me How Long Has This Train Been Gone" and "I'm Just A Fool In Love". Amos Milburn solidifies his stature as a top R & B artist when he is named the number one Rhythm & Blues recording performer of 1949 in a Billboard Magazine poll of juke box operators in the country. During the year he placed four of the top thirty records in the United States. In March Milburn plays New York City for the first time at Bop City usually a modern jazz venue. He soon embarks on an extended tour of one nighters throughout the South. "Walkin' Blues" and "Johnson Rag" is released in April on #3049. Milburn and his band appear in Philadelphia with Wini Brown and The Ravens. The other pioneering "bird" group The Orioles, will be part of Milburn's Southern swing. The pairing is a huge draw in Atlanta at both the Civic Center and at the Royal Peacock in that city. "Anybody's Blues" and "Square Dance Boogie" are issued on #3056. The ever present danger of all one nighter tours hits the Milburn unit as they are involved in a serious car wreck on the way to an appearance at the Apollo Theater in New York City.
Aladdin Records puts out two Milburn records in quick order during the summer - #3058 : "I Love Her" and "Birmingham Bounce" and #3059 a couple of cover songs : "Two Years Of Torture" (covering Percy Mayfield) and "Hard Luck Blues" (covering Roy Brown). In September Milburn records "Sax Shack Boogie" on #3064 which hits like a bomb and boasts a first run order of over fifty thousand which is a huge number for a R & B tune on an indie label in 1950. Amos Milburn and his band now called The Chickenshackers, appear with Joe Liggins and his Honeydrippers and are a huge draw in Oakland, California. The members of the band are Willie Arthur Smith, Willie Simpson, Don Wilkerson, Harper Crosby, and Elden MacIntosh. A tour throughout Texas is planned for the month of October. "Bad Bad Whiskey" and "I'm Gonna Tell My Mama" are released on #3068. In late November Aladdin will issue their first LPs. The first is called "Boogie Woogie" and will feature sides recorded by Milburn, while the second "Blues After Hours" will feature the music of Milburn along with Wynonie Harris, Calvin Boze, and Helen Humes. Up to this point the label had released only 78rpm records. In December Aladdin records announces that Milburn's record of "Bad Bad Whiskey" (written by Maxwell Davis) had surpassed the one hundred thousand sales mark in less than four weeks since its release and all indications are that the record will be the biggest seller in the history of the label replacing Milburn's "Chicken Shack Boogie".
Early on in 1951, Aladdin Records signs jazz legend Billie Holiday, and raises the possibility of recording her with Amos Milburn and/or Charles Brown. In March #3080 is released - "Let's Rock Awhile" and "Tears Tears Tears", and this is followed in May by #3090 - "Everybody Clap Hands" and "That Was Your Last Mistake". In July "Ain't Nothing Shaking" / "Just One More Drink" is issued on #3093. All three are overshadowed by continued demand for "Bad Bad Whiskey". The latest tour for the Milburn crew takes place in October with the band once again joins forces with The Orioles. At the time of the tour "Boogie Woogie" and "She's Gone Again" on #3105.
In 1952 the drinking jump tunes continue with #3124 - "Thinking And Drinking" and "Trouble In Mind". Once again the subject seems a good luck charm for Milburn. In May he gives the R & B touch to the Lionel Hampton standard of "Flying Home" bw "Put Something In My Hand" on #3125. "Roll Mister Jelly" and "I Won't Be The Fool Anymore" is released on #3133. Amos Milburn will spend the summer in Atlantic City, New Jersey playing clubs. A river boat cruise on the Chesapeake in the Washington D.C. area will star Milburn with Ruth Brown. In September "Greyhound" and "Kiss Me Again" is issued on #3150. Within two weeks "Greyhound" is a solid seller and is quickly covered by Buddy Morrow for RCA Victor, Ella Mae Morse for Capitol, and Vic Damone for Mercury. Milburn is approached to consider a movie role in a film being planned by Don Productions. At the end of the year Aladdin releases "Boo Hoo" and "Rock Rock Rock" on #3159.
A series of personal appearances in the Northeast is canceled because of SRO business and a three month's holdover in California which is a showcase for the great popularity of the unit with the R & B public. The time for the visit East is now set for mid-March with an opening at Pep's in Philadelphia. In February, continuing the trend of Milburn successes comes "Let Me Go Home Whiskey" on #3164. The flip is "Three Times A Fool". As part of the Eastern tour Amos and the band do a week at the Howard Theater in Washington D.C., and is part of a big show at the Mosque Theater in Newark, New Jersey, with Linda Hayes and The Orioles. In May "Please Mr. Johnson" and "Long Long Day" are on Aladdin #3168. That August "One Scotch One Bourbon One Beer" (written by Rudy Toombs) is recorded on #3197. This tune has an advance sale of more than fifty thousand, the largest in the history of Aladdin. This is compared to "Bad Bad Whiskey" which sold upwards of six hundred thousand, and "Let Me Go Home Whiskey" which had sales of more than three hundred thousand. During a Midwestern tour in the summer, Milburn announces that he is considering disbanding his combo and continuing as a solo performer. In October a well rounded R & B show features Milburn at Laurel Gardens in New Jersey. Also on the bill were Ruth Brown, Fats Domino, Margie Day, and the Paul Williams orchestra. In October Amos Milburn does indeed continue on as a solo, and will join up with Charles Brown and the Choker Campbell band for a Southern tour. At the end of the year Milburn records an answer to one of his earliest hits, when he waxes "Good Good Whiskey" and "Let's Have A Party" on #3218.
In February of 1954, the trade papers note the good comeback by Milburn. Beginning in March he will do a national tour of one nighters. "How Could You Hurt Me So" and "Rocky Mountain" are released on #3226. In May "Milk And Water" and "I'm Still In Love With You" are paired on #3240. Milburn does shows in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. In June Milburn records the standard "Glory Of Love" and "Baby Baby All The Time" for Aladdin #3248. After an appearance at the Savoy Ballroom in Los Angeles, Milburn heads for Ohio and the Midwest. In November Amos Milburn is part of the Top Ten of R & B show tour which also features Fats Domino, Joe Turner, The Clovers, Faye Adams, The Moonglows, Charlie & Ray, Bill Doggett, and Paul Williams and his orchestra. Studio Films makes a series of television films called "Apollo Varieties" one of which stars Milburn. Amos takes part in the big Jam With Sam show in Chicago with d.j. Sam Evans. #3253 pairs "I Done Done It" and "Vicious Vicious Vodka" which does a disappearing act showing that maybe the drinking songs have run their course. At the end of the year "That's It" and "One Two Three Everybody" is issued on #3269.
Amos Milburn moves into the rock and roll age by a tour of one nighters that combine for sixty dates in ten weeks from January to March. "Why Don't You Do Right" and "I Love You Anyway" is released in March on #3281. In May Amos once again plays the Jam With Sam show in Chicago's Trianon Ballroom along with Ruth Brown, Bo Diddley, and The Moonglows. A four day stay at Cleveland's Uptown Theater with The Orioles and Margie Day in early July is followed by the release of "All Is Well" on #3293. This gives Milburn his best seller in a long while and the first in the rock and roll era. In October Studio Films prepares for an R & B variety movie which will include Amos Milburn. In November "House Party" and "I Guess I'll Go" on #3306. The film "R & B Review" opens at the Royal Theater in Baltimore during Christmas week and includes Milburn performing "All Is Well".
In March of 1956 Amos Milburn is back in his home town of Houston, Texas and is reforming his band after appearing as a solo performer for almost three years. In May "I Need Someone" and "French Fried Potatoes And Ketchup" is out on #3320, and "French Fried" is almost immediately covered by Sammy Davis Jr. In August Aladdin plans to issue an LP of their R & B hits over the past few years including a few by Milburn. In September #3332 is recorded - "Chicken Shack Boogie" and "Juice Juice Juice". Milburn's signature tune "Shack" was re-recorded with the New Orleans session musicians including Lee Allen on tenor, Red Tyler on baritone, and "Hungry" Williams on drums. "Every day Of The Week" and "Girl Of My Dreams" are issued on #3340. As with the last few records, this one does very little on the sales charts and it becomes increasingly difficult to gain critical airplay for his records because of the emphasis on the teenage market.
In early 1957 Aladdin releases #3363 - "Rum And Coca Cola" and "Soft Pillow". The following record is a re-release of "Greyhound" / ""Dear Angel" on #3370. These do not sell, nor does the next release "Thinking Of You Baby" and "If I Could Be With You" on #3383. This was the final recording for Milburn on Aladdin which ended eleven years of prolific R & B excellence. In September Milburn appears at a big R & B show in Chicago hosted by Al Benson at the Regal Theater. he also has some tunes on a new LP album released by Aladdin on its Score label. The time left for Aladdin Records would not be long either with the last release ironically, Thurston Harris version of Milburn's "One Scotch" in less than two years. Amos Milburn would try a few more times to gain listeners on various labels such as Ace Records in Mississippi, ("I Want To Go Home" and "Educated Fool" with fellow R & B veteran Charles Brown on #561), King and even Motown, but to no avail. His time had come and gone and it had been a remarkable run for the Texas boogie woogie pianist and singer. Fats Domino for one, always mentioned Milburn as an influence on his music. Amos Milburn was truly a pioneer of the music, a singular performer who was a connection from the swing and jump blues of the 40s to the R & B of the late 40s and early 50s that developed into the music that today dominates the planet. Every performer and every listener owes a debt of gratitude to Amos Milburn.
to next page . . . . . .
back to title page . . . .